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.
All three will shape the fate of the world, as it once more teeters on the edge of chaos.
Ah Shadow of the Gods, the book I feel is taking book blogs by storm. I mean, just take a quick look on this site to see how many of us have reviewed it (hint: it’s a lot).
John Gwynne has been called one of the best fantasy authors currently working today, and I’m hard pressed to disagree. And for good reason, the Faithful and the Fallen is a great work of epic fantasy and I enjoyed his sequel trilogy, Of Blood and Bone, even more.
While his previous work had hints of Norse and more northern European mythology, Shadow of the Gods truly dives deep into the Norse elements and it completely blew me away. This is easily Gwynne’s best work and my favorite book of the year so far, so if you’re in anyway a fantasy fan, this is a must read for 2021. So, don’t even read farther, just go buy a copy.
Oh, you’re still here? Fine, I’ll say some of the things that I loved about this book.
First, as with most John Gwynne books, it’s the characters that shine. All three POVs in this book are incredibly interesting and each has a distinct perspective on the world that makes their story shine. Orca is probably the standout to me, mostly because of the different perspective we get with her compared to most fantasy. I don’t want to get on a tangent, but right now I super dig characters who are in different life places than most typical fantasy characters. But I will say that I really like the other two POVs and each shined in their own way.
And what I think is really great about the characters in Gwynne’s stories, is they truly live in the world and interact meaningfully with those around them. What I mean by this is the camaraderie that is built between each of the different groups and their relationships to each other. You feel the bonds that are built between them as they grow with each other – which makes it even more devastating when something happens to the characters. The way the Bloodsworn care and protect each other is a great feat of storytelling.
And boy do you need the light that comes between the relationships because this is a world brimming with danger, blood, swords, and nasty creatures. This book is brutal with how it treats our heroes, and it doesn’t let up. Every few chapters there was another impeccable fight scene between either giant Norse inspired monsters or hulking human monsters.
While I’ve always enjoyed the fights in Gwynne’s other work, they are even better here. You can picture every scene and you feel the pain of each sword, axe, or seax as they rip into friends and foes alike.
The worldbuilding is also well done. There are dead gods who have left behind power for humans to wield and how the rest of the humans treat them leads to some interesting implications both in this book and follow ups. Locations and cites are riddled with past relics of the gods that serve as protection for the town. It’s not the most complicated or detailed worldbuilding out there, but it serves its purpose and stands out from the pack of other fantasy.
I haven’t read much Norse inspired fantasy so having a snow covered and different sort of land was a breath of fresh air. The landscape was very well drawn and each city felt distinct and lived in. Including one that is in a very cool place—you’ll know it when you get there.
Finally, the last act never lets up, (let’s be honest, the whole book never lets up) and brings the book to a breathless conclusion making me anxious for the next.
Anyway, I’ve said a lot about this book you’ve probably already decided to whether read or not. This is top-tier fantasy and deserves to be read—and I hope you come along for the ride.
p.s. The only reason this book didn’t get a 10/10 because I think the next book could get even better! We’ll have to wait and find out.