Review: The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Trilogy #1) by John Gwynne

Rating: 9.5/10


Set in a brand-new, Norse-inspired world, and packed with myth, magic and bloody vengeance, The Shadow of the Gods begins an epic new fantasy saga from bestselling author John Gwynne.

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 . . .


“I am blood. I am death. I am vengeance.”

Thank you so much to Orbit Books for this early copy in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this did not affect my review in any way.

This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021 and it did not disappoint. John Gwynne has created a Norse inspired world of gods and monsters, warriors and thralls, love and loss that quickly grabbed me and held my attention until the very last page.

In my opinion, where Gwynne really shines in all of his books is his characters and that doesnt change with The Shadow of the Gods. I am still not exactly sure how he does it, but John Gwynne makes me care about his characters faster and more deeply than any other author I’ve come across. I think part of the reason for this is that he writes about the bonds that tie us together as humans better than anyone I’ve read. He establishes these relationships early on through friendly banter, emotional moments between characters, internal dialogue, etc and continues to build on those relationships subtly as the story goes on. There were multiple times just in the first half of this book that I teared up which shows just how incredible Gwynne is at creating characters and relationships that are deep and meaningful.

We follow three characters throughout this story and I enjoyed every POV. Orka was definitely my favorite to start, but as the story went on I appreciated Varg and Elvar’s POVs just as much if not more at times. There is so much that happens in the little less than 500 pages of this book and this trio of characters go through so much. I don’t know that I would call this book fast paced, though there were certainly times that it felt that way. I would say that Gwynne struck a really good balanced pace that kept me invested.

There were many named side characters as well that I really enjoyed. Thorkel, Svik, Torvik, Vol, Einar Half Troll, and Breca were some of these characters that really stood out to me. I had a deeper connection with them than expected for characters that were not the focus of the story and that is another thing that continue to impress me about Gwynne’s characters.

“That is why we fight so hard for each other. We do not abandon the living. We do not abandon those we have sworn oaths to.”

Gwynne also does a really great job of making you hate the antagonists of this story. I had some really negative emotions towards these villains who were so fleshed out and so much more than the “evil for evil’s sake” that you get with many antagonists. Their motivations had depth and honestly made sense at times, even if I did not agree on how they went about getting what they wanted.

The action as always with Gwynne was superb. Everything from the descriptions of battles to the stakes of those battles was done expertly. I will never trust that John Gwynne will not hurt a character as I’ve had experience with his works in the past. That made the stakes even higher for each fight as I legitimately had no idea who would come out alive. Gwynne is not afraid to kill or harm main characters and that is part of what makes his action sequeneces so gripping and emotional.

I loved the mythos that was tied into this story as well. Even though I am not well versed in Norse Mythology, I know enough to believe that the author really did his research and put a lot of work into weaving Norse lore into this tale. It felt so seemless and not at all forced or unnatural. These characters, monsters, gods, and world all make sense. They fit together like the pieces of a puzzle and made me want to know more about not only this world and where the story will go, but about Norse Mythology in general.

Gwynne brings all these elements together in masterful fashion and combines them to bring this story to an explosive ending. I truly loved The Shadow of the Gods and I cannot wait until the 2nd installment in The Bloodsworn Trilogy comes out! Hopefully in 2022!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Great review! Only 9.5, though…? 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

    1. David S says:

      Very nitpicky issue that I didn’t mention in the review😁

      Liked by 2 people

      1. *covers ears* 😬


  2. Great Review! I’m with Cloak I also want to know your nitpick 🙈😂


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