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.
I am going to be honest and say that I have put off writing this review for a few days. I blamed it on not having enough time, but it is really because I have difficulty writing reviews for books that I enjoyed as much as I did this one. My draft of this has been stuck on “LOVE LOVE LOVE”. Which I think probably expresses my feelings accurately, but maybe does not do the book itself justice. So, here goes.
Northern Wrath is Thilde Kold Holdt’s debut and the first book in The Hanged God Trilogy. And what a phenomenal debut it is! This is a powerful story full of Norse-inspired mythology with thrills around every corner. I could not put it down.
I am not an expert in Norse mythology, but I have always thought it to be really intriguing. I found Northern Wrath satisfied that itch for me, as the story is saturated with it. We get the popular topics in Loki and Thor, Valhalla and Helheim, but there is SO MUCH MORE. The Gods and the afterlife permeate the Viking life and dictate just about everything they do and every decision they make. The magic in the story plays into the Deity system, as well, and Holdt does a great job of making them fit together; in fact, that is one of my favorite aspects of this story: how the Gods, magic, and afterlife all work in concert to create a cultural system that is an enthralling backdrop for what is a really intriguing narrative.
And let’s talk about that narrative. My favorite books are those told through multiple perspectives, because that type of set up best keeps my interest. There is no one storyline to get bored with, but multiple narratives to follow that each have their own obstacles to overcome and those also contribute to the main conflict. Every chapter turns into a surprise, as I feel like I am reintroduced each narrative and its main players whenever the perspective switches. Talk about tension! Northern Wrath is full of it (tension, that is). I am amazed at how well Holdt was able to accomplish this task. Every storyline is important in their own right, as is the main storyline, and how the author was able to construct it all in a nice little package, tear it up, and fit it back together somehow is spectacular.
Speaking of narratives, Ragnar’s storyline was my favorite. I really enjoyed this part in the scheme of things, and I found myself looking forward to when he would pop back up. I am hoping his story continues and even raises the bar in book 2.
That reminds me to talk about the character set, which was out of this world. There are so many characters that one might think it would be easy to forget who is who, but Holdt does an extraordinary job of making every single character so distinct as to really make that a nonissue. Not only was each character well-written, but every journey was rife with emotion. I found myself just rooting for every single one of them.
For me, these are the reasons why Northern Wrath is not just among the best debuts of the year, but it is overall one of the best releases of year. Full stop. I am so impressed with Holdt’s storytelling that I find it hard to believe this is the author’s first published book. For me, Northern Wrath is a must-read and gets my absolute highest recommendation. I am really looking forward to book 2 in the series. I know it is hard to imagine improving on something that is so close to perfect, but I am anticipating the series to only get bigger and better.