Book Review: The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

Series: Bloodsworn Saga (1)

Pub Day: May 06, 2021

Length: 480 pages

Affiliate Link: Buy here on Bookshop.org (Book 2, The Hunger of the Gods, available here)

Description:

Set in a brand-new, Norse-inspired world, and packed with myth, magic and bloody vengeance, The Shadow of the Gods begins an epic new fantasy saga from bestselling author John Gwynne.

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 . . .

“All is lies,” she murmured. “They call this the age of peace, because the ancient war is over and the gods are dead, but if this is peace . . .” She looked to the skies, clouds low and heavy, snow falling in sheets now, and back at the blood-soaked corpses. “This is the age of storm and murder . . .”

The Shadow of the Gods

Review:

When I first entered the Twitter fantasy book community, there were a couple of names to kept coming up that I didn’t recognize as a new member: Joe Abercrombie, Mike Shackle, Matthew Ward, and… John Gwynne. The more I interacted with the other readers and reviewers though, the more I realize how big of a deal these people were for serious fantasy readers. Of course, I added all of their books to my TBR and I even have exchanged a few words with some of them here and there (nerdy fan girling ensued of course). So when John Gwynne’s new, highly anticipated The Shadow of the Gods had its cover reveal…. I knew I had to get my hands on it as soon as possible. With that summary and that amazing cover, I just couldn’t turn away. Thankfully it was being published through my favorite publisher and I was able to get this beautiful book, which I literally started as soon as it arrived at my house!

I can’t remember off the top of my head right now if I’ve read any other Viking-inspired fantasy books before this but if not, this was definitely an incredible start to that sub-genre. Several times, I had to stop and google different terms to understand better what was happening – usually it was about clothing or weapons – but I honestly did not mind that at all. I’m a learner by heart so I’ve always enjoyed picking up random facts. Not very far into his book and John Gwynne had my watching nalbinding videos, researching Viking clothing, and adding favorite seaxes to my wish list on Etsy in case my husband needs some gift ideas! Eventually though I learned all the unknown terms and it was difficult to pry myself away from the book after that! I will be reading Malice by him soon, his debut, and I considered waiting until after that to start The Shadow of the Gods because I like to see the evolution of a writer’s skills but as I said above, I just could not wait! And what an incredible start to a new (to me) author’s library this was!

There are three different POVs we get to follow. While many people in this society seem to be warriors/fighters in one sense or another, I still had a difficult time picturing how these three would meet up later in the story. Their lives seemed very different and looked to be heading in quite different directions. Each character had a very distinctive voice as well as goals, from raising a strong, independent son to avenging a sister or earning glory. Quite surprisingly, while I started out preferring the family-focus at first, it was the glory-seeker that grabbed my attention the most towards the end! While it did start out a little slow (this is no surprise to seasoned fantasy readers that know the first book in a new series has to do a lot of world-building), it sped up quite quickly and refused to let you go until you reached the end!

A lot of books mention gods but none have grabbed my attention quite as quickly with that as this one in a long time. I loved learning about the abilities and personalities the different gods could give to the Tainted and how they chose to use their abilities in such a harsh world. While the vaesen certainly sounded super creepy, I still enjoyed their descriptions a lot and I could easily picture them. I’m thinking about getting a book just about them to learn more and am excited to see which other ones Gwynne will put into the future installments of this series. I love societies where women aren’t seen as less than men and that was definitely the case here. We did not just have one but two strong female POVs that are both written so well. I love both of the characters and seeing how such vastly varying motivations can manifest into the strength both of them showed on their quests so far.

Honestly, I feel like I am just blabbering away incoherently but I have found that writing reviews for the books I adore is much harder than the opposite. So just listen when I say that both the world-building and the character-development are incredible and despite leaving us on a huge cliffhanger (something that leaves me quite miffed sometimes), this book is still absolutely worth the read and I implore you to get it soon. It’s amazing.

About the Author:

John Gwynne is the author of the epic fantasy series The Faithful and the Fallen, Of Blood and Bone and The Bloodsworn Saga. He’s also a Viking re-enactor and enjoys nothing more than standing in the shield wall with his three sons, who are as passionate about swords and axes as he is (when he’s not stuck in his coat of mail; it’s harder than it looks).

He lives on the south coast of the UK with his family and an assortment of animals (at the moment three dogs, a horse and a lamb who thinks she’s a dog).

Find him online at:

https://john-gwynne.com

https://www.instagram.com/john_gwynne_author/

https://www.facebook.com/john.gwynne.12

Thank you to Orbit for sending me a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

“Travel the soul road with a blade in your fist.”

The Shadow of the Gods

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