Josefine Ottesen
  prize-winning Danish author
Presentation > Press Reviews

Press Reviews

Helgi Daner (Helgi the Dane)

Weekendavisen 4 October 2014:
“... But Ottesen gets much closer to Helgi as a person and focuses on what makes Helgi a hero: his pure heart, his capacity to forgive and his courage. Josefine Ottesen has previously written similar stories. The trilogies The Warrior, The Mira Chronicles and The Deadlands are all examples of heroic stories where the main characters end up victorious despite a wretched starting point and many setbacks on the way. Ottesen is a master in this respect. No one else can put a hero up against seemingly impossible problems like she can, so the reader feels personally involved. And this is so regardless of whether the action is happening in the Middle Ages, in a fantasy land or in the distant future. I’m really impressed with the incredible power that radiates from Josefine Ottesen’s tale of Helgi the Dane. It’s really well done.”
(Damian Arguimbau, Weekendavisen)

Berlingske Tidende, 2 October 2014:
5 stars out of 6
“In her novel “Helgi the Dane”, Josefine Ottesen has composed her own great heroic epic. With a samurai-like character gallery, from the gentlest person of virtue to the most gruesomely evil, divided among almost 40 people, the story of Helgi (a.k.a. Ogier the Dane) is most reminiscent of all in its narrative of a computer game at high speed, with an efficient drive of controversies queueing up and 

where the slightest disagreement leads to a fight. All this is accompanied by a soundtrack with the din of weapons clashing and cries of pain, and the introductory verses to each chapter which foreshadow what is going to happen next.
In this way, Ottesen rolls out the whole of West European history around the 9th century for the reader and gives a wonderful insight into the mentality of the period in the story of Emperor Charlemagne, the historian Einhard and the legendary figures of Roland and Ogier the Dane ... The story of Helgi is also made of the stuff that grand narratives are created from ... In the course of the novel, there are discussions around faith, concepts of freedom and self-knowledge, themes Ottesen has taken up on repeated occasions, including in her Warrior trilogy from 2001-3. Helgi the Dane is an impressively powerful story ... A story with an unusually strong power to fascinate.”
(Kari Sønsthagen,

Fynske medier, 17 October 2014:
“Josefine Ottesen’s novel (Helgi the Dane) about Ogier the Dane effortlessly combines action and philosophical themes. ... Ottesen has really breathed new life into an old story that both entertains with lots of action and arouses to thoughtfulness through her fine ability to unfold her themes. With its 500 pages, it is an excellent achievement to retain the reader’s interest all the way through. Ottesen really knows her craft and the novel is razor sharp in both its composition and its complex of themes. ... Ottesen skilfully propounds the problems around the question (of freedom) throughout the novel, thereby creating a drama that is more intense than even the best fight scenes. Helgi finally understands that it is a matter of personal integrity; that freedom is the courage to choose and stand by one’s choice. And that’s not a bad idea to pass on to the novel’s young readers as the hero faces a myriad of complex life choices.”
(Jens Eichler Lorenzen, )

Politiken, 5 October 2014:
4 stars out of 6
“Battles are one of her specialities, but Josefine Ottesen is also very good at writing about daily life with smells, sounds and blind drunkenness ... Josefine Ottesen has a black belt in adventure stories and drama ... She can explain the movements of a sword, the trajectory of an axe or an evasive manoeuvre on a horse so that the reader personally participates in the battle. It is a rare gift, because in similar books (and especially in fantasy), the battle scenes are often tediously drawn out. Not here! ... It is highly entertaining, and there is also something for the history nerd ...”
(Steffen (a website on which young people review books for their peers), 4 October 2014:
10 stars out of 10
“... Josefine Ottesen is one of my favourite authors, and one of those writers who can write well in many different genres ... Helgi the Dane is frighteningly exciting and the book’s narrative is full of fight scenes, love, duty, honour and family. ... You can’t help living every moment as he (Helgi) has to make a choice between his heart and his duty ... The language is as always fantastic and you can feel that there is a lot of research behind the book ... The book is a historical novel - and more. Because supernatural creatures, magic and characters from legend also appear in the book ... with Helgi the Dane, Josefine Ottesen has created a whole new universe which, with its basis in the book, focuses on a time of courage, honour and change ...”
(Reviewed by Kirsten)

