The Shadow of the Gods (Bloodsworn Saga #1) | Review
Rating - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
"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."
The Shadow of the Gods is the first novel in the Bloodsworn Saga, an adult fantasy series by John Gwynne.
Going into this, I didn't really know anything about it other than the influences from Norse mythology and that it was highly recommended. This ended up being the kind of book that made me go, 'huh, I really don't read enough adult fantasy'. I usually read more YA, for some reason, and I don't know why because adult fantasy always works more for me.
This was just a really solid story full of fully conceptualized concepts, character, and world-building. That being said though, while I did enjoy this, I did find that it was missing that spark that would make me love this.
Let's get into the details.
I didn't have many issues with the writing, as this is not the kind of adult fantasy that is on the denser side. The only problem I, and I assume many others will have, was the terminology. This is set in a Norse-inspired world, so there are tons of terms that I had to look up how to pronounce. Luckily for me though, I did know what most of them meant, so I didn't have any issues in that regard.
There were some awkward sentences like 'Varg slurped on his bread'. I also don't know why the author found the need to describe just how big a large creature's testicles were every single time...
I did find that the gap between the different perspectives was a bit too long at times, so I needed to pause for a second to remember where we last left off. The transitions between the chapters were also sometimes a bit abrupt, and it always left you hanging, but not in the satisfying cliffhanger kind of way.
We follow three main characters through which we get three plotlines. There is Orka, who is on the path of vengeance trying to find something that was taken from her. Varg, a slave of sorts who is on the run and becomes entangled with a dangerous but mighty band. Finally, we have Elvar, who escaped her planned future in order to seek her freedom among the Battle-Grim.
There were some really good atmospheric moments, one even made me pause because of the imagery. One small but very important plot point that happened in this book, that I very much appreciated, was ships. I love books that spend time on ships, so I was rather happy that we got some, rather than just skipping over that part of the journey.
A weak spot of the story though was that I felt like the punches just didn't land as well as they could have. That is mainly due to the way the story was written. I mentioned this briefly in the writing section, but the chapters all ended the same, on a cliffhanger that didn't feel like a proper cliffhanger. With cliffhangers, it puts you on the edge of your seat, but this just felt like an abrupt end to the chapter.
As for the overarching story, everything did end up coming together nicely and there were some interesting reveals. I do have to say though, that the book ended in a bit of an odd place. It would have made more sense for the last two chapters to be switched.
Finally, I wasn't particularly excited about the romance aspects of the plot, since I find that it tends to detract away from the overall plot.
The world-building and magic system isn't overly complex, especially if you already know a bit about Norse mythology, but it worked perfectly for this world.
While most magic has died with the gods, there are still remnants in the form of the tainted. The tainted are people that have the blood of a god still running through their veins, and it grants them certain abilities depending on the god. There are also various monsters, known as vaesen, as well as seiðr which is a type of magic that can influence the future.
We have a pretty large cast of main and side characters. Oddly enough, the main characters I had the most mixed feelings about, while I did like a lot of the side characters.
We meet Orka first, who is trying to live a normal life with her husband and son. You know right away though that there is much more to her than just being a mom and wife. Out of the three main characters, she is the one I have mixed feelings about. She is rather gruff and is quick to anger which I did have an issue with at one point. She is also someone who tends to not practice what she preaches, which was a bit frustrating.
Varg was definitely in a bit over his head, as he was so focused on his goal that he didn't fully realize how dangerous the situations he was getting himself into. He does have some good growth though, and I really enjoyed the bonding between him and the Bloodsworn.
As for Elvar, well, I don't really have much to say about her, since I felt pretty neutral towards her character. All in all, though, all the characters did feel fully fleshed out.
Was this a run out of the park, no, but it was a pretty solid fantasy story. I will be picking up the next book, hopefully soon while it is still fresh in my memory.