Book Review – The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

I’ve been on a roll recently!

Another great book filled my ‘thought-cage’ last week and I really really loved the new world that John Gwynne has created!

Being a huge fan of The Faithful and the Fallen series, I was very excited to read this book. I love Norse mythology and I was sure that John Gwynne would be able to merge fantasy with mythology in an interesting way.

My faith paid off. This book was wonderful. John Gwynne builds the world so well. It’s cold, fierce and dangerous. There are strange creatures, monsters, dragons and ice spiders. There are also people who have tainted blood (Or to be more exact they are descended from the old Gods that almost destroyed mankind.)

The legends around the ‘old gods’ are explained as the book progresses. The reader isn’t initially sure as to what happened or why people with Tainted Blood are feared. What are the Tainted capable of? What powers do they have? John Gwynne is so good at this; drip feeding us information and making us think. Slayer of the info-dump – Mr Gwynne doesn’t spoon fed.

The understanding of the tainted blood is a mystery that interested me. But the bigger mystery is that of the missing children and who could be taking them and to what end. Could the child-snatchers be monsters? Or could it be something much worse?

I also loved the characters. The story is led by Orka, Varg and Elvar. They are all tough characters, but with very different motivations.

Orka is a wife and mother. Hardened by old wars that she longs to forget, she can often be cold. Her husband and son, however, are her world and reason for living. She is the toughest character I’ve come across in fantasy literature. She’d have Brienne of Tarth on her arse in no time. The Bloody Nine has serious competition.

Varg is an escaped slave. Not a victim. In fact, he has revenge on his mind. His voice is immediately compelling and absorbing, and his chapters also contain a lot of humour.

Elvar is a young warrior looking to make her own battle-fame. But how far will she go to find it? At first she felt like a younger version of Orka, longing for war instead of burdened by it. However, as her POV progresses, we see why she has chosen this life.

The three characters stories are woven meticulously. At the start, they seem worlds apart, by the end, their stories start to converge.

I can’t wait to read book 2. If I know John Gwynne the author, mayhem is coming. So is death. And so is a bloody good story!

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