Review by purchasing consultant from DBC (the Danish Libraries Centre), 6 October 2014:
“Magnificent, entertaining historical novel that makes use of attributes from the fantasy genre ... The novel is entertaining and the author has a firm grasp of language and medium. In this way, the hairs on your arms stand up when Helgi’s fate is unfolding, and at the same time, you will be touched when love is the focus. Moreover, Ottesen succeeds in mixing reality and myth together and this gives an edge to Helgi’s personality and a touch of something magical. Like here, where Helgi is being punished: “According to the priestess, this was a sign that the troll part of him had become too strong again, and she had him whipped long and hard.” ... Should be in all the country’s public libraries and school libraries - the inviting cover and the author’s great popularity should ensure a lot of borrowing.”
(Jacob Holm Krogsøe), 2 October 2014:
“Grand, competent and compelling historical novel about the legendary Danish hero Ogier the Dane. The mixture of Icelandic saga atmosphere, a little fantasy, superstition and accurate historical detail works perfectly. ... Over the years, she (Josefine Ottesen) has written numerous novels, especially fantasy and historical novels, and it is this expertise of many years in particular that she utilises fully in this highly competent and deeply interesting work ... It has thus become a wonderful story in every way that the reader experiences here, a story that - in addition to telling us about a fascinating person from the world of Danish folklore - very convincingly portrays the difference between the somewhat uncivilised early Denmark and the highly developed Frankish kingdom. At the same time, a lot is made out of the portrayal of the time of unrest and upheaval between the old Odin religion and Christianity. And room has actually been found for love too.”
(Arne Larsen)

Kristeligt Dagblad, 2 October 2014:
“... This is the story (the legend of Ogier the Dane) that Josefine Ottesen goes into and unfolds piece by piece, so it finally lies there in front of the reader as a coarse woven and, at the same time, magnificent narrative. Coarse woven because she takes all the liberties possible in relation to the historical aspects and narrates an adventure of contrasts sharply set up in confrontation to each other. Magnificent, because the reader can visualise everything, and Helgi stands there as large as life in front of us, so one cannot imagine anything else except that he really has been riding around in Danermark as a half-human, half-elf. ... It is a Bildungsroman, which is about finding out who you are and standing by it ... Finally, Helgi the Dane is a novel about the transition from paganism to Christianity. About the difficulty of believing in “a God who took a man’s honour and demanded forgiveness instead of revenge.” About reconciliation and being set free ... And even if Josefine Ottesen blends a powerful sorcery of different beliefs and ways of thinking, the reader comes to understand from Helgi’s story what it has meant for the Danes to put cock sacrifices and galdor incantations behind them and become Christians. Is there anyone who would like to remind the author that there is an anniversary of the Reformation on its way?”
(Sara Nørholm,

Trilogy: Det døde land (The Deadlands)

"The Deadlands is an impressive achievement - a trilogy about grim powerlessness and a world that is out of joint. With a wise, yet maladjusted, youth in a leading role which he, deep down, doesn't want to play. Jonah's desperation and angst is so insistent that reading becomes a serious and deeply felt experience."  Weekendavisen (newspaper)

The trilogy has been translated to Norwegian.

Read synopsis of the whole trilogy and chapter 1 of Golak here.

Part 1: Golak (Golak)




The language is flawless. It is pure, detached and crafted meticulously with a view to being understood. The reader shifts quickly into being at home in a new world with new rules. The tone is insistent.  This is important!  And the action often takes a break in order to focus on a boy who cannot resist a challenge or a chance to sneer at the old and discover the new.
Politiken (newspaper),  16 October 2008

Josefine Ottesen is an author who takes the  problems raised by the young seriously.  In Golak, the first volume in the trilogy The Deadlands, she tackles such issues as society's rules and the importance of these rules to the community. ....  (she) slices the feelings open with a scalpel for her young readers, who are in that stage between child and adult and have to work out alone how to create a balance between the ego and the common good.

