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When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald
Contemporary fiction

When We Were Vikings

Debut

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

by Andrew David MacDonald

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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

    Emotional

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Quirky

    Quirky

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Millenial

    Millennial

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Quest

    Quest

Synopsis

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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Content warning

This book contains some sexual violence.

Free sample

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

Chapter One

The Viking my brother got me for my birthday was tall and had muscles. Even if you were not an expert on Vikings and had not read Kepple’s Guide to the Vikings, you would say, that is a Viking. He looked like he could defeat hordes of villains and commit acts of bravery, like Beowulf, the most famous Viking, who defeated Grendel, who was not only a regular villain but also a monster.

But since I am an expert, I noticed many incorrect things. For example, the Viking’s sword wasn’t made of real metal, and his outfit was plastic instead of brynja, which is an armor made of rings to protect warriors from being cut with swords. His blond hair was not really blond. I could see that it had actually been colored.

After seeing the Viking, I chose a new Word of Today. The word ended up being gargantuan, a way of saying something, or someone, is amazingly large. It was a word that I had written on my list, with the help of my best friend, AK47, and since I remembered the definition, and since the Viking and the word went together, I decided I would put my other Word of Today (eloquent) away and make gargantuan the new Word of Today.

The Viking boomed through the door of our apartment, past Gert,and stood holding his sword. The first thing he said was: “WHERE IS ZELDA?”

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Why I love it

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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Member ratings (3,484)

  • Sami M.

    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

  • Sara L.

    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.

  • Savannah T.

    Tolland, CT

    Rarely do I find myself rooting so deeply for a character. The unconventional heroine of this tale is compelling— I particularly love the growth through the complex circumstances she is in. Easy read

  • Abby M.

    Buxton, 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!

  • Mia W.

    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.

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