The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne – Good, but not great

The Shadow of the GodsThe Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne
Series: The Bloodsworn Saga #1
Published by: Orbit on May 6, 2021
Genre: Fantasy, Historical, Mythology
Pages: 496
Source: Purchased
Book Details
Rating: ★★★½

Set 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 Vigrid.

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 . . .

I was really excited for The Shadow of the Gods because I wasn’t impressed with Malice and was really curious to see how John Gwynne has changed as a writer since his debut novel.

At the beginning, I was immediately more impressed. The writing was better and I was more interested in the characters.

It took hitting the halfway mark to start feeling disappointed. That’s when I realized that where John Gwynne doesn’t seem to click with me is the middle of the books. That’s when things get boring. That’s when, somehow, characters don’t live up to their initial hook. They have interesting stories and motivations, but I lose interest in their actions and interactions over time. The book never develops into something that’s “unputdownable” or even hugely memorable.

Like Malice, The Shadow of the Gods felt a bit like a long prologