Saturday, January 27, 2018

Book review: Daughter of a Thousand Years, by Amalia Carosella

Focusing on two women over a millennium apart who worship the same gods, Daughter of a Thousand Years is devoted to the theme of religious intolerance and the conflicts it creates.

In AD 998, Freydís, the flame-haired daughter of Viking explorer Erik the Red, yearns for a more adventurous life than remaining with her family’s settlement on Greenland, marrying, and passing her days weaving and farming. Historical novels abound with strong-minded women who defy their era’s social confines, but Carosella’s portrait of the stubborn, fearless Freydís agrees with the personality of the woman recorded in the Vinland Sagas. Protective of the Norse gods of her ancestors, Freydís hates that her siblings have accepted Christianity. She will also do anything, including wedding a man she dislikes, to have the means to set sail for distant lands herself.

Her present-day counterpart is Emma Moretti, an adjunct history professor and conservative congressman’s daughter in New Hampshire in 2016. A practitioner of Heathenry, a neo-Pagan religion modeled on the beliefs of her mother’s Icelandic forebears, Emma secretly wears a Mjölnir pendant representing the hammer of Thor. In contrast to Freydís, Emma is hesitant and immature, despite being in her late twenties. She lives in a guesthouse on her parents’ property and eats meals with her Catholic family while participating in events for the latest political campaign and avoiding questions about church attendance. She fears revelations about her religion will torpedo her father’s election.

While her current relationship fizzles out because she’s “not Catholic enough,” as Emma relates to her best friend, a new romance appears promising: her father’s longtime PR man, Adam, asks her out. At the same time, a controversial in-class discussion about the spread of Christianity in the Viking age jeopardizes her teaching job.

The chapters alternating between Freydís and Emma are fairly short, which would normally ensure a fast pace. The importance of religious acceptance is deserving subject, but in this novel, the theme overwhelms the book. Being in Emma’s head during her many discussions about religion – with others, and with herself – quickly grows repetitive. That said, the depiction of academic life feels plausible, and it’s enlightening to read more about modern Heathenry.

Of the two women, Freydís’s character certainly blazes more brightly. However, because of their religious differences, she refuses to befriend her kind, Christian sister-in-law, Gudrid. In their interactions, Gudrid – whose own story is historically fascinating – emerges as the more sympathetic character.

Recommended for readers interested in reading about a fierce woman of the Viking age who don’t mind the modern character’s ruminations.

Daughter of a Thousand Years was published in February 2017 by Amazon's Lake Union imprint. Thanks to the publisher for making it available on NetGalley; I'm slowly getting caught up with my queue.


  1. I've been wanting to read this one for some time, I hope my library has it! I love a strong heroine.

    1. Freydís is definitely that! Hope you're able to find a copy.

  2. I like the two timelines. I doubt I'll be able to track this down so I was happy to read your post.

  3. Isaiah Cole2:32 PM

    A story that alternates between two historical timelines sounds like an enticing novel to read. Fast pace books are also a good read for me so I'll be sure to keep an eye out for this gem.