The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #1) by John Gwynne

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Brilliant

ShadowI absolutely loved The Shadow of the Gods, in fact it’s possibly the best book I’ve read in a long time.  It made me happy every time I picked it up, I was caught in the age old dilemma of racing to the end to discover what happens at the same time as wanting to slow down my reading so that the story wouldn’t end too quickly.  This is a story that feels refreshingly unique and yet epicly familiar and it had me talking out loud in awe at certain points.  In a nutshell this book gave me a warm glow, it made me smile more often than I thought possible, it was gripping and heart wrenching and the kind of book that reminds me why I love reading fantasy so very much.  Mr Gwynne, I salute you for bringing back to me the joy of reading.  This review will be unabashadley gushing in nature. I want everyone to read this book, in fact I want to read it again to see what I missed the first time around.

As soon as I heard that Gwynne was writing a Norse inspired story I was onboard.  What better type of story for a talented writer of battle scenes than a Viking style saga set in a world of dead Gods and filled with mythical creatures and monsters?  This story from this author – what can I say, it’s like a perfect match.

Shadow of the Gods is set in a world shattered and reformed following the demise of warring Gods.  Relics and bones are sought after for their magical qualities and descendents of the Gods still exist, their god blessed blood giving them strange abilities.  Such people are known as ‘tainted’.  They generally keep their natures secret as they’re feared and loathed in equal amounts and also hunted down and enslaved more often than not.

The story is told by three characters, each sets out on their own path although ultimately their stories converge (remember that patience is a virtue).  I won’t deny that I had a firm favourite amongst the three and so I’ll start with that particular character.  Orka is a huntress and former warrior. She now lives a quiet life with her husband and son (Thorkell and Breca) but the peace they have found is about to be shattered.  Children are being taken, stolen in the night or violently torn from their parents for unknown purposes.  In one night Orka’s world is changed and she sets off on a path that is awe inspiring to behold.  Orka is such a great character.  She’s an absolute tigress and yet at the same time her maternal instincts, although initially buried beneath a stern exterior, are so emotionally touching.  Don’t get me wrong, she made me so frustrated with the way she rushed into situations with very little thought of her own safety or how she’d get back out of such situations but her reckless behaviour and furious onslaughts were certainly never dull to read about and I just couldn’t help but become attached to her in very short order.  We also meet Varg, an escaped slave (or thrall) who seeks vengeance for his murdered sister.  Unfortunately Varg has no idea who commited the crime and seeks magical aid to recreate her last moments and uncover her murderer.  Varg, hunted himself, becomes embroiled with a band of mercenaries known as The Bloodsworn.  In this company he finds friendship, respect and a camaraderie that he has never experienced before which leaves him warring with the desire to stay with his new found friends and the need to fulfill the oath he has sworn to his sister.  I loved The Bloodsworn, their endeavours and stories made for some excellent smile inducing reading.  Finally we have Elvar.  A woman with a secret past.  Elvar dreams of renown earned through battles and brave deeds.  Taken in and trained by the Battle Grim she finds herself taking part in an adventure that could possibly be sung about throughout the ages (if all goes to plan that is).

The driver of the plot is the missing children but underlying this is the nagging at the back of your brain that these children are being taken for a definite purpose and it’s this undercurrent that really ramps up the tension.

I loved the world building here.  Vigrið is the perfect combination of warm familiarity and uniquely new creation.  There are trolls and other critters living in the woods, creatures that will hunt and kill.  Orka, for example, seems to be bonded to two incredibly strange creatures.  One with a venomous sting that seems to live under a rock and has the creepiest description ever and the other that seems like a tiny flying dragon with a penchant for teeth!  And really, was there a need for Night Wyrms!  Seriously, their particular brand of horror will haunt my dreams for a while yet to come.  Everything about this world just screams epic.  The landscape itself, the dead Gods, magnificent beasts such as Snakes, Wolves and Dragons.  The battleground on which their remains lie buried.  Tree spirits or protectors.  The attention to detail about everyday life that brings the place to life.  The magnificently depicted fight sequences, bloody and brilliant to read.  And the writing which is simply spot on and evocative with little extras such as Svik, one of the Bloodsworn, who likes to tell funny stories.

What I thought was really well done here – is that Gwynne makes you invest in all three storylines, you become attached to the characters and their flaws.  The motivations at play are well realised and there’s an ever increasing sense of dread for what’s about to happen.  And yet, the conclusion also makes you realise that these groups are quite likely to come into conflict in future instalments and for me this felt masterfully executed.  Certainly, one of the groups is truly mercenary, their ‘heroic’ deeds driven by the love of coin as much as the desire to earn fame for their fighting prowess.  Basically, though I had little doubting moments at the back of my mind, I still found myself liking the characters which for me is a testament to how well written they are.  They feel believable.  Flawed, conflicted, motivated, strong, likable, secretive, sneaky, sometimes funny, relatable characters basically.

