Firstly, a huge thank you to Orbit Books for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
After the gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrið.GoodReads
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…
CW: Graphic violence, murder, kidnapping, slavery
This is my first experience of a Gwynne novel, but I had heard so many great things about his previous works that when I saw he was releasing a new series I thought it would be the perfect time to start. Well, I was sort of right: going in completely new and fresh for The Shadow of the Gods was a brilliant reading experience, however, now I have the agonising wait for the next installment of The Bloodsworn Saga.
Whilst all of the protagonists brought something interesting and unique to the novel, my favourite was Orka. I was always so excited to see what was going to be happening in her life, I loved her family dynamic with her husband Thorkel and their son Breca. There was just something so refreshing to read a mother character as strong and fierce as Orka, with her husband equally as strong but portrayed slightly softer by encouraging their child to be a child rather than a small warrior. I loved Orka’s no nonsense approach to the world around her and found that there was a fine line between protective and terrifying which she was constantly balancing between. It was especially enjoyable to see this ‘lone wolf’ type character, interact with other characters that she would ordinarily avoid.
I was also fascinated by Varg and his story from the beginning, not only was there a lot of mystery regarding his past but there was also the tension of whether he would be accepted into the Bloodsworn. I also loved the cast of characters around him, there was a really authentic camaraderie between the group. Even without being told how long they have been adventuring together or what they have been through, it was immediately clear through the way they all interacted with each other and their throwaway comments to Varg about each other. Whilst there was more humour in Varg’s chapters because of this, that doesn’t mean that they also didn’t have their share of seriousness and drama. In fact, there were a couple of chapters that left my mouth agape and eyes wide.
On that note, whilst I felt that Elvar’s chapters were a little slow in pacing compared to the other two protagonists; once they began to ramp up in the second half of the novel they certainly didn’t pull back on their punches. One of Elvar’s chapters left me in shock and I had to reread it to make sure that my eyes weren’t deceiving me. I wasn’t sure on how I felt about Elvar at first, whether this was because we were introduced to her last or because of the initial pacing, however, the more I learned about Elvar the more I could understand her motivations and felt myself really rooting for her. I also really liked seeing her hold her own against the other men that she is surrounded by.
For a majority of the novel it appears that the stories of these three protagonists are separate, instead of dropping a lot of obvious clues as to how they are all linked, Gwynne allows the reader time to get to know each of the characters and their situations before starting to, sparingly, drop subtle clues as to how their lives intertwine. I really enjoyed this approach to the novel as it did a brilliant job of building the world and introducing the lore that has shaped the world that the characters are living and fighting in. Not only this, but by spending a lot of time crafting the characters and getting the reader invested in their lives, is a fantastic way to begin a new series. Of course, I am excited to see what happens to the characters and the world (especially after that ending), however I’m equally as excited just to spend more time with the characters and within this world.
There’s so much more I would love to say about this novel (especially on the Norse mythology front), however, I fear that this review will then become as long as the book itself if I didn’t get a hold of myself! To put it simply: this is a must read for any fantasy fan, whether you have read Gwynne before or not, this is a world that will completely captivate you and one that will leave you both desperate and eager for more.