Northern Wrath – Review

“I know one thing that never dies. The repute each gains in life”

Author – Thilde Kold Holdt

Pages – 644

Format – Paperback

Thankyou to Hannah at Rebellion Publishing and the author Thilde Kold Holdt, for this advance reader copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Synopsis

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 slaughtered by Christians forces the mourning survivors to seek revenge. 

The bonds between the gods and Midgard are weakening. 

It is up to Hilda, her father Ragnar, their tribesmen Einer and Finn, the chief’s wife Siv, and her adopted daughter Tyra to fight to save the old ways from dying out, and to save their gods in the process.


Review

Northern Wrath reads as part fantasy, part historical fiction and part mythology. It excels at all three and in doing so gives us a rich, layered reading experience full of depth and fascination. It is quite simply a wholesome and thoroughly enjoyable read that you come out of feeling a sense of amazement.

In some books this combination of elements from different sub-genres could be a risk but it’s the perfect way to convey the ambitious story that Thilde has started here – yes, started. This is only part one of the Hanged God Trilogy and it’s a big book! I have a lot of admiration for the fact that despite this being her debut, Thilde has been determined to tell an expansive, well rounded story that feels so much more satisfying than what I imagine could have been the temptation; to trim the first book down to attract the readers who feel a little daunted to start a big book.

What I love is that every page feels necessary – no filler, no feeling of a slog despite double the page count of your average novel. It was always a pleasure to pick this book up.

It’s inevitable as readers that we can pile our books so high that we rush through them in order to gain a false sense of control on the situation. Don’t be tempted to rush Northern Wrath because of the page count. I’m so glad I gave myself the time to enjoy and appreciate it. The quality will mean that you end up reading it just as fast as a shorter book but it’s a read that really deserves to be taken in, admired, appreciated and at a pace in which you allow yourself to be enveloped by the culture, history and mythology interwoven all the way through the book. If you do, you get that warm sense of satisfaction in realising you’ve actually learnt a lot about being Norse without even realising you were being being taught!

The book sort of becomes part of you and leaves an empty space in your being after the bittersweet realisation that you have departed Thilde’s saga, for the time being at least.

What is it that keeps you hooked?

Well, this book has everything – and it really does. It’s both plot and character driven. It has revenge storylines. It has self discovery and redemption, sacrifice and adventure. It has family and friendship themes. Romance, loss and pure berserker brutality.

If you don’t like several POVs, this may not be the book for you though. Because this is one of the ways the book is able to keep things fresh and balanced – there are several POV characters. On the whole you will become very familiar with these POVs and care for the characters in different ways (or get inside their head in a way you wouldn’t otherwise be able to). All these characters’ stories intertwine or run parallel with one another and it’s just another way that Thilde expertly expands the scope of the story with various perspectives and locations all the time adding the building blocks to the world(s) we are presented with.

I love the fact we can have a chapter that is purely mythology with Ragnar, switch to a Finn or Einer chapter; predominately reading like Viking historical fiction, then back to Hilda with a combination of the two. That’s without even mentioning Buntrugg, Siv and Tyra’s unique stories – and more. All equally enjoyable and exciting.

Hilda’s chapters are some of the best, Siv is my favourite character. I enjoyed Ragnar’s the most but found Einer’s real page turners. This is probably how you’ll feel about different characters; it’s impossible to really choose a standout because every POV excels for one reason or another. The book is full of strong women carving out their place in a brutal world in which it’s better to die a warrior’s death while young than to pass away peacefully at an old age.

I’m not going to try and give a run down or brief overview of each character’s story but all the characters (not all of them human) are 4 dimensional and that always keeps you invested and ready to stay up all night for one more chapter. The chapters themselves are various lengths which does keep me entertained personally. I enjoy reading a book in which some chapters only need to be a couple of pages to lure you in and keep you on edge of your seat, with others more expansive to build on the world, characters and plot in a more in-depth way. The main plotline though, despite plenty of divergence, is a revenge story – taking place in Northern Denmark, the warriors have returned home from raiding and the village they left behind has been razed by Southern Christians.

There are plenty of references to real history, to characters and events – we meet Richard I of Normandy for example, his Grandfather Rollo being someone more casual history fans may be more familiar with. It’s obvious Thilde knows her history and mythology, you feel like you could be sat around a fire with a horn of mead, I gently listening to a Viking skald enchant you with their story; Thilde Kold Holdt is that skald.

I could spend all day adding paragraphs as to why this book is so good, but I have to mention one more thing I know people will love. Each Norseman or woman has a Fylgia – like a spirit animal or totem, that accompanied them unseen, the type of animal often having some sort of connection to their character or relating to who they are, or will be, in some way.

Hilda is able to see a person’s Fylgia and indeed her own, a snow fox, appears to her whenever mortal danger is near. The introduction of fylgias to the story adds an extra dynamic – Einer basically harnessing the power of his huge White Bear when entering his uncontrollable berserker state, and a touching moment in which Hilda notices a pregnant character’s Fylgia joined by a second companion Fylgia.

This is a stunning debut, a fulfilling and all-encompassing reading experience that excels in weaving Norse mythology through an exciting and rewarding story full of vibrant characters.

Debut of the year.

The fire will stay stoked, the mead horn kept filled in anticipation for the next book in the Hanged God Trilogy.

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