Thank you to Little, Brown Book Group UK and Netgalley for the review copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not change my opinion in anyway.
Book: The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn 1) by John Gwynne
Release Date: May 6th 2021
Tags: Fantasy | Adult | Norse Mythology | Family
Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence | Gore | Death | Beheadings
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 . . .
While John Gwynne is a household fantasy name I have to admit that I had not previously read anything by him. But he has been on my radar. So when I got the chance to read a book set in a new world I decided to plunge right on in. And I was not dissapointed.
The Shadow of Gods is set in a world that is inspired by Beowulf and Ragnarok. A world filled with memories of perished and foolish Gods, filled with their own made creatures that terrorize the humans. It is a hard world and as such this book is harsh, violent and bloody. It fits with the world that is created.
Next to humans there are thralls (slaves), god made creatures and those that are tainted (descended from the Gods that possess powers). The worldbuilding beyond that is very detailed. I felt I was right there along with these characters in this world. And done so well. I never felt like I was infodumped or even overwhelmed by what was happening.
We follow three characters throughout the story. Orka, a mom and warrior; Varg, a thrall; Elvar,a noblewoman who turned her back on her ancestry. I loved how the various storylines were coming together at the end and how family relations weaved between the stories.
Out of those three characters I was immediately drawn to Orka. As a mom I was drawn in by her worries, her homely life and later on her quest to reunite her family. But beyond that, she is a very easy character to like. She is incredibly skilled and talented, but she walked away from her history (even if we aren’t exactly sure what that is at this point). She build her own life with her husband and child. She knows what she wants and yet she will do the right thing or change course when it is needed.
Elvar on the other hand was a little harder to get a feel for. Being apart of a band of mercenaries it is hard to see at first why she turned her back on her noble family for this. Learning to fight one can do in other ways one would say. But then we actually get to meet her family and I a 100% understood why she walked away. Her inner conflict in that moment also added to the strengthening of her character.
Varg was rather straightforward from the start. His quest to find his sisters fate was the only thing on his mind and he would do anything to get there. Yet when he meets the Bloodsworn he realizes that there can be more to life than his revenge. His starting point already made him easy to follow but as he embraces that there can be more to his life, it gives him such a great characterization.
All in all Shadow of Gods has become one of my favorites reads this year and I can’t wait for the sequel!