Fyns Amts Avis (newspaper), 22 November 2008




... an impressive and gripping novel that manages to involve the reader in a world that is constantly seen from new angles. There is no doubt that with this trilogy we are looking at a major work of Danish literature for young adults which will be read and discussed for many years to come.
Weekendavisen (newspaper) 12 December 2009

The yearning to belong ... for unconditional love like that one experiences from a father or mother... the yearning to discover one's roots, permeates Josefine Ottesen's second volume of the trilogy, The Deadlands.
... With an Orwellian pen, Josefine Ottesen pinpoints such dystopian future visions as racial improvement, genetic manipulation, artificial control of emotions … while simultaneously allowing not only her main character Jonah, but also his friends .... to express the desire to live normally.
In this cold technological world, Jonah meets what is perhaps his greatest challenge - his internal crisis.
... Josefine Ottesen describes the teenager’s and young adult's travails with identity as well as with their social network.
Fyns Amts Avis (newspaper), October 2009

This continuation of Josephine Ottesen dystopic serial, "The Deadlands", is remarkably good. The connections between the first book and this one are nicely drawn into each other and the universe is full of fantasy, but still down to earth, so one remains engaged. In addition, Jonah’s personal development is interesting to read about, and there is a superbly maintained level of suspense throughout the book. Just like the first book, "Resurrection" gives food for thought …
Fyns Stiftstidende (newspaper), 25 October 2009


Part : Genfødt (Resurrection) 

Part 3: Gudløs (Godless)






The young man's conflicts include in particular the definitions of good or bad. When is one human, all in all? And Josefine Ottesen ensures that the ethical debate about compassion and genetic engineering creeps right in where the tips of one’s nerves can go into overdrive and bring the reader to question his/her own existence.
Fyns Amts Avis (newspaper) 7 May 2011


Josefine Ottesen is excellent at putting words on existential issues and ethical dilemmas. There is a long way to the destination in the total of just under 900 pages the trilogy spans, but the road towards it is absolutely worth following. Ottesen's thorough research within technology and modern genetic science is impressive and smoothly integrated into the tableaux of the novel which emerge at an impressive level of detail around a comprehensive gallery of characters. And there are very few writers on Danish soil who match Ottesen's ability to forcefully and with nuance pick the lock of a complicated mind, thus creating a meaningful dialogue with the reader about the major issues in relation to existence and meaning, at both the individual and the global level. It is great art.
Information (newspaper) 15 July 2011

Hullerikkerne fra syvstammetræet
(The Holiwags from Seven-Trunk Tree)

The series has been translated to German and Norwegian.

Read extracts from the first two volumes here

A Holiwag is about 7 cm tall, with claws on its toes and good hearing. Holiwags resemble us people quite a lot - they can argue and fight; they can be as silly as popstars; and they possess qualities like heroism and drive. ... Josefine Ottesen tells a tale without sentimentality - but with a rather sweet quality - about animals and little creatures who live in fearful harmony with each other. The point of the tale is that you have to travel out into the world to see with your own eyes. Maybe you'll discover something new! ... Claus Rye Schierbeck has illustrated the book throughout with black and white drawings which reflect the spirit of the tale with joy and precision; pictures which are full of movement, seriousness and spectacular camera angles!

Politiken (newspaper), 25 July 2008

A book to be read out loud, with crackling oaths and onomatopoeic words, a dramatic, fabulous story, full of fun and lively characters. ... The fantasy is adroitly integrated into a mixture which never descends into the sentimentally wishy-washy, but always has a grip on the large and small nuances there are in the games people play. A simply faultless combination.
Information (newspaper), 25 July 2008

The third volume about the adventurous holiwags, 7cm high, for reading aloud for somewhat advanced children between 5 and 10 years old, and suitable for own reading from about 9 years old. Here there are thrills, adventure and excitement with nature as a good, educational backdrop.

The story is well told in plain language, with warmth, excitement and some thrills and spills. In addition, nature plays an important and realistic role amid the fairy-tale story that organises its tools really effectively and beautifully. The book's illustrations support the story well. 

