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When We Were Vikings

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  3,652 ratings  ·  908 reviews
Sometimes life isnt 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
Kindle Edition, 326 pages
Published January 28th 2020 by Scout Press
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Andrew MacDonald Hi, and thanks a bunch for your patron request! It's Adult, but I know a lot of readers, librarians, and high school teachers have noted that it can…moreHi, and thanks a bunch for your patron request! It's Adult, but I know a lot of readers, librarians, and high school teachers have noted that it can do double duty as a book with crossover appeal. (less)
Andrew MacDonald Yes! One of Zelda's adult besties is.…moreYes! One of Zelda's adult besties is. (less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,652 ratings  ·  908 reviews

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Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved being inside of Zelda's mind. Zelda, a high functioning young adult diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, has something about her that everyone can relate to. While exploring lifes boundaries, she often compares her world to the Viking world. Though others consider Zelda not normal, she considers her life a quest and strives to fulfill her legacy while searching for identity, battling for independence, and overcoming lifes villains.

I told him that I was used to it. People
Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ Campbell

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WHEN WE WERE VIKINGS is a book that has a very interesting premise but is potentially problematic in a lot of ways. I breezed through it pretty quickly-- normally a good sign-- but when I finished, I found that I had a really bad taste in my mouth. Something about the book really didn't sit right with me. I finished the book on my lunch break and spent the rest of the day with my thoughts on the back burner, trying to figure out, what,
Scarlett Readz and Runz....Through Novel Time & Distance
As a fan of all things Vikings, I was drawn to the cover of this novel and had a certain expectation on how it would follow. If the blurb and quotes did not give it away, I soon found myself questioning if I had the correct book at hand that I so expectantly put on top of my tbr the moment it was in my possession. What I was reading was both plain and endearing in the use of verbiage but also resembled the main adult protagonist of child-like character. How was this supposed to make a leap from ...more
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
A book where the main character is obsessed with Vikings?

Not normally the kind of book that I would jump all over. I actually have no clue what made me want to read this book but whatever/whoever it was...thank you!!

Zelda is a character that is different. Zelda is a character that I wish the world had more of. She is honest, outspoken for her tribe and knows what she wants. In this story we get to go with her on her quest for a bit.

Zelda lives with her big brother Gert. She goes to the
Elyse  Walters
Audiobook... read by
Phoebe Strole/ ebook sync.

Im not an enthusiastic Viking - reader - in any shape or form. I trusted other readers that this book had very little to do with Vikings, but it was still too much for me.

I wasnt interested in Zeldas tribe, or dressing correctly to get into character.

Even with a - somewhat lovable character,
....Zelda, a high functioning 21-year-old with fetal alcohol syndrome.... I just didnt really enjoy the story.
Zelda is an unreliable character >> which
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[3.5] I have mixed feelings about When We Were Vikings. Zelda is a young woman born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, who functions well in a scripted routine. She views everything in black and white, is crazy about Vikings and uses simplistic language with "words of the day" thrown in. Initially the novel felt derivative (Curious Incident) and YA (except for the sex-talk). I stuck with it because I thought the contradictions around her burgeoning sexuality and desire for independence were ...more
With Gert, I do not mind going to new places. If I am alone, I do not like new places, since its easy to become lost or kidnapped and held for ransom.

Its Zeldas 21st birthday, and shes an adult today. Her older brother Gert, with whom she lives, has already surprised her with a Viking stripper who makes balloon animals (but doesnt strip today). She thinks hes great

He looked like he could defeat hordes of villains and commit acts of bravery, like Beowulf . . .

Zeldas favourite book is Keppels
This is a very engaging debut novel featuring a young adult with a cognitive disability. Born with fetal alcohol syndrome, Zelda is high functioning but is quite guileless and naive, not always understanding social interactions and people's intentions, which can get her into dangerous situations. Her parents both died when she was young and she and her brother Gert were sent to live with their creepy Uncle Richard, who was cruel to Gert and liked to touch Zelda. After a knee injury put paid to ...more
Susan's Reviews
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley-arc
What a fine - A VERY FINE!- story Andrew David MacDonald has brought us in When We Were Vikings. That ending was just beautiful. I'm still leaking tears as I write this review. At the end of this epic tale, this talented author did not leave any loose ends untied: we certainly have a lot to learn from Viking lore. "...For [Zelda] the world is a place where courage and being part of a tribe means more than anything elsewhere we are all Vikings paddling together, to the beat of the same drum."

