Saturday, January 1, 2022

Review: The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

by John Gwynne
Release Date: May 4th 2021
2021 Orbit
Kindle Edition; 496 Pages
ISBN: 978-0356514185
Audiobook: B0942QJFMR
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher
4 / 5 Stars
After the gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of VigriĆ°.

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.
My Thoughts
The Shadow of the Gods is one of those books I couldn't wait to start reading, and I have to admit, while I am not one for cover art, that one is just astounding and I couldn't help but look at it over and over again.  And the descriptions of the world do not disappoint, full of nuggets and landscapes that are awe-inspiring, many based on Norse mythology.
The three main characters were fun and I enjoyed each of them for very different reasons.  I have to say that I probably enjoyed Orka's storyline the best, but I think it was because she wasn't part of a war band and her story was a bit different than the other two. Varg and Elvar were both part of warbands, if for different reasons, and while I found their individual stories interesting, I liked the more classic fantasy of Orka's.  All three characters were intriguing in their own right, and definitely had growth to them, but when the same tropes get used for the characters, vengeance and anger, it can get a bit old fairly quickly, and sometimes I'd like to see something else used as a reason for why someone does something.  That being said, the author definitely knows how to write great female characters, ones who are strong, with interesting backgrounds. How the three characters are all connected to each other, and how their story lines connect, is one of the best things about this book.
Because I have read this author's previous works, I am familiar with his writing, and I know to be patient.  I entered this book with the mindset that everything would be revealed in time, and just enjoyed the atmosphere and the setting and the worlds that were described.  And while the mythology definitely borrows from Norse mythology, there is a lot of originality within it to make it interesting. The author switched POV between the three main characters so the world was slowly revealed through each character's actions, something that I liked.  Yes, it was a bit tedious at times, but I didn't mind too much.  There is little info-dumping and you have to figure things out for yourself, which I like, but the world is full of mercenary war bands, jarls, politics, creatures, and other such things that made it quite interesting.  It could be brutal, as the people tended to be very superstitious, basing a lot of their beliefs on tradition.  There is a slave culture as well, entrenched in the society, which plays a huge role in this book, and which looks like it will continue to play a huge role in the next book as well.   

The plot was interesting, but I did feel like it was a bit predictable.  The descriptions more than made up for it however, as I loved the atmosphere and the setting and the mysticism of the story lines.  Although there were definitely some slower sections, there was enough action to keep me interested and invested, and I loved the ending.  There was this one moment when someone said something that made it all click, and I figured out the connection, but it didn't really matter as I was curious as to how the author would being it all together.  

The Shadow of the Gods was a fun and epic read, and I enjoyed the three main characters for very different reasons.  I should mention that the secondary characters were a lot of fun as well, and I hope the author develops a few of them in the next book as I would love to learn more about Rokia and Grend, fore example.  I did think the plot was a bit predictable, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, and thought the ending was really good.  I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series, The Hunger of the Gods, when it is released in April.