Children and adults who enjoyed the author's books on the flower fairy Roselil ... can continue here and get some more modern and relevant adventures in a countryside framework.
An exciting third volume in the series. The story is well told and well-illustrated in a beautifully designed book. An excellent book to read for the read-aloud shelf for almost the entire family, and for good readers of both genders.
Torben Bråe Olesen

Purchasing consultant for libraries

... this delightful little fairy tale that is perfect as an everyday read-aloud book before bedtime for four to seven year-olds. 
Wing Swish and Otter Splash is largely told in children's language even though some words will probably require an explanation from the reader. The stories are exciting and yet they are told with warm and adventurous fun and at eye level with the target audience, who will be able to nod in recognition of many of the situations - because funnily enough, holiwag children resemble all other children around the world with their wonderful shared universes, where the real reality and the magical reality have been randomly mixed in different, foolhardy concentrations.
Jan Vandall
(book review website)

The Mira Chronicles - trilogy

Dæmonernes hvisken (The Whisper of Demons):
It is just beautiful, artistic writing and very well done again,again..."
Skolebiblioteket (The School Library), nr.7, 2005
Dronningens Tåre (The Queen's Tear):
The Queen's Tear is an elemental thriller.  It is written with verve and power.
Politiken,(newspaper) 18 February 2006
Krystalhjertet (The Crystal Heart):
The language is in a class of its own - it's just pure reading enjoyment.
Lektørudtalelse, (Librarian recommendation) August 2006
Krystalhjertet (The Crystal Heart):
The Mira serial is a tremendous adventure about evil everywhere. Narrated with high energy, magnificent scenery and an unceasing inventiveness.
Politiken, (newspaper) August 2006


The Warrior - trilogy

På den yderste ø (On the Furthest Island). 2001. Copenhagen. Høst og Søn.
A colourful, dramatic and well-written story for young people with a taste for fantasy.
Flensborg Avis (newspaper). 26.11.2001

Josefine Ottesen takes her time to weave a tapestry from the thread of destiny and expresses it with vehemence.  One sees and smells a shallow world of important people and simple, dirty survivors.
Politiken (newspaper). 29.12.2001

Bag Borgens Mure (Behind the Castle Walls). 2003. Copenhagen. Høst & Søn.
Behind the Castle Walls is as exciting as Prince Valiant and as deep as a vivid
dream.  It cannot be improved.
Politiken, newspaper. 4.1.2003

Over åbent vand (Across Open Water). 2003. Copenhagen. Høst & Søn.
Josefine Ottesen's trilogy The Warrior is very wise and very physical.  One can feel that it is written from the heart.  It is world class!
Politiken (newspaper),14.6.2003

One has to raise several hats to Ottesen’s masterly and powerful trilogy.
Berlingske Tidende (newspaper) 12.6.2003


 Eventyret om Fjeren og Rosen (The Feather and the Rose)
1986. Copenhagen. Mallings.(Reprinted by Høst & Søn 2006, Copenhagen).

Josefine Ottesen's project is to extend the form of the fairy tale to a novel-length allegory of the psychological divisions in our lives which our language normally only allows us to express through paraphrasing. This is one of the biggest artistic ambitions I have seen unfolded in Danish literature for children in the last twenty years.
Information (newspaper), 8.12.1986

This wise fantasy book tells the profound truth that freedom and creativity can only exist when there are also borders and a righteous purpose. And that goodness is perhaps only possible and welcome where there is also room for evil.
Münchener Merkur (newspaper), 6.6.1992


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Drageherren 1-11 (Lord of the Dragon 1-11)
2000-2005. Fyn. Alrune. Easy Reading serial

Here are matters of the utmost importance in its purest form. The original fantasy about courage, responsibility and love.
Børn & Bøger (magazine: Children and Books), October 2004

Another exciting reading-experience awaits girls and boys from the age of 8-9 years, but also older children, especially slow readers, are enthusiastic about the series.
Lektørudtalelse (Librarian recommendation). August 2004

The most sought-after book for slow readers at Danish libraries these days is
called "Lord of the Dragon" and it is written by Josefine Ottesen, an author from the island of Fyn (Funen).

Urban Fyn (newspaper).  9.11.2004

The Greenmere series

Den Stjålne Sten (The Stolen Stone), Visdommens vogter (The Guardian of Wisdom), Soltårerne (The Solar Tears). 2000-2003. Copenhagen. Sesam.

The Greenmere series is a feel-good experience in the true meaning of the word.
B.T. (newspaper), 18.4.2005.

Pure, pleasant fantasy for beginners.
Politiken (newspaper), 13.9.2003


Regnbuestenen (The Rainbow Stone).
1999. Copenhagen. Høst & Søn.

As usual, a solid and original fantasy which draws on all elements from the
Aktuelt (newspaper), 19.1.2000