Book Review: Northern Wrath by Thilde Kold Holdt

Genre: Fantasy
Publishing Info: 2020 by Solaris
Pages: 700
Publisher’s Summary:
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 save the old ways from dying out, and to save their gods and the process.

Northern Wrath Cover (Solaris/NetGalley, 2020)

My thanks for this post go to Solaris and NetGalley for providing me with the eBook version of this novel in return for an honest review.

A promising opening book in The Hanged God Trilogy utilises a good amount of Norse lore in its storytelling, and the multiple protagonists as narrators is an interesting technique, but more time could have been dedicated to the main narrative instead of its many side stories.

Northern Wrath is the first book in The Hanged God Trilogy and, when compared to other series in this genre that I have read, the build-up to the event that sparks off the narrative is remarkably small. The destruction of Ash-hill, the home of the majority of the protagonists, occurs very close to the start of what is a long book, meaning readers are thrown into what is a fairly ambitious narrative, combining events in Norse mythology simultaneously alongside the plight of those forced to flee when the southerners attack. The central focus, of these individuals seeking bloody revenge on those who destroyed their home and killed their families, may be deceptively simple yet could have been effective, had there not been one too many subplots taking focus away from this. When the climax to this revenge plot takes place, as a reader I don’t feel completely invested in it, as it feels like not enough time has been given to this.

This book employs the multiple narrators trope made most famous in recent years by the Games of Thrones series. I can recall at least eight characters who narrate chapters, and the way they are developed is a mixed bag. By far the most successfully created character is Hilda, a young woman who shows massive strength and determination in the face of adversity, not just in the form of the southerners but also a demon who has forced its way into her body. Even though there are protagonists aplenty, Hilda’s effectiveness as a character and the time focused on her means she stands out as the true main character in this series potentially. Siv is another interesting character, starting the book as the chief’s wife but holding a secret regarding her heritage. It is fair to say that the female protagonists are written with more emotional depth and a sense of intrigue when next to their male counterparts; for the most part, the latter come off as dull and aggressive. For any future instalments in this series, I recommend cutting down the number of characters who act as the audience’s surrogate, to those that provide an insightful and unique perspective.

The ambition of this author can also be seen in the way in which various elements of Norse mythology integrates within the story itself, rather than just settling with a singular element, such as a particular god or realm. The appearance of the majority of these, including Odin, Loki and Muspelheim, acted as more of an intriguing insight into what may be coming in the future of the series, especially where the title of the trilogy is The Hanged God. Many questions look set to be answered about what the developments in the various realms mean for the survivors of Ash-hill. Even references and appearances of other individuals, rituals and objects come as welcome additions that flesh out the world that the author is creating and making the book more interesting to read, as many may not be known by readers who have a casual knowledge of Norse mythology. Even though the multitude of these does contribute to the high number of pages, these instances are more enjoyable to read compared to dull monologues of characters that don’t really contribute much to the wider story.

Northern Wrath took a few months to get through and, though there were some interesting characters and a great use of Norse mythology and lore that directly impacts on the narrative, I am not convinced that every single subplot included added anything to the book, especially with its long length. Nonetheless, it is a good start to this book series and I would be interested in reading sequels, but more focus on the central story would keep my attention better.

Book Rating: 3/5

Northern Wrath will be published on Amazon and Waterstones on the 27 October 2020.

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