1. 10 & 9 Star Rating Book Review

The Shadow of the Gods – John Gwynne

The Bloodsworn Saga 1

“No, this is my home”, Orka said, placing her palm over Thorkel’s chest. “You and Breca are my home. Wherever we are together, that is my home to me.”

So what’s the book about?

Three centuries ago, the gods of the north fought each other in a bloody war, bringing themselves down and leaving behind a devastated and broken land. It took many decades for the people to recover from this war and for a new world to emerge, in which power-hungry jarl try to expand their influence on the continent of Vigrið and rule the land. Terrible creatures from ancient sagas and legends roam the forests and mountains and are a threat to all who cannot bravely defend themselves with axe and sword.

Why I wanted to read this series?

John Gwynne is probably one of the most popular fantasy authors of our time and this is of course one of the reasons why I wanted to read a book by him. I have already read Malice by the author and I liked it a lot, but unfortunately I didn’t read any further, because this series plus the following series just has so many books that I put this series at the back of my list to read his new book, because then at least I’m up to date with this series 😀 Besides, the cover totally captivated me, I think it’s one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen and the dragon looks really scary – luckily I don’t have to face the dragon. And the fact that the world is based on Norse mythology was another reason why I wanted to read this story. Therefore, I ventured on the journey to Vigrið.

These aspects attracted me the most while reading.

  • We are in the cold north of a Scandinavian-influenced continent, where the land offers blue fjords, rushing waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and eerie coniferous forests. A land where terrible creatures roam the land and water and where sagas and legends of glorious deeds of men and gods are told around the campfire. You quickly realise that the Nordic world of sagas and gods is the author’s hobbyhorse and that he has been studying it for years. He has delved deep into this mystical world, finally bringing it to life in great detail for the readers. The dangerous creatures are not penned by him, but are for the most part modelled on creatures from Norse folklore. There are passages in which he describes the world so atmospherically that even the skalds of the time would probably doff their fur hats to him. Some sentences have something poetic in my eyes. When John Gwynne describes the land with many adjectives and brings it to life, you sometimes have the impression that you yourself are standing on the ridge and looking out over the misty, gloomy forests and fjords. In my opinion, there is no better way to tell a story.
  • The first book I have read that managed to make all the main characters grow on me and no one is less lovable or exciting than the other. The book contains three storylines, all told side by side. This has worked well, keeps the tension high and provides enough variety without being long. On the one hand there is Orka, whose family suffers terrible things in the book, and because of this we realise what a strong woman Orka is and who fights for her family and would do anything for them. She is also a woman full of secrets, and we only find out about her past at the end, because it is clear from the beginning that she is more than she seems. I also liked the young Varg. Varg has ventured out of his shell more and more over time. He finds himself in a constant conflict, because on the one hand his own oath weighs on him, which he must fulfil at all costs. On the other hand, as a former slave without friends, he learns more and more about freedom and the sworn community of his mercenary troop, which means more and more to him. Varg is also a brave fighter and has his heart in the right place. The warrior Elvar is ambitious and always in search of fame and glory. She wants to prove herself in many dangerous battles and show the world that she is not the effeminate daughter of a wealthy family. Like Orka, she is a strong woman who will surely develop in the following volumes. In addition, there are a number of other characters who enrich the plot and provide variety. I would love to tell you which character I liked best, but each plot line was extraordinarily interesting and each character showed so much heart and courage that I’m afraid I can’t choose one.
  • I have to confess that I’m not usually a fan of fight scenes as the pages and pages of description of them really annoy me sometimes, but John Gwynne has managed to make me not get enough of them at all. Whether it is man against man – or of course woman against man etc., where you feel the hard blows of your opponent on your weapon and the blood is already running out of the hit spots or whether you are in a constricted shield wall where you get scared of being crushed and have to act as one unit so that you can win the fight. Yes, I like the battles so much in this book that I want more of them! The bloody carnage, in which the author does not shy away from detailed descriptions, carried me along and often makes you fear for your beloved characters.

So what are my final thoughts about it?

A multi-layered and very detailed world is conjured up here, which seems so vivid with John Gwynne’s figurative language that you sink into this story. The characters have their rough edges and the character relationships are emotional and deep, so that you can also empathize with them. This author is not afraid to take away our joy, he often chooses sadness and betrayal for characters I had grown to love, which is why an even deeper connection to the characters was created. In addition, I have to credit the author for bringing in a cheese-loving character named Svik, and his story about his love for cheese is just hilarious and melts-in-your-mouth. For in him I have found my dream man. The tension in each story is tugging at your heartstrings and is complemented by strong protagonists that just make for brilliantly written storylines. At so many points I felt like I was in the video game Skyrim, which gave me an incredible atmosphere – just like this book. I am addicted to this book, to this world, to the characters and to the story and I really need the next book to satisfy my addiction.

My Rating

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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4 comments on “The Shadow of the Gods – John Gwynne

  1. Mad Mac

    Great review for a great book 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great Review :3 even if I thought this wasn’t possible anymore, you are getting better and better from each review to the next 🙂 really great to see, love your way of writing 🙂 and always such amazing pictures with so many details 🙂 especially always different pictures with a related theme to the book 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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