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.
“The midsummer song was loud outside. The smoke-heavy house smelled of burnt oak and wet sheep.”
If this book’s cover doesn’t grapple you, drag you into this pit of old Viking lore tweaked with fantasy goodness, no cover ever will. It is absolutely stunning, an Ulfberht-made cover if there ever was one.
The opening chapters scream effortless story-telling; the pieces that are thrown down fit like an old glove. The same voice that weaves through old Viking sagas is the one that ripples through this novel. As if a story-teller with the campfire flickering in his eyes tells it, this novel invites you to sit and enjoy, for you’ll need your seat for this ride.
This story follows multiple POVs that coalesce into an action-packed story, pulling no punches and certainly swings a few axes. Einer and Hilda seem to take centre-stage, a couple destined for each other, destined to spend their lives on the battlefield; one, a Berserker that we meet surrounded by blood-stained snow and the other, a woman destined to take her place in the shield-wall, shrouded in the mystery of the gods, and accompanied by a snow fox that warns her away from death. There’s a plethora of characters, creatures of lore to support these two, and many more intriguing POVs, but these two are the ones that really stood out for me – coated in such an authentic, striking voice. Set out in a journey of revenge that mounts into a war, every path this story takes are covered in blood. There’s a great war to come, but the small battles along the way are just as heart-breaking. Just as meaningful.
It’s fun to see the known tales of the Viking gods woven into this piece; the world-building borrows a lot from Viking lore but has barrels and barrels of its own, original facets. It reads so well that it at times seems like a historical fiction, fully-embellishing Viking magic, which sometimes didn’t offer quite the escape into a new world that I’m use to, but certainly makes up for it with the clear, fluid, vibrant action scenes.
Being a big fan of the Vikings tv show, and a reader of the old tales of the Viking gods, this ticks all the boxes for me. My favourite thing about this was the way the story comes together, Holdt knows how to handle a large cast of characters, but still tie the story closely so the plot storms through choppy waters into a fantastic end. It has all a fantasy fan could want: gods, magic, large-scale battles, duels and magical creatures. This is a great debut and is certain to be the start of an amazing trilogy! I am already looking forward to the next one in the series and I’m sure Holdt will be a name to look out for in the genre for years to come.