Susan's Reviews
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fine - A VERY FINE!- story Andrew David MacDonald has brought us in When We Were Vikings. That ending was just beautiful. I'm still leaking (happy/wow) tears as I write this review. At the end of this epic tale, this talented author did not leave any loose ends untied: we certainly have a lot to learn from Viking lore. "...For [Zelda] the world is a place where courage and being part of a tribe means more than anything elsewhere we are all Vikings paddling together, to the beat of the ...more
Andrew David MacDonald delivered an amazing story in When We Were Vikings. I absolutely adored this literary fiction about our protagonist Zelda who was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, due to her mother's heavy drinking. Zelda and her brother Gert are left on their own as their father died while in prison and their mother died shortly after.

Zelda obsessed with Vikings adapts the Viking culture to make it through lifes difficulties and challenges. I adored her character and how she is set in
Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)
Zelda is twenty-one years old and was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. She is high functioning with her learning disability and relies on repetition to learn her tasks. She lives a simple life and maintains a constant routine to reduce anxiety. Zelda is friendly and attends community classes where she learns life skills such as basic finance and social interaction. She is also obsessed with Vikings and uses their rituals as guidance in her life.

Zelda lives with her older brother, Gert, who has
Book of the Month
Why I love it
by Bryn Greenwood

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,
Its been a long while since I felt so completely addicted and in love with a character. I didnt want this book to end. Five stars all the way!

Audiobook narrated by the fabulous Phoebe Strole.

My favorite quote:
... even though Vikings have wise men who tell them what to do, sometimes heroes need to follow their own hearts and believe in themselves.
Elle Rudy
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways, 2020
You cant be brave unless youve been afraid. Zelda is a Viking enthusiast who is trying to make her way in a world full of villains whilst figuring out what makes someone a hero. Born on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum, she thinks and acts differently, but is still relatively high-functioning. Zelda lives with her older brother, Gert, though theyre struggling financially without any parental or family support.

It would be easy to make her FAS the main adversary in the story, or perhaps vilify her
Susan Johnson
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I needed a book like this desperately. First of all, it has a main character, Zelda, you can unreservedly root for and she has surrounded herself with a tribe that gives her needed help, support, and love. She is a 21 year old who has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and is struggling to establish her independence. Her older brother, Gert, is not ready to let go and he still wants to protect her (who doesn't?)
Luckily she has the support of Gert's girlfriend, AK47, her doctor and the Community Center she
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thank you, Netgalley, for an ARC!

Wow, what a good read. A story I was into, with real daily life problems being address by an unlikely heroine you can only root for, with her Viking philosophies quick at hand and a desire to write her own legend.

