Review

The Tricking of Freya

by Christina Sunley

In the Icelandic Sagas, Freyja is a goddess of sacrifice and
magic. For Freya, the eponymous narrator of Christina Sunley's
debut novel, THE TRICKING OF FREYA, Iceland is the motherland --- a
place of poetry, magic and dark memories.

Freya Morris was raised in the North American Icelandic
diaspora. Her family came to Canada after a devastating volcanic
eruption in 1875, settling in the “New Iceland”
community of Manitoba. Her grandfather was the celebrated Olafur,
Skald Nyja Islands, Poet of New Iceland, and her
grandmother was a proud Icelandic woman, keeper of her family's
genealogy and town librarian. Her mother, Anna, after marrying her
American father, moves to Connecticut where she eventually raises
Freya. Her mother's sister, the brilliant, beautiful and wild
Ingibjorg, is known as Birdie; though her name implies flight, she
never left home.

Freya doesn’t meet her Icelandic family until she’s
seven, when she travels to the town of Gimli where the Icelandic
culture is strong. Immediately she is enthralled with Birdie who
speaks to her in Icelandic, regales her with traditional stories
and promises to teach her how to fly. Freya soon learns, however,
that Birdie has a dark side and a mean streak that come out when
her mania turns to depression. There is a tension between Birdie
and Anna, and Freya's loyalty to each is constantly challenged.
Over the years Freya is pulled between her quiet and conservative
mother (who is disabled in a freak accident that Freya blames
herself for) and the passionate yet unstable Birdie. It all
changes, though, the year Freya turns 14.

Just before her 14th birthday, Birdie kidnaps Freya and takes
her on a dangerous trip to Iceland, where again Freya's loyalty to
and love for her aunt are put to the test. After she is returned to
her mother, she never sees her aunt again. In fact, she doesn't
return to Gimli for many years, and in the meantime lives a lonely
life in New York trying to forget her Icelandic heritage and the
pain her aunt caused her. She finds herself back in Gimli to
celebrate her grandmother's birthday and overhears a secret that
again takes her to Iceland in search of the truth about what her
family kept hidden for decades.

THE TRICKING OF FREYA is a fantastic story, full of myth and
legend, family drama, epic landscapes, the search for identity, a
sense of belonging and unconditional love. Freya is a tough
character: she has had a life of loss and disappointment punctuated
by moments of profound beauty and meaning. Sunley deftly weaves in
real Icelandic and Norse history, Icelandic literature, culture and
language into her tale, giving it a seriousness and depth that is
compelling, romantic and readable.

Though the climax of the book is somewhat predictable and the
end a bit too tidy, readers will find Freya's tale of sorrow, guilt
and redemption thought-provoking and Freya's journey of sacrifice
and magic well worthwhile. Sunley's narration is lovely and often
brutal, poetic and dark. Overall, THE TRICKING OF FREYA is an
accomplished debut.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 23, 2011

The Tricking of Freya
by Christina Sunley

  • Publication Date: March 30, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Picador
  • ISBN-10: 031242938X
  • ISBN-13: 9780312429386