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All booksContemporary fictionWhen We Were Vikings
When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald
Contemporary fiction

When We Were Vikings

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Andrew David MacDonald, on your first book!

by Andrew David MacDonald

Quick take

Your modern-day Viking is a woman with fetal alcohol syndrome using her strict code to create the stuff of legends.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Emotional


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Quirky


  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Millenial


  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Quest


Illustrated icon, Icon_Challenging_Indicator


This book contains some sexual violence.

Why I love it

Bryn Greenwood
Author, The Reckless Oath We Made

As a reader, I'm always looking for the same things that attract me as a writer. I love stories that are outside the mainstream, about people who, in other books, might be relegated to sidekicks or one-dimensional sources of inspiration. When We Were Vikings hit that sweet spot for me.

Zelda is an older teenager on the fetal alcohol spectrum, but she is nobody's disability inspiration. She sees herself as a modern-day Viking with a sacred duty to protect her family, even though her sword is a letter opener, and her family is basically just herself and an older brother with a messy past and a messier present. As part of her plan to become a Viking legend, she's starting her first real job, and trying to go all the way with her boyfriend Marxy. But this isn’t all life has set in store for Zelda…

From the first page of When We Were Vikings, I knew Zelda was my people. Because of her disability, there are those who want to control her, but she has her own ideas about how to live her life. Not all of those ideas work out, but that doesn't stop Zelda from striving for independence. She may not be a great warrior, but Zelda's real strength is loving people. And that—even when it's hard, even when people let you down or break your heart—that's legendary.

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Sometimes life isn’t as simple as heroes and villains.

For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules:

1. A smile means “thank you for doing something small that I liked.”

2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect.

3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home.

4. Tomatoes must go in the middle of the sandwich and not get the bread wet.

5. Sometimes the most important things don’t fit on lists.

But when Zelda finds out that Gert has resorted to some questionable—and dangerous—methods to make enough money to keep them afloat, Zelda decides to launch her own quest. Her mission: to be legendary. It isn’t long before Zelda finds herself in a battle that tests the reach of her heroism, her love for her brother, and the depth of her Viking strength.

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Get an early look from the first pages of When We Were Vikings.

Member thoughts

All (2982)
All (2982)
Love (1187)
Like (1460)
Dislike (335)
3068 ratings
  • 39% Love
  • 48% Like
  • 11% Dislike
  • Benton, AR

    Zelda is a strong character who is underestimated. She will do anything protect her “tribe” and become a legend in her own time. This book kept me wanting more! I loved how Andrew portrayed the world

  • Fargo, ND

    Where to start? I felt like I really got to know Zelda & love that she is extremely into Norse beings! I will not be forgetting Zelda’s quest anytime soon; I love this book and Zelda’s selflessness!

  • Lakewood , CO

    While this book was slow until you get into the main character’s role/life the overall book was very moving as to what ordinary people can overcome. We can all be heroes just with different conquests.

  • medford , OR

    In a world full of as Zelda would say, “shit-heels” and “fuck-dicks” we need more powerful, strong, and brave heros like Zelda. This is a quest I was glad to be taken on. I miss Zelda already.

  • Old Brookville, NY

    It’s bingeworthy and so easy to fall in love with Zelda & her quirky nature. It sheds light on living with mental disability. Zelda is a unstoppable force and her resilience is inspiring and awesome.

  • Virginia Beach, VA

    It’s rare to find a book as unique and wonderful as this one. My emotions were all over the place as I tore through the pages. This is not for the faint of heart, but I’d recommend it to everyone.

  • Duluth, MN

    A sublime and magical tale about heroic people in the real world. Unique and awe-inspiring, humorous and suspenseful. Now, resisting the temptation to turn it right over and immediately read it again.

  • Apex, NC

    I absolutely loved this novel and couldn't put it down! The main characters are a little quirky. The story is heart-warming and gut-wrenching. The family group is a tribe of Viking heroes you'll love!

  • Boonville, NY

    Very thought provoking. It grabbed my interest and presented the world through the view of Zelda, a disabled girl. I limed that it didnt try to be more than a view of Zelda’s world and how she copes

  • Grand Rapids , MI

    I loved multiple things about this book. 1. being the innocence/ strong character Zelda has. 2nd. being the different characters that the author develops so well. 3rd. the premise was unique/amazing!

  • Chesterfield , MO

    Zelda burst into my reading life not to be easily dismissed. A great study of the many differences among us and how to relate to each other. Danger exists, thank heavens for the Viking in all of us

  • Riverview , FL

    This is definitely not the usual genre I go to but something told me to give it a try. I’m so glad that I did. Zelda reminded me that we are the heroes of our own legends. Beautiful story. 

  • Warrington, PA

    I really enjoyed this book. I misunderstood the description and was expecting something more sci-fi/fantasy but was very impressed by the writing and the way that the author brought the story to life.

  • West Point, NY

    I fell in love with this tribe & their story. If you are looking for a light book this is NOT it.If you are looking for love and redemption and hope in spite of heavy themes, pick this up. Team Zelda.

  • Livonia, MI

    This was a great book that had a lot of twists and turns from an unlikely hero. Hearing this story from another perspective was great. It was hard to start with the simple sentences, but overall great

  • New Bern, NC

    I loved the different perspectives of this book, especially from the character who most likely has autism. I also loved the character's individual flaws and that you can't help but love them in spite.

  • Dubuque, IA

    This book is nothing like i expected! The main character has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and goes on a mighty quest. It was beautifully written and overall a great read for anyone who enjoys contemporary

  • Marstons Mills, MA

    A book told from the POV of a 21 y.o. diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome. After she makes the decision to become her own legend like her viking heroes, her experiences show maturity & inspiration.

  • Marshalltown, IA

    I almost did not add this to my box I am so glad I did! I loved how real Zelda was and found myself rooting for her long after I turned the last page. This book will stick with you long after reading

  • Huntsville, AL

    I have a developmental disorder, and too often characters like me are perpetual children and burdens. It was nice to see Zelda have a love life and be independent, or a plot point and burden for Gus.

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