This is my very belated review for Shackled Fates by Thilde Kold Holdt as part of The Write Reads blog tour for The Hanged God trilogy, and I will have a review for Slaughtered Gods up tonight (unless the travel gods decree otherwise!). This series is one that is going from strength to strength, and it has been a pleasure to have the chance to read and review them, and a massive thank you to Solaris for the physical copies of Shackled Fates and Slaughtered Gods.
You can find my review for book one HERE
Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.
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.
Northern Wrath was such an excellent debut that it set the bar high for this sequel, a challenge, when second books already bear more pressure, but Shackled Fates rose to the challenge and set the bar even higher. I enjoyed the first book a lot, but I loved the second and I think that is because the focus shifted away from the historical elements – although they were just as strong and present and beautifully realised as in book one, and instead dove more deeply into Norse lore and mythology which I adore, and I especially love seeing the different interpretations and approaches taken in fantasy. Here, it shone, and you can feel the author’s breadth and depth of knowledge and research, but also her love for the world and culture, shine through in how the story is written and told.
However, I have to admit that as much as it was the lore, and the travels through the various worlds that really captured me in this book. One of my favourite aspects was actually on the historical side, and that was the exploration of how Christianity was sweeping in, and the challenges and threat that brought. It’s something I’ve not often seen, and often there is such a focus on the bloody, violent Vikings in popular depictions, whereas here we get to see that faith and those bringing it into Norse lands as antagonists and see the impact that had on the world and the characters, and Holdt captures that so well.
Returning to the increased focus on lore and mythology, we see the world that Holdt had crafted for us in the first book expand considerably, as Midgard is now just one of the worlds that we are invited to explore. And that’s just how it feels, as though we are stepping into those of the nine worlds that she opened for us along with the characters and sinking into the experience with them. Holdt has a talent for description that really brings the world and the story to life, weaving it around us and the characters alike, and it was so easy to imagine the worlds as we roamed through them and learned more of the gods, giants and people who lived and moved through them, and got to see mythology made real.
The Gods themselves, and the mythology around them were brought to life with a strong foundation of research, but with the flair that comes from the author’s own love of this lore and creativity. It made them vividly real, not just in the world but as characters in their own right. I also loved that this wasn’t limited to the more well-known deities like Odin and Freya, but also dove into other aspects of Norse mythology that I was less familiar with, and one of my favourites was Ran and her daughters.
“From the shadows of the gate that the nine sisters guarded came a woman larger than her nine daughters, with long black seaweed as hair. It trailed behind her, dragged on the sand, and disappeared into it. Unlike her daughters, she wore clothes; a dress of green seaweed sewn together at the bust. At the waist it parted into long slips of straight seaweed that showed the tops of her firm thighs.”
As much as the worldbuilding and lore, and Holdt’s marvellous prose is what stole the show for me, this is an incredibly character driven story too. There were a lot of POVs in the first book too, and even though the author had really brought each one to life and woven their thread beautifully into the tapestry that was the whole story, there was the odd one that I felt less of a connection with. That was not the case here. There are many points of view in Shackled Fates, and there is such variety as we have the main characters who have continued (in one form of another) from the previous book, to non-human and mythological perspectives. It could be confusing, but Holdt not only balances all these threads beautifully, but each thread is both entirely unique, while resonating with those around it, bringing them all together (or not) and creating a story that vibrates with life and tension as we get to see all the different parts moving, and how they intersect or could.
There were moments for example where characters were so close to finding what or who they were seeking, only to miss them, which added to the tension. And we get to see the characters becoming more than we had realised in the first book, secrets and strengths being revealed as the story unfolded.
And I say unfolded, because the Fates play a strong role in this story. Each character is playing their part in an already woven tapestry, and yet while we can feel that element pulsing throughout the story, there is very much a feeling that each character still has choices to make, different paths to follow even if there is an end already written for them. And Shackled Fates is also a story about change, from shifting beliefs – whether in the characters’ own gods to the new faith sweeping in, to moving on from the past and accepting what the future holds. To more personal changes, as the characters learned who and what they were, and what it was they needed to survive in this world they found themselves in.
Shackled Fates had a hard act to follow it, and in my opinion, it surpassed Northern Wrath. Holdt had already established herself as a natural storyteller, but this book has taken everything that was great about her debut and lifted it to another level. There is no middle book syndrome here – helped as well by the fact that the chapters just carry on straight from the first book ended, including with the numbers; establishing this book as part of a whole. A wonderful whole that is going from strength to strength. An absolutely stellar addition to The Hanged God Trilogy, and it has set up the finale on an epic scale. If you haven’t already given this Norse series a go, then what are you waiting for?
I think it is fair to say that I loved Shackled Fates just as much as Northern Wrath – if not more! The ending is heart-rending, but the journey towards the end is so intriguing. The book will hook you in right from the beginning. I cannot wait for the final book in the trilogy, Slaughtered Gods.
Thilde Kold Holdt is a Viking, traveller and a polygot fluent in Danish, French, English and Korean. As a writer, she is an avid researcher. This is how she first came to row for hours upon hours on a Viking warship. She loved the experience so much that she has sailed with the Viking ship the Sea Stallion ever since. Born in Denmark, Thilde has lived in many places and countries, taking a bit of each culture with her, and is currently based in Southern France where she writes full-time.
Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Broken Binding | Silverstone Books | Toppings & Company | Waterstones
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.
One thought on “Blog Tour (Book Review): Shackled Fates (The Hanged God Trilogy #2) – Thilde Kold Holdt”
Pingback: Blog Tour (Book Review): Slaughtered Gods (The Hanged God Trilogy #3) – Thilde Kold Holdt – Beneath A Thousand Skies