I think I may have mentioned that this review may be ‘gushing’ in nature and to reinforce that I would just clarify – this book is excellent.  I can’t recommend it enough to be honest.  It has this wonderful old school feel to it that invokes Tolkien, Beowolf and tales of Ragnarok but at the same time it stands on it’s own feet in the most refreshingly unique way.

Masterfully done.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating: Five dazzlingly sparkly stars


Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #1) by John Gwynne 

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is :The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #1) by John Gwynne.  I have been waiting for a description and book cover so that I could display this book.  I am so excited for this book.  Literally, I want this book.  I really do.  Anyway, here goes:

ShadowSet 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 . . .

Expected publication : May 2021

A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone #3) by John Gwynne

A time of courageWow.  Yes, I thought I would be consistent – my reviews for the previous two books in the series started that simply and so in the interests of continuity I thought I’d conclude with the same note and, on an incredibly happy note I’m overjoyed to be able to conclude with such high praise.

This third book really blew me away.  I loved the first book, I adored the second book but this book, it made me cry, it made me laugh, it made me so annoyed that I wanted to rip a tissue.  It’s packed with feelings.  The tension is so intense, the battles are furious, the pacing is crazy.  I just loved it.  I would actually give this a higher rating than 5/5 if I could.  Well, who’s to say I can’t.  6 out of 5 stars – there, call the rating police.

Now, if you haven’t yet read this series but intend to do so then just be aware there might be spoilers below, although I highly doubt it as I’m planning on skirting around the plot.

This instalment, in a nutshell, is the perfect culmination to the series.  It brings everything together in one huge explosive battle (after a bit of to’ing and fro’ing that is), chucks the pieces into the air and then chops, shoots and stabs the whole lot as it falls to the ground.  Then stabs a few more things as well for good measure.  Seriously though, there is a lot of fighting in this instalment – and the thing is, I loved it all.  Well, apart from some of the deaths – but truth be told you couldn’t have a make or break situation like this without the loss of some favourite characters.

This final instalment is once again told with multiple POVs but this time an additional character is added. So we once again have Riv, Drem, Bled and Fritha but now Jin joins the storytelling and this adds a whole new world of ‘hell hath no fury’.  I have to say the characters in this series are absolutely awesome.  I love them, even when I really hate them!  Seriously this is top characterisation.  I was on the edge of my seat with worry.  I think I already mentioned I cried.  And some of the scenes made me almost cry with relief.  Particularly some of the scenes with Bleda.  In fact the chapters between Bleda and Jin are absolutely compelling.  And the relationships are like a masterclass in writing whether its friendship, love, hate, revenge or desire.

I don’t think I can really write too much more here and that isn’t because I don’t want to but because I’m in serious danger of gushing so much that it becomes simply embarrassing.

All I can say to conclude is that this entire series was perfect from start to finish.  I didn’t have any criticisms at all which is unusual to say the least and I read this final instalment with my heart in my throat.  I always pick up the last book and wonder if it will live up to the rest of the series and this one really does, in fact it goes beyond.  Gwynne doesn’t pull any punches to be fair and I have to applaud that.  In an end of the world style story where everything is on the line, lives are lost.  Bittersweet though.

If you like epic fantasy then I can’t recommend this series enough.  Do yourself a favour and read it.  My only regret is that I didn’t read the earlier series by Gwynne set in this same world and now I’ve read the conclusion it’s highly unlikely that I’ll go back, but it is what it is and you never know – one day.

Truth and courage.  The truth of the matter is that I loved this series, this story and these characters, as much as Lord of the Rings – there, I’ve said it, and that’s about as high praise as I can think of right now.  Tolkien might not be for you though so don’t be distracted by that comment – I’m talking about the pure joy of reading right now, not necessarily style.  Courage is something you’re not going to need because you will be hooked from the beginning to the end, although you might need some courage because this book feels like you’ve literally been sucked through some kind of tunnel and are living in this world, and seriously, it’s not a world in which I want to live – I’m an absolute lily livered coward and I have no shame at all about admitting it – and with monsters running and flying at great speed towards you, gnashing their teeth and swinging their war axes, well, a little courage couldn’t hurt – although, getting bumped up onto the shoulders of a huge white bear, who happens to be one of the good guys, makes it all kind of worthwhile.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  the above is my own opinion.