Id certainly compare this to the Curious Incident of the Dog inasmuch as a young, mentally different protagonist leads the story, and the blunt narration made it easy but also immersive to read But this was a young womans story, one I was infinitely
Dec 13, 2019 marked it as to-read
Just got an ARC, might read it soon
Kathryn in FL
This highly engaging debut novel is a very original, unique story with interesting, dynamic, primary characters. Told in the first person, Zelda is a special needs person, who is highly functional adult. We watch her get entangled in some very challenging situations that most people would find difficult to work through. Her ability to apply logic and respond based on her sense of what is morally right is both her biggest strength and at times a great weakness. Even in her failures, she learns ...more
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great debut novel. Tenderly told from the POV of a young woman named, Zelda. Though she suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum disorder she still manages to face the many challenges in her life with grit and determination to become the hero of her own story. Uplifting and inspiring this story will leave you with a tear in your eye & a smile on your face. 4 stars. ...more
When We Were Vikings is a cute, light, coming-of-age story about a woman named Zelda and her day-to-day life with her older brother Gert. Zelda suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, but she doesn't let the haters get her down. Zelda is a good-natured, funny, protagonist and while this book may sound like it could venture a darker route, it's definitely a fun ride. Zelda is one of the most loveable protagonists I've ever encountered.
Kerrin Parris
Sep 20, 2019 rated it liked it
When We Were Vikings is an unusual book. For my personal preference, I give it a 3-star rating. The story is narrated by Zelda, a 21-year-old high-functioning young woman who was born on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum. Her father left home when she was a baby. After her mother died from cancer, she and her brilliant, but thuggish brother, Gert go to live with their uncle. Uncle Richard is truly a terrible person, a Grendel. Desperate to get away from him, Gert borrows money from a thug, who is a ...more
Aug 28, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kylie H
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
I have quite mixed feelings about this book. Zelda is a 21 year old girl who has an intellectual disability due to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She lives with her brother Gert who does his best for Zelda but appears to have his own demons that he is battling.
Zelda is fascinated with vikings and decides that like vikings of old she shall go on a quest to save a fair maiden (her boyfriend Marxy), have a weapon and battle a villain.
I liked the plot of the story and the characters but something in the

Things this book is not: Light, easy, simple, purely humorous.

Things this book is: Endearing, heartwarming, sad, hopeful, quirky, wonderful. I fell in love with Zelda and her tribe. Some of the portions of the book made my heart hurt and some of the themes are dark. But oh man...does love ever win. This for sure earned a spot in my "favorites of up lit".

Similar to Eleanor Oliphant, our heroine will make you root for her and the pages will fly as you are praying that Zelda gets her happy ending.
Sharah McConville
4.5 Stars. When We Were Vikings is about Zelda, a unique 21 year old woman with fetal alcohol syndrome. Zelda lives with her brother Gert who cares for her and spends her days obsessing over Viking culture. When Gert gets himself into trouble Zelda decides to embark on her own quest to save him. Thanks to Simon and Schuster for my ARC.
Tinichix (nicole)
I just didnt connect with this one unfortunately. Its very similar in ways to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine or The Bookish Life of Nina Hill but not anywhere as good in my opinion. I dont typically like to compare books but thats the kind of feel or vibe it has. I really enjoyed those other ones along the same line so I had very high hopes for this one. It fell flat for me. I was bored and didnt find the characters endearing. I wasnt a fan of some of the events and topics. I think it had a ...more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When We Were Vikings is a unique story about a young girl and her quest to become a Viking legend. I love when I stumble upon a book that doesnt check all the typical mainstream marks. Give me something off the beaten path, something a little different and my hands get grabby.


Zelda has fetal alcohol syndrome, a result of her mother drinking heavily while pregnant. In her early twenties, Zelda lives with her older brother Gert, both parents have passed and after escaping an asshole uncle they are
Karen Rush
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 rounded up. This book was a hard one for me to rate. I loved much of it, the compelling inter-relationships, conversations and Zeldas incredible voice, her quirky Viking mentality and unique point of view. An impressively written debut and one unlike anything I've read.

So, what didnt I like? Zelda and disabled friend Marxy are on the cusp of adulthood and are quite focused on a plan to do it for the first time. It was hard getting through these pages - uncomfortable and a recurrant focus.
Red Ink Book Reviews
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
When We Were Vikings Andrew David Macdonald

I was given an advanced copy of this book in order to provide an honest review.

When We Were Vikings is a debut novel from Andrew David Macdonald. From the title of the book I was expecting the story to be a tale about Vikings going on epic adventures and creating more legendary Viking sagas.

Instead this is a saga about a 21-year-old woman, Zelda. Zelda has developmental issues and has faced many hurdles in her life but is a Viking enthusiast who is
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“He needs to write his own legend.” 1 likes
“...Sometimes life finds us, and when it does we have to rise to the occasion and have courage. And we make lists, rules, and try to order things, trying to control them, when actually the most important parts of life, the parts really worth cherishing, are the things that we don't expect.” 1 likes
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