Tomekeeper’s Marginalia: The old Gods, of ash and elm, are at war, haemorrhaging both land and followers as those of the Christian God swell. Every loss pulls them ever closer to Ragnarök and certain oblivion.
Northern Wrath is a spellbinding blend of fantasy and historical-fiction, where myth is indistinguishable from the everyday. A story of war, faith, and ambition, that plays out in a breathtakingly realised world.
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Trigger warnings: Violence, death
‘Blót! Blót! Blót!’Northern Wrath – Thilde Kold Holdt
NORTHERN WRATH is a book that has been making waves across the book community for almost a year now. Like the serpent Jörmungandr, NORTHERN WRATH has loomed large on my horizon for as long as I can remember, daunting in both size and rumoured ferocity.
While it’s even more ferocious than I was led to believe, it turned out to be a remarkably addictive read, and I smashed through the 600+ pages in scant few sittings over a single weekend.
NORTHERN WRATH is the first book in Thilde Kold Holdt’s debut series, The Hanged God Trilogy. It’s a mesmerising weave of fantasy and historical fiction, one that really nails the grim yet vibrant mythology, culture, and landscape of the gelid north.
The plot is one that can’t really be mentioned in any great detail, for even the slightest spoiler may well snag a nornir spun thread and ruin what is, without doubt, a masterfully told tale. Everything you could care to wish for is here and in glorious abundance; love, loss, jealousy, betrayal, war, giants, gods, and so much more besides.
Holdt has created an amazingly deep yet shifting world, where the veil of mythology is draped over the bones of the past. Initially, you are grounded in a world that you know, but page-by-page, your eyes are opened, and what starts as peripheral glimpses of the Worlds beyond soon becomes much more of a collision course. There is so much rich lore within NORTHERN WRATH, some you may know and some you won’t. But everything is placed and used organically, and told from Holdt’s unique and individual perspective, such that even the older myths feel fresh and new.
The world feels authentic, lavished with love, research, and knowledge. You walk the loam-soft woods, hear the crunch of hoar-frost beneath your feet, and smell the carrion-reek of battles won.
Characters too are fantastically realised, though I can perhaps see why some people may not feel they are quite as deep as they usually like. For me, all of the characters burn bright, incandescent with their own desire and ambitions, and while you don’t spend a great deal of time ‘inside their heads’, as it were, you do get a very real sense of who they are and what they’re striving towards. Given the number of POV characters, I’m amazed that they all felt as unique and authentic as they did, more so that there were so many engaging and tantalising side characters as well.
With so many characters, there are also a number of separate journeys, while this could easily dilute the narrative, it absolutely doesn’t. Whether you compare these arcs to threads in a tapestry or holumenn on a warship, they are their own individual things, moving on their own ineffable trajectory but part of something much broader and grander.
There are several unforgettable female characters in NORTHERN WRATH, characters who exude the unrelenting ferocity of women, warriors, and mothers. They swing their axes, bite their shields, and bargain eye-to-eye with powerful entities, unapologetic in their power and with passion undistilled.
From Hilda to Siv, and Thora, these female characters are not just bit-part characters, nor are they painted as ‘just’ survivors, they are shapers too and more than capable of making their mark.
The world of NORTHERN WRATH is breath-taking and made all the better for Holdt’s engaging and gripping writing style. To finish a 600-page book in three days is not something I can ordinarily do, but thanks to the addictive plot and perfectly metered narrative, I just couldn’t put the thing down. While every aspect of the book is tremendously well-written, I have to single out the action and battle scenes. They are amazing, reminiscent of the soaring heroics of authors like Gemmell and Cornwell but with grimdark levels of grit, violence, and realism.
While I was a little late picking up NORTHERN WRATH, there is a tremendous silver lining in that book two, ‘Shackled Fates’, is to be released in just a month, and I can’t bloody wait.
Published: 29 October 2020 by Solaris/Rebellion
Genre(s): Fantasy, Historical-Fiction
Author: Thilde Kold Holdt | www.thildekoldholdt.com
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