Book review of The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

The Shadow of the Gods was brought to my attention a while back when I initially began to watch a review of it on YouTube and then stopped as I didn’t want to have the plot spoiled. I then saw a Twitter thread of best active fantasy authors and Joh Gwynne was on there so with this and the fact The Shadow of the Gods came on offer meant it all came together nicely.

Book review of The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

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The Shadow of the Gods is the first book in John Gwynne’s most recent series its sequel has come out very recently. It’s a book that tells the tales of Orka, Elvar and Varg, three adults navigating a fantastical mytholgy-filled world based on Norse mythology. It’s a fantastic new entry into John Gwynne’s series.

The Shadow of the Gods plot – 4.5/5

The Shadow of the Gods follows the stories of three different people across their Norse-mythology-sinpired land. Orka’s story tells the tale of how her young child is kidnapped and her attempt to find out who took him and get him back. Elvar’s tale tells the story of a young warrior trying to prove herself as part of her clan, the Battle-Grim. And Varg used to be a thrall but is seeking freedom and a home.

All three stories are brilliant. I was transfixed on each of them and was excited to get to their next section. John Gwynne has an incredible talent for filling the world with lore and depth without information dumping on you. The characters will tell stories beside campfires or they will express their religious feelings, giving background to the world or there’ll simply find something cool and tell the rest of the group what they know about it in layman’s terms. It’s a great way of making you feel immersed in a brand new world with clearly plenty of history.

The individual stories themselves are incredibly well done in The Shadow of the Gods. Their pacing differs throughout the book, sometimes throwing us into action for multiple pages and other times having them sit down and talk to one another, open up and discuss their lives – adding to their character.

There are some really cool fantasy moments in this book which I am a sucker for. There are some cool monsters, there are some fun fight scenes and there are some real badass moments from some of the main characters.

The Shadow of the Gods characters – 5/5

Characters in a book that often be a huge deal breaker for me. However, I’m pleased to tell you that you’ll absolutely fall in love with some of the character in The Shadow of the Gods. Gwynne’s talent for world-building just by telling story is only matched by his ability to write genuinely engaging and interesting characters.

The three main characters are all fairly serious. They do have their moments of humour – especially Varg – but generally they’re there to move the plot along so can’t constantly be comedians. Saying that doesn’t mean they aren’t deep and interesting characters. Once again, without information dumping or having the characters say cheesy lines, Gwynne builds these characters’ back stories and personalities via their actions. One will tear up when you didn’t think they felt emotions, one will lose their temper at something hinting to the fact they cared about it more than you thought or another will show rage when they only showed kindness before as a result of something touching a nerve with them.

There are a couple of comedy characters in this book which are done tastefully. They’re there to break up the main characters’ serious storylines and stressful journeys. They do this with stories, funny quips and a wonderfully intelligent way of breaking tension when it is needed most.

I’ve not enjoyed characters this much in a book, let alone a fantasy book, since I read Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself.

The Shadow of the Gods summary – 5/5

John Gwynne is an incredibly talented fantasy writer. The Shadow of the Gods has brilliant characters, a fantastically thought-out world and a story that paces well and will keep you hooked for hundreds of pages. If you’re a fantasy fan, I’d give this book a read. Even if you’re not a fantasy fan, it’s a brilliant book in its own right.