Berserker is the first novel in a new series that follows the Hemstad family from Norway to the United States after a horrible event catapults their lives on a new course. It’s 1883, and the family, made up of two brothers and two sisters, live and work with their father on the family farm. Their lives are hard and difficult. In addition sixteen-year-old Hanne and her family are a bit different from others. Hanne and her two brothers are Nytteson, meaning they have different gifts bestowed upon them by the Norse gods. Hanne is also a Berserker, or a perfect killing machine, which happens whenever her loved ones are threatened. After an event awakens her powers and leaves her father dead, the siblings must escape to America. There they meet Owen, a cowboy who agrees to help them make a life for themselves, even among some wild, colorful characters. What they don’t know is that they’re being chased across the plains by those who know about their powers.
Laybourne has managed to combine an action-packed thriller with history, mythology, fantasy and psychological motivation. The pace allows the reader to enjoy each of the characters, but the story moves forward at a rapid enough rate that one has an elevated heart-rate wondering how the family will get out of their newest predicament. I enjoy historical fiction, and much more when there’s a fantastical or magical turn to the tale. I was so caught up in all the character’s stories, and now wish for a prequel before a second installment comes out. However I eagerly await the next in the series and a chance to reunite with the family once again. This is a fine example of cross-over fiction for adults and teens.