SERIES: The Hanged God Trilogy (#1)
PUBLISHED: October 27, 2020 by Solaris Books (Rebellion Publishing)
GENRE: Historical Fantasy, Mythology
Following in the steps of Neil Gaiman & Joanne Harris, the author expertly weaves Norse myths and compelling characters into this fierce, magical epic fantasy.
A dead man, walking between the worlds, foresees the end of the gods.
A survivor searching for a weapon releases a demon from fiery Muspelheim.
A village is slaughtered by Christians, and revenge must be taken.
The bonds between the gods and Midgard are weakening. It is up to Hilda, Ragnar, their tribesmen Einer and Finn, the chief’s wife Siv and Tyra, her adopted daughter, to fight to save the old ways from dying out, and to save their gods in the process.
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Remember your rage. Nurture it. Your wrath is sacred.
Belief in the old ways is fading and the final battle approaches in Northern Wrath, author Thilde Kold Holdt’s powerful and utterly consuming Historical Fantasy debut. Part one of The Hanged God Trilogy is a sprawling narrative that takes us along on the merciless path of vengeance, highlighting the importance of honoring vows and respecting traditions of the past. A Norse-inspired epic that draws readers in with its intense beauty and promises of blood, Northern Wrath is a story led by those with unwavering resolve and a white hot need to protect their own. A captivating tale of magic and myth, this is one you cannot miss.
In order to even begin discussing the specifics of this book, it’s necessary to call attention to Kold Holdt’s knowledge and representation of this time period and all the lore and myth it carries along. It’s always easier to enjoy a story when an author suffuses their passion into the tales they tell, and this is a shining example of just that. The level of detail in the religious beliefs, customs, and rituals is awe-inspiring, even beginning early in the book. For example, a skald’s funeral is chronicled from start to finish, explaining the sacrificial rights and communal presence, the emotion, the honor, the promises to meet again in the afterlife. From this moment alone, I knew the journey I was about to embark on would be something special. And what followed surely didn’t disappoint.
The worldbuilding in this book is absolutely remarkable, easily immersing you in another place and time. Filled with wonder and brutality, wars rage as far as the eye can see…and then beyond. Slaughter in the name of God reigns, and the only choices are to either stand to protect the beliefs you hold close, or submit to the new ways. There’s a profound level of authenticity and historical accuracy that is so very rarely seen in the fantasy genre, and the inclusion of Norse myths and otherworldly ongoings adds layer upon layer of depth to the world constructed around us. The pages describe events in a dazzling way to fully engage readers, as well. We’ve all seen infiltration and battles fueled by vengeance before, but in this book the crisp night air carries with it the mingling of primal berserker roars and the grim chant of “Blót! Blót! Blót!”, causing you to physically feel the crush of bodies behind a shield wall in the fight for retribution.
Bound in blood, promised in blood, born in blood.
One of my favorite aspects of this book is the inclusion of some of the more pivotal myths and mystical aspects of Norse beliefs. A violent expedition through the afterlife allows us to witness events unfold through the eyes of a dead man – namely the world-shattering battle of Ragnarök, and the blood binding of god and jotun, which I personally found to be intense and visceral, yet deeply emotional. Whether we’re scaling up the sacred branches of Yggdrasil alongside Ratatoskr, or descending deep into the earth seeking a crossroads of worlds, Kold Holdt’s portrayal of these accounts is so unique and accessible. I could read an entire book of just her retellings.
There’s a lot going on in this book with a substantial cast of well-developed characters, whose intentions and ambitions are theirs and theirs alone. We view the story as it unfurls through multiple POVs, each on their own destined path towed forward by vengeance, fear, or the burden of obligation. A young shieldmaiden blinded by the hottest fires in all nine worlds follows a destiny whispered by the winds of fate. A warrior seeks to bring fear and death to his southern enemies, but his blood calls to a dangerous lineage. An exiled jotun uses her gifts to sway the minds of men to prevent the end times. A dead man walks and dies again and again in the darkness in search of entry to Helheim. An orphan of a massacre learns there’s more than meets the eye, and accepts the mantle of responsibility placed upon her shoulders. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I developed much of a connection to these characters due to the large scope, but as I thumbed through the final chapters, I discovered just how invested I had become.
The Hanged God will abandon you. In the river your corpse will rot.
The several plot lines each of the characters are attached to initially appear to be independent from each other, but as the story continues you can see the threads subtly reaching out to pull everything into one grand masterpiece. A war between men, a war between gods and jotun, and the fires of Muspelheim emerging to consume the children of Midgard, there’s no shortage of danger and genuine tension to keep the pages of this hefty book turning.
The story itself is told in simple, easily approachable prose, but still radiates that old magical feeling of the Eddas. Holdt uses several mechanics to evoke the same air as the myths of old, including repetition to portray emotion, and a veiling of truths to ingrain the dark and mysterious. She leaves a delicate trail of breadcrumbs for you to follow if you choose to do so, but it’s best you allow yourself to be swept away in the tides of her tale. As mentioned, the scope is quite large, but there wasn’t a single instance I felt any confusion or contradiction, the narration smooth and superb. Those that are familiar with Viking-age Scandinavian history and culture will find wonderful little inclusions, making this both an entertaining and educational adventure.
As many of you many know, I can’t say no to anything Norse-inspired, so as soon as I discovered Northern Wrath it immediately went to the top of my most anticipated reads of the year…and is now one of my favorite reads of the year. It’s complex, it’s genuine, it’s merciless, it’s beautiful. The grit and intensity that seeps from its pages are exactly what I expect of a book inspired by one of the many times of spiritual unrest in our history, and I’m champing at the bit for the next book in The Hanged God Trilogy. I can’t recommend this book enough. Just read it.
Note: A huge thank you to the author and Rebellion Publishing for providing me with a complementary advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I am a novelist by profession. For more than eleven years, I have been a k-pop fan, and I’m very interested in various cultures (particularly in South Korea). I have lived so many different places that the most difficult question to answer is: “where are you from?” I am, quite simply, from the planet Earth, for I have yet to set foot on Mars. Someday…