The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #1) by John Gwynne
Publication Date: May 4th, 2021
Paperback. 528 pages.
Publication Date: May 4th, 2021
Paperback. 528 pages.
About The Shadow of the Gods:
"After the gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrið.
Now a new world is rising, where power-hungry jarls feud and monsters stalk the woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power for those brave - or desperate - enough to seek them out.
Now, as whispers of war echo across the mountains and fjords, fate follows in the footsteps of three people: a huntress on a dangerous quest, a noblewoman who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who seeks vengeance among the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.
All three will shape the fate of the world as it once more falls under the shadow of the gods . . ."
This may just be the best thing I've read by John Gwynne yet, and that's saying something considering how much I've enjoyed his other work! The Shadow of the Gods is a Norse-inspired epic fantasy that is packed world-building, compelling characters, and a plot that's bursting with intrigue. The Shadow of the Gods has a strong start that got me hooked, and yet somehow it just got better and better as the story went, and by the end of I found myself utterly shocked at the twists that Gwynne incorporated into the story.
We follow three main perspectives throughout this book, and the first one we're introduced to is Orka. Orka is a woman on a mission–and she's not someone you should get in the way of, either. I found her focused determination on her family incredibly engaging and because of this and her many other skills she is easily one of the most exceptionally well-crafted characters of this book. I'm not sure how much I should really say about Orka's particular plot narrative since I feel like many of her early plot points can be seen as spoilers, so I'll just simply say that Orka is a captivating character whose interactions with others were always a surprise and yet somehow also very fitting with the character that we were first introduced to. You won't be disappointed with Orka, I promise!
Varg, from whom we get our second main perspective, is a man bent on vengeance. His thirst for revenge and to discover the cause of his sister's deaths leads him into the hands of the Bloodsworn, a band of people he never expected to join, but that end up playing a large part in his journey. Varg has a similar focused determination to Orka's, but his has a certain flexibility within it that, although doesn't waver from his goal, allows him to take whatever steps necessary that will bring him closer to his goal, even if it means deviating from his original plans at times. As long as he ends up in the position he needs to be, he's down for pretty much anything.
The last perspective we follow is that of Elvar's, a member of the Battle-Grim who is keen to live a life free from unwanted duties and obligations in order to live a life that she chooses. Evlar's storyline is probably the most "mysterious" of the bunch in the sense that we don't really know all that much about her past or her motivations until quite a ways into the book. We largely get a look at what her current life is before getting some major revelations about her, her past, and her present.
Although all three of these characters lead drastically different lives and experiences, I was floored by how Gwynne managed to interweave all three of these perspectives and bring them together in such a way that felt both effortless and yet perfectly engineered to fit the plot seamlessly. This review also hasn't even touched on some of the many secondary characters that brought this world to life and made me feel so connected to the story. It's hard not to feel yourself become invested in some of these characters' lives and especially their relationships with the primary perspective characters that we follow.
The world-building was fantastic and I really appreciated how well Gwynne incorporate Norse-inspired elements to create a world that felt both familiar and different at the same time. I think I really enjoyed that although this was very Norse-like, there weren't any references to Norse gods, which I feel has become fairly common so this allowed the book to stand out a bit and also allowed for Gwynne to create more unique elements in his own world. I can tell that there are big things coming in this trilogy–hell, there have already been some pretty big things happening in the first book!–and I can't wait to see what directions Gwynne will steer this narrative to.
The pacing of The Shadow of the Gods was, dare I say, perfect–which is typically how I feel about most of Gwynne's books, anyway. There are plenty of action and fast-paced scenes, but it didn't feel like this book was only action, as there was plenty of plotting and dialogue to keep the plot moving and interesting. I get bored if there's too much action, so that's how I know that Gwynne had a good balance of both. Similarly, this might be partially because Gwynne himself is a Viking re-enactor, but I felt as though his descriptions of battle scenes, gear, and other elements were always so detailed and compelling, which made everything feel real and that much more interesting to follow.
Overall, The Shadow of the Gods is yet another book getting five stars from me! This was so enjoyable and I really have nothing negative to say other than the fact that I'm sad that I now have to wait for the next installment--but I also know that it will be well worth the wait.
*I received a copy of The Shadow of the Gods courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*