Title: The Shadow of the Gods.
Series: The Bloodsworn Saga #1.
Writer(s): John Gwynne.
Publisher: Orbit Books.
Format: Advance review Copy.
Release Date: May 6th, 2021.
My Overall Rating:
At a moment’s notice, even the most seasoned warrior is bound to surrender rationality to emotions, to act on an impulse, to seek comfort no matter the means. The urge to sought that which their mind has set upon can only ever be altered with time, knowledge, and experience. Author John Gwynne (The Faithful and the Fallen series, Of Blood and Bone trilogy) returns with a brand-new Norse mythology-inspired world with the first book of The Bloodsworn Saga. Pulling the story-telling strings of three outstanding characters, he bestows upon them a ruthless adventure where lessons will be learned, whether alone or with the aid of fellow travelers, and blood shall be spilled as violence and vengeance courses through the blood of many.
What is The Shadow of the Gods about? Set centuries after the gods have waged war, driven themselves to extinction, and brought upon the land of Vigrið an unforgiving cataclysm, the story follows three characters through a perilous journey across treacherous lands. First, comes Orka, a mother who peacefully lives in the wild with her husband Thorkal and son Breca but will, unfortunately, be dealt a doomed hand that will force her to go on a dangerous quest. Second, comes Elvar, a warrior seeking her place in the world, refusing nobility to pursue battle fame with her warband Battle-Grim. Lastly, comes Varg, a thrall on a quest for vengeance who inadvertently is blessed with the opportunity to join the mercenaries called the Bloodsworn. Driven by distinct reasons, their paths will inevitably intersect, setting them up on a collision course where they shall determine the fate of the world.
“This is a world of blood. Of tooth and claw and sharp iron. Of short lives and painful deaths.”— John Gwynne
The multiple points of view narrative structure remains once again a towering achievement by author John Gwynne in this latest novel. Without ever sacrificing one character for another, although Orka’s journey remains the most memorable, he cautiously develops their personalities and motivations through singular life trajectories effortlessly illustrated with each new chapter. Identified by unique voices hinting at varying degrees of wisdom and intelligence, these characters emerge from the pages like a dream. Although it does take a while for the story to pick up its pace, making the reader wonder what the whole adventure would really be about, it is without a doubt once blood pours, bodies fall, and emotions rise, that the lives of these characters will be enchanting, unpredictable, and addictive.
The story’s forte, however, lies in author John Gwynne’s world-building. It would be blasphemous to not acknowledge the staggering amount of research that had to be put into bringing this story to life. With a natural ability to create immersive worlds, he gives his latest story the ideal battleground to achieve its full potency. From the brilliantly detailed Norse-inspired environment to the riveting region-specific vocabulary, he makes it his duty to depict a convincing world that organically exists and evolves alongside the characters’ own journey. Infusing it with an enthralling mythology that simultaneously evokes magic and mayhem, author John Gwynne achieves anew to tell an engrossing and authentic story that is bound to head into uncharted territory.
The Shadow of the Gods is a Norse mythology-inspired epic fantasy tour de force roaring with masterful story-telling, immersive world-building, and genuine characters.