I am VERY excited to be reviewing The Hunger of the Gods by John Gwynne. I enjoyed the first book in this series (check out my review here), and I’ve been seeing rave reviews for the sequel all over Twitter and other blogs. So, I was itching to get to this one myself.
The Hunger of the Gods continues John Gwynne’s acclaimed Norse-inspired epic fantasy series, packed with myth, magic and bloody vengeance.
Lik-Rifa, the dragon god of legend, has been freed from her eternal prison. Now she plots a new age of blood and conquest.
As Orka continues the hunt for her missing son, the Bloodsworn sweep south in a desperate race to save one of their own – and Varg takes the first steps on the path of vengeance.
Elvar has sworn to fulfil her blood oath and rescue a prisoner from the clutches of Lik-Rifa and her dragonborn followers, but first she must persuade the Battle-Grim to follow her.
Yet even the might of the Bloodsworn and Battle-Grim cannot stand alone against a dragon god.
Their hope lies within the mad writings of a chained god. A book of forbidden magic with the power to raise the wolf god Ulfrir from the dead . . . and bring about a battle that will shake the foundations of the earth.
***Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit Books for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
Wow. That is truly the first word that comes to mind when I think of summing up this book. It has easily become one of my favorite fantasy sequels I’ve ever read. It was very much a second book, with lots of traveling and setting the stage for what I assume will be the climactic final battle to come, but there was so much good stuff happening that I enjoyed the story very much. Each of the characters went on a journey, and each arc felt relatively resolved by the end of the book while leaving other hanging threads to tease where their stories might go next. The plot, pacing, characterizations, and world-building were all a masterclass, and the book was as close to perfect as one could get, in my opinion.
I really liked the first book in this series, but I didn’t love it as much as some others did. The characterizations and action scenes were fantastic, but the plot didn’t feel like it stood on its own enough for me while also containing much less world-building of the history/myth than I wanted. Things were just starting to get really interesting when that book ended. Well… This book hit the ground running and did not let up. It felt like a complete, and epic, chapter of the story while also delivering a TON of world-building about the gods, the tainted, and the world at large. The plot was intricate and mapped out very well, and I was amazed at all the connections between different events in this book and to some things from the first book, as well. There were plenty of surprises, and the action scenes were as gritty and brutal here as they were in The Shadow of the Gods. All in all, this book had everything going for it and didn’t repeat the misgivings I had about the first one.
The characters and their arcs had me in my feelings multiple times. Orka continued her search for Breca and also had to deal with the consequences of some of her past choices. Varg learned more about how to become a warrior while also figuring out what it means to work in a group. I loved his story because of the strong found family vibes to it. I enjoyed Elvar’s story much more here than in the first novel. She had quite the time dealing with the aftermath of the Battle-Grim’s decisions from the last book, and I found her struggle with leadership to be a compelling arc for her. There were also two new POVs in this book, Biorr and Gudvarr, which added a considerable amount of depth to the storytelling. Their chapters provided great insight into the plans and thinking of the ‘enemy,’ which made the overall struggle feel much more nuanced. I was struck by the similarities in the motivations and actions of the protagonists and antagonists, which all revolved around violence and the need for vengeance. This allowed for some commentary on how to end the subjugation of people without resorting to perpetuating the ‘might makes right’ cycle in which they found themselves, which I hope gets expounded on further in the next novel. I particularly enjoyed going inside Gudvarr’s thought cage because he was quite witty and focused on self-preservation at the cost of all else, which was pretty humorous at times. Overall, the characterizations were incredibly strong and added just as much to the story as the intense plot.
A few more things and then I’ll stop rambling… The writing was beautiful and once again completely sucked me into this world and the characters’ struggles. I also really appreciated the recap at the beginning of the book. It helped to orient me back into this world without needing to reread the first book, which was a lifesaver given how intricate the plot ended up being. Finally, the ending destroyed me. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. I was gasping and wanting to scream at the book. It was a huge cliffhanger that left me needing the third book RIGHT NOW!
If you haven’t started reading this series yet, do yourself a favor and get to it. I loved this book so much I’ve decided to create a new rating that goes beyond five stars. So, I rate this book as an instant favorite alongside its 5 out of 5 stars.