Saga by Nikki McWatters
Genre: Historical, #LoveOzYa
Publication: November 5th 2019
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Source: Review copy from publisher – Thank You
Add to Goodreads
Rating: ✵ ✵ ✵
In the last years of the Viking Era, as the traditions and old wisdoms are being replaced by the Roman Church, Astrid, a skaldm r who is learning to write royal sagas, takes on the task of recording the True Things so that they are not forgotten. When she realises that she must protect her baby from the King and the Bishop, Astrid runs away to the Orkney Islands to hide her daughter and the book.
Mercy is taken from a Victorian orphanage in Glasgow by a dangerous man. She escapes and meets Ann Radcliffe, a successful yet reclusive author of Gothic horror novels. Mercy joins Ann’s household and is taught the art of storytelling. But she longs to discover her true identity, the answers to which may be found in a book her mother left for her at the orphanage.
Mia, who lives in the Blue Mountains, is given the ancient book Systir Saga at the funeral of her cousin. With the help of a university research assistant, she manages to decipher the early rune symbols and discovers that it points to an even more mysterious book buried somewhere in the Orkney Islands. Mia travels to an ancient rock mound on a windswept island to discover the true secret of the Systir Saga.
Saga is the story of three strong and resilient young women who share a bloodline. The first chapter opens with the POV of Astrid (Orkneyjar, Norway 1066). In the second chapter, we move on to meet 2nd POV, Mercy (Glasgow, Scotland 1813). Then in the third chapter, we meet 3rd POV, Mia (The Blue Mountains, Australia present day).
For me Saga read like three books in one, with each chapter cycling through, Astrid, Mercy & Mia, then back again. By the end of Mai’s first chapter, it was obvious what the connection between the three young women was – but I think that is possibly intentional.
I really enjoyed and apricate the way McWatters has weaved historical figures, myths, and historical events in amongst fantasy in this historical/contemporary/treasure hunt mash-up of a book.
A highlight for me was the storyline of present-day Mia traveling to the Pagan holy island of Eynhallow and seeing what she and her friend learn about and uncover on Pict culture.
Overall, I think this book is a brilliant concept and has some fantastic storylines, and the ability to make the reader remember that we women did in fact run the world once upon a time.
“Four generations of women here,” Syvia said as the wind whipped her white hair about her face. “My women. My family. And our books that tell a story of a time when we were queens and goddesses, witches, warriors and wordsmiths.”
Full discloser: I started reading this book in December 2019, super excited, expecting that I would love it and be buying my Scottish born Grandmother and Mother a copy each for Christmas. I stopped reading in January at the 50% mark as I was having trouble investing in the characters, and my reading progress had been quite slow. I would just feel I was getting into the groove of the story, only to be pulled out and dropped in another one. I was getting super frustrated as I really wanted to love this book, but the chapter swapping out each time, it really felt like I was reading three books at once – something that some people really enjoy doing! But not me in the last few years. I like to start a book then devour it in as few reading sessions as possible, that is how I find I get the most enjoyment – like binge-watching a season of something on Netflix lol. So just because it’s not my cup of tea, doesn’t mean that it’s isn’t your cup of tea – ya feel me.
I had planned on picking Saga up again earlier this year, as I still wanted to finish the book. I’ve only just got around to picking it back up in late May, but was still having the same issues, so for the last quarter I decided to just read Mia chapters, to find out how the overall story ends and follow the treasure hunt present-day storyline (as I was finding it the most interesting, but only because of the initial Astrid story set up, having known she started it all).