Book Review – The Shadow of the Gods

Author: John Gwynne

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

Print Length: 528 pages

Read Date(s): August 17, 2021 – August 20, 2021


Goodreads Synopsis

From fantasy author John Gwynne comes the first in the Bloodsworn trilogy, an epic of wild lands and wilder magic, where not all monsters fight with tooth and claw…and the treasures of the gods come at a price.

This is the age of storm and murder.

After the old gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrio.

Now, power-hungry jarls carve out petty kingdoms, and monsters stalk the shadow-haunted woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power, promising fame and fortune for those brave – or desperate – enough to seek them out.

As whispers of war echo over the plains and across the fjords, fate follows the footsteps of three people: a huntress searching for her missing son, a jarl’s daughter who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who has cast off his chains and now fights alongside the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.

My Review

This book was a masterful example of fantasy at its finest. It held my attention from the first chapter to the last and kept a steady pace throughout the story while incrementally ratcheting up the tension for each of the characters. There were several twists/reveals I didn’t see coming but that made perfect sense in hindsight, which are my favorite kind of reveals. The prose was excellent and painted a wonderfully gruesome picture of the harsh world the characters populate.

The world-building and mythology present in this novel were nothing short of exquisite. The world was fascinating and details about the creatures, gods, and society were integrated into the story in a way that felt organic. There weren’t really a ton of long info dumps, which I was grateful for, and I learned about the world through the experiences of the characters. It was a truly immersive dive into a world with giant animal gods, brutal bloodthirsty creatures, and conniving rival factions who will stop at nothing to gain power.

The characters also stand out as one of the most impressive things about this book. Each one has a unique journey that allows the reader to uncover their complex motivations and history in an interesting way. I was surprised by how quickly I came to care about the main characters, especially those in Orka’s story, and the experiences they faced as the story progressed kept me glued to the book in order to find out more about them and their eventual fates. Orka’s story was emotional and harrowing. I can’t talk much about it without giving away spoilers, but I loved her family and her determination to never give up while also having a realistic appraisal of the world and her odds. Varg’s story of revenge and self-discovery was compelling to read, as well, and Elvar’s journey seeking to make a name for herself outside the privilege of her house by pursuing fame and fortune in battle was exciting, and devastating, to see, especially with how it all ended.

Despite loving much about this book, there was one major thing I didn’t like, the way the author used multiple POV. Each of the stories felt discrete and largely disconnected, which made the book feel like I was reading three separate stories. I found myself getting annoyed at having to switch between them. I kept anticipating that the three threads would come together in some grand epic way by the end, but that didn’t really materialize. There was some overlap and connections between the three main characters, but the different POVs did not come together the way I wanted or expected. Ultimately, that is a me problem based in my own preferences, but it kept this book from being five stars for me.

Overall, this is a great fantasy and compelling story with realistic, multi-layered characters and fascinating world-building. I didn’t care for the way the multiple POV was handled, but I’m sure some people will. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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