A stunning journey through friendship, pain, strength, death, love and mythology; a story worthy of Asgard’s full attention.
How could anything surpass Northern Wrath, one of my favourite ever books?
I guess I’m going to have to explain how indeed with this review, because Shackled Fates is mind-blowingly brilliant.
Again, as with Northern Wrath, Thilde Kold Holdt invokes the power of Frīgg. She knows exactly the right times to push and pull the story in a given direction. When the story needs more of one character, they’re there. As we come off the back of excitement or action, we are thrown into intrigue with mystery and suspense. At the exact right moments we have our heartstrings yanked with loss or hardship. In others, the author weaves magic and wonder through the story as a norn weaves the fates.
This particular analogy really rings true both for the way in which Holdt crafts the multitude of enjoyable elements but also in a more literal sense, as the weaver of the characters’ fates and plotlines. There are multiple points of view again here and they intertwine and go their separate ways too, which is executed really well. It gives the book such a satisfying flow, meandering forwards at all times, but without feeling rushed. The pacing is absolutely perfect.
As with the Norns in the book itself (a feature I really enjoyed) Holdt is careful with these threads of fate; there are wider stories the characters are part of yet each has their own very distinct journey. This, like Northern Wrath, makes a pretty large book feel like it was over incredibly fast, because it never feels like a slog. Neither does it feel disjointed swapping between the characters because as mentioned, their paths intertwine in really satisfying ways that keep you enthralled. Particularly striking is how invested I continued to be in every single pathway; there were no threads I wanted to snap, so to speak.
Most of what makes Northern Wrath great is maintained here, the biggest divergence being a much greater focus on the mythology and norse lore. Where there were dozens of chapters inspired by history in book one, the only character who actually spends all of their time in Midgard is Finn (who I suspect you will actually warm to in this book). I thought both the mythology and the history were really well done in Northern Wrath, so I was happy here with a bigger focus on either, but I do love the mythology approach taken here which I feel gives the book more of a distinct identity.
I really enjoyed how the book is all about change and the reaction to it. It looks at a testing of faith, of courage and of independence. Is Odin the God you idolised? What do you do about a King who has abandoned his (and your) faith? Can you survive without the thing(s) that helped to keep you safe? Can you accept the past, and the future? These questions and more are asked of the characters in this book.
It creates an overall sense of uncertainty in more ways than one, with struggle and pain at every corner. Curiously though, I don’t feel like this is passed on to the reader. It’s not heavy going in that respect and it won’t leave you feeling down; the storytelling is too good to leave any negative impact on the reader. The lasting sense of grand discovery, hope and the qualities of a campfire tale succeed in keeping your spirits up and your imagination soaring.
With the heightened focus on the mythology, you’d be right in guessing the Gods play a much bigger role. They do, as well as an expansion of the world, or more correctly, worlds. This adds to this feeling of discovery as Holdt brilliantly imagines a number of the 9 worlds, from the bleak harshness of Niflheim to a fiery, brief introduction to Muspelheim. We also delve further into Ragnar’s story, discovering what this darkness really is – and what that means.
“You are never safe in the presence of your gods,” he said. “We do not live to serve you, you live to serve us. Like cattle serve you, until the day you feast on their blood.”Njord
The Gods themselves are perfectly written. The references and interpretations were done with so much love and care, as was the author’s own creative flair for their personalities. She really captures my perception of Odin’s character for example – wise and knowing, but full of pride and a willingness to put his goals above all else. We are also reminded that despite being beautiful, Freya is afterall a Goddess of war, too.
Freya isn’t the only female character to show her strength. Shackled Fates is characterised by a number of strong, charismatic women forging their own paths and defending their beliefs. Tyra was one character I felt fairly neutral about before, who really starts to come into her own here as she is further thrown into hardship and adversity. It goes without saying that Hilda’s chapters continue to be particularly engaging, for a multitude of spoilery reasons I can’t really talk about!
If you like your giants, there are plenty in Shackled Fates and I really enjoyed the author’s take, in which we experience their culture and background as well as meet a number of distinctive, big personalities. A new POV, Buntrugg is one such giant whose chapters are a real highlight.
Events are set up for a phenomenal finale in book 3 next year, the ominously titled Slaughtered Gods. Shackled Fates isn’t however here just to put everything in place for the encroaching showdown on the horizon. For a start, the chapters actually continue straight on from Northern Wrath, the first page starting as so:
Shackled Fates is a very special book in its own right, regardless of what came before it or what comes after. It was a privilege to lose myself within these pages, spending time with these characters, immersed in the author’s captivating writing style and spellbinding imagination.
A masterpiece of Norse storytelling.
Following on the breakout success of Northern Wrath, Holdt weaves myth and history in a deeply magical saga.
As Ragnarok looms, the trickster Loki breaks free from his chains.
In the battle to come, all shall die, but Ragnar will do anything to save his gods.
Einer scours the nine worlds for Hilda, who walks among gods and goddesses, searching the truth of the Runes.
For centuries Siv has run from her past, but she knows that to protect her daughter, and Midgard, she will have to face her worst fears.
It is time to confront the Alfather.