So Wild a Dream
Reading Beautiful Wreck in 2014, I was blown away by Larissa Brown’s dreamlike writing style and the romance within. When I read the first part of the follow-up in 2016, I enjoyed the story but wasn’t left with that lovely breathless feeling I craved. Luckily, while I wasn’t floating weightless in the writing like with Beautiful Wreck, the second part of So Wild a Dream completes the story, and provides a more complete arc for our characters.
In book one, Eðna Jonsdottir, a contemporary of Ginn from Wreck, agreed to travel to the past to see if what Ginn did accidently can be reliably duplicated. After arriving in the freezing ocean in the past, Eðna stumbled across Brosa, brother to the chief, while trying to find something resembling civilization. Brosa Ulfsson may be charming and easy going, but he is also unquestionably depressed. Eðna meets him as he is lying in the grave of his wife and child, attempting to trade his life to the gods so his brother can have a child. When Eðna appears, he first believes she is a spirit of some kind ready to make the trade.
Once Brosa figures out he’s wrong, he brings Eðna to the homestead to meet Ginn, who is different from what Eðna remembers, and she quickly becomes an unwilling guest. Her background as someone who lived outside the city has prepared her for many of the tasks and the daily life of the household, but Eðna constantly mourns for her time and the city. But this is only the beginning, for there is a woman, Svana, who has loved Brosa all her life and wants him back, while her husband wants to destroy the Ulfssons. I won’t go into too much detail, but the results of book one: Brosa and Eðna are forced to flee and live in hiding to avoid death at the hands of their enemies.
While I still wish books one and two had been released simultaneously (honestly, as one book, since together they are about 450 pages or so), this second part of the story wraps up Brosa and Eðna’s tale well. I am 100% in love with Brosa – he has a complex inner life that we get glimpses off as the narration changes points of view for different chapters. Eðna is a bit harder to get a read on, as she starts unformed, but as time passes she settles more into the woman she is. As Eðna is discovering herself, the reader learns more about her. It works surprisingly well, and actually solves a lot of the problems I had while reading the first half of the story.
I was also surprised at first with how much of Svana’s story we get – she is a villain in this piece – and her character arc is possibly the most rewarding of all of them. Svana is unhappy with her lot in life, and attempts to change her fate, but in some of the worst ways. By the end of the story, though, she has made some interesting choices that make me wonder if she will be the star of a future story.
All that said, the pacing for the complete story is… off. Since it had been a while, I wanted to re-read part one before starting part two, and getting into the story was difficult. The first half of part one is slow, Eðna isn’t particularly engaging yet, and Ginn comes across as harsh and unyielding, the opposite of what we saw in Wreck. Once we get into the main conflict though, things take off and keep running through not only the remains of book one but straight through the end of book two as well.
The other issue I had was with Eðna, who I really wanted to like. Even now that I’ve finished her story, I’m not sure what she really wants in life, other than Brosa. And birds. Girl likes her birds. She was so adamant about returning to the future, especially with her childhood memories of life on a farmstead far from the city, that I still don’t understand many of her choices as the story progresses. It wasn’t enough to make me dislike the story, but I just couldn’t connect with her.
Overall, I still really enjoyed the story, and I absolutely love Larissa Brown’s White Woods world. I will still be on the lookout for more of her novels, and hope we get more in this universe.