This is my very belated review for Slaughtered Gods by Thilde Kold Holdt as part of The Write Reads tour for The Hanged God Trilogy. A massive thank you to Solaris for the physical copy.
Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my o
ALL SHALL PERISH
The great wolf howls for Ragnarok to begin. The half-giant Einer leads an army of the dead to clash with the golden shields of Asgard. The nornir tie and retie their threads, as Loki’s and Odin’s schemes unfold… and unravel. For not even cunning gods and giants see every part of the web.
As the survivors of the burned village of Ash-hill converge on the final battle on Ida’s Plain, only two are truly free to choose their paths and prevent the annihilation of the nine worlds: a storyteller who holds all destinies in his hands, and a shieldmaiden with no destiny at all.
If we were sat around a campfire being told the story of The Hanged God trilogy, Northern Wrath would be the one that drew us to sit down and listen and got us comfortable in the world and with the characters; Shackled Fates would be the one that had us forgetting we had cramp from sitting too long, sitting there open-mouthed and utterly enchanted. And Slaughtered Gods would be that rising to a crescendo part that has leaning so close that the fire burns brighter and hotter, sleepiness forgotten, everything forgotten… (even holding that that breath we didn’t know we were holding).
Slaughtered Gods gives us that kind of ending.
The kind that takes your breath away, and leaves you so utterly fulfilled and hollowed out (in the best way), because it’s over and the journey has ended, and yet continues, because this is one of those worlds and stories that lives and breathes beyond the closing of a page.
The first two books of The Hanged God trilogy had already established Holdt as a powerhouse author, and Slaughtered Gods cements it – especially with how Ragnarök, the fate towards which all paths no matter how different or meandering have led, is depicted. This legendary doom is one that has been captured in many ways (how many of us have seen Thor: Ragnarök), but it is unsurprising to see Holdt really bring this great battle and doom to life in inimitable style, with Ragnarök taking up at least a half of this book. Again, showing not just the care with the depiction of every aspect of the Norse lore and history being shown here, but the love and just sheer pleasure in crafting this world that permeates every inch of this series. And she does it in such a way that, that love and joy is shared with the reader. I was one hundred and ten percent invested in the world and events happening, forgetting about any other version and being swept along, caught up in the characters from those that we had started with in book one, to those on the periphery to the gods themselves. They all had their role, and their voice to play in this event and that builds on that immersive experience.
Anyone who is loosely familiar with Norse legend will have some expectations about the outcome, and we’ve spent so much time with these characters, seeing them change and learn and grow, and more importantly learn about themselves in the mirror of the world and events around them. Yet, there was a very real sense of stakes, of the potential for loss (helped by previous events of course), but it never felt as though we were on a straight path to a predetermined end, despite the role of fate. Part of that is because we do know these characters so well, we’re invested in their struggles, whether that it is to survive or to leave behind a legacy that will be remembered, or just to find themselves and their purpose, or to gain the favour of the Gods…or freedom from them; and that is purely down to Holdt’s skill with characterisation, but with also knowing how to capture those threads and emotions that are so human and relatable, even in a world filled with Gods, Giants and Loki’s monstrous children.
In Slaughtered Gods we also get to see Holdt’s skill with weaving together a multi-thread, multi-POV story at full force. With characters scattered across the nine worlds, and with different time scales at play, and life and death and everything else in between, it would have been easy to lose some of those threads – especially when you add in the chaos of Ragnarök; and yet it comes together beautifully in this third book. Each thread is followed to its end, from the short, abrupt ends of those who fell in battle or to pointless deaths that again highlight that feeling of stakes, to our main characters achieving their goals or making peace with what they have lost and gained and who they are. There wasn’t a single character or thread that felt unfulfilled, whether it came to end in the raging battle or in the calm after the storm that followed. Going back to that campfire story, this is the moment of complete silence at the end of the story as everything settles into place and everyone just breathes it in, and that was me at the end of the book.
An epic conclusion to a sprawling saga that has spanned worlds, lives and possibilities. If you’ve been looking for a Norse Historical-Fantasy that truly embraces and captures all the myriad elements of that time period, and the magic of the mythology in a unique and memorable way, then this series is the one for you. Holdlt has created a magnificent tribute to Norse culture and the old sagas, and yet make it very much her own, and I truly don’t think anyone else could have woven this story in the way she has, and I am very excited to see what projects she will do in the future!
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.
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.