Review of Steel Hand Cold Heart by Rachel Menard

Review: Steel Hand Cold Heart by Rachel Menard

“Steel Hand Cold Heart” by Rachel Menard is a riveting adventure from start to finish. Her strong narrative voice, showcased in the first person narrative of her main character Carina the Unstoppable, pulls together powerful themes of friendship, family, religion, and free will. While the setting is somewhat historical, with references to the Vikings and their goddess Hel, Menard creates her own unique fantasy world that is every bit as magical and dangerous as our own.

Carina is a young Daughter of Hel, one of the viking women who worship the goddess of Death. They view their raids on local villages as offering up souls to their goddess. Carina is not like the others, however. She was taken as a prize many years ago but the Daughters’ chieftain, Merle. As such she looks different and therefore always has to prove her worth. Then her deadly rivalry with her adopted cousin, Dagna, lands her in a predicament Carina never saw coming. Held captive by people whose lives and beliefs couldn’t be more different from her own, Carina must face the truth about herself and her past if she’s going to survive.

It takes a lot to pull me into a book as effectively as this one did. The pacing was brilliant, giving us character building and action so quickly and seamlessly that I never wanted to put it down. The characters were deeply developed and we fall in love with them as naturally as turning the page.

While there was gore and disturbing imagery in this book, it’s nothing we don’t see from YA on the regular. And if you’re not into death magic, well.. Menard announces that her main character worships a death goddess on page one. We know what we’re getting into from the start. There is some mention of male sexual mutilation, but there’s nothing graphically sexual. 

Overall this was a great read. I adored Carina’s bad attitude and her band of boys were endearing. I also really enjoyed the honest critique of blindly following or manipulating others through religion baked into the storyline. Yet we also get the chance to see good examples of pious individuals, as well as Carina’s struggle with her own beliefs. It’s a beautiful coming of age story and I would absolutely pick up another book by this author!

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