Rating 5 of 5 stars (6 if it was possible)


A Time Of Blood (Of Blood and Bone #2) by John Gwynne

AtimeofbloodWow.  Again, I start off a review for a John Gwynne book with that very simple and yet I feel highly appropriate word.  Wow.  This was an excellent book that I thoroughly enjoyed and I cannot wait to see what comes next.

Truth and courage people.  You will certainly find plenty of ‘truths’, some of them more unexpected than others, in the pages of this book and you will have to forgive me if I suggest that you might need a good helping of courage to get through this instalment – by which I mean the tension is ramped up, the battles are bloody and everyone seems to be in danger.  This is, again, an epic story of battles, bloodshed, treachery, heroes and villains.  It makes for thoroughly entertaining reading at the same time as leaving me with a very real dilemma about how to go about reviewing the story without giving away spoilers.

I’m going to veer away from discussing too much detail about the plot because that way leads to the land of spoilers and I really don’t want to give anything away here and ruin the many surprises in store for you all so this will instead be a simple reflection on my thoughts and feelings during the read.

Firstly I must say that this is an excellent second book in series.  The pacing is almost relentless and there is not a glimmer of middle book syndrome in sight.  In fact I would go as far to say that this is almost perfect in every respect.  The story picks up almost immediately where the first book left off and brings us a thrilling game of cat and mouse being played out across the wilds.  Meanwhile terrible plans are being put into place, armies moved around like chess pieces on a board just waiting to attack.

We once again follow a number of different character perspectives that allow us a bird’s eye view of what is taking place in different parts of this world.  I love this form of story telling and Gwynne seems to be a dab hand at pulling off the different voices, keeping them all unique and allowing them to grow in the most natural way possible.  You can’t help but develop genuine attachments to some of these characters and feel real fear when the author writes them into such terrible predicaments.  I was holding my breath reading parts of this, my heart in my throat, here is an author who knows how to bring you to the edge of your seat and keep you reading into the early hours of the morning.

On top of this the world building is developing in a fascinating way.  It is starting to become apparent that the Ben-Elim have many secrets.  Secrets that they’re very anxious to keep that way.  I like this, things are not quite as clear cut as they may have at first appeared and what began as a feeling of strong doubt in the first book has developed into these warrior angels falling much further from grace.  Then there are the Kadoshim – this is an enemy that has been greatly underestimated and the price is about to be paid in the spilling of blood.  Much blood – this book is indeed aptly named.

And, to repeat what I said about A Time of Dread, Gwynne can undoubtedly write action scenes that simply spring off the page in the mind’s eye.  I confess that I sometimes become a little tired of battles and fight scenes or, more to the point, find them difficult to envisage.  It’s not a feeling I experienced when reading either this or the first book.  The fights and battles are just exquisitely wrought, they’re exciting to read with literally never a dull moment.

To be honest I don’t think I can say too much more.  This is turning into a captivating series and an author that is fast becoming a favourite.

I have no criticisms at all and can only suggest that if you enjoy sweeping fantasy, epic battles that are much more complex than simply good vs evil then do yourself a favour and pick up this series.  Oh, and lest I forget, there are bears and dogs – fantastic, faithful creatures that I just loved reading about.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.





Can’t Wait Wednesday : A Time Of Blood (Of Blood and Bone #2) by John Gwynne

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : A Time Of Blood (Of Blood and Bone #2) by John Gwynne.  I loved A Time of Dread.  It was a 5* read for me and so I’m so excited for this book.

AtimeofbloodDefy the darkness. Defend the light.

Drem and his friends flee the battle at Starstone Lake to warn the Order of the Bright Star. They’ve witnessed horrors they’ll never forget, such as magic warping men into beasts. But worst of all, they’ve seen a demon rise from the dead – making it even more powerful. Now Fritha, the demons’ high priestess, is hunting Drem’s party.

Concealed in Forn Forest, Riv struggles to understand her half-breed heritage. She represents the warrior angels’ biggest secret, one which could break their society. And when she’s found by the Ben-Elim’s high captain, he swoops in for the kill.

As demonic forces multiply, they send a mighty war-host to overthrow the angel’s stronghold. This could decimate the fractured Ben-Elim. And their allies in the Order may be too overwhelmed to send aid – with Fritha and her monstrous beasts closing in. Like heroes of old, Drem and the Bright Star’s warriors must battle to save their land. But can the light triumph when the dark is rising?

A Time of Blood is the spectacular follow-up to John Gwynne’s A Time of Dread.

Due for publication April 2019 – I can’t wait.  Excitement am I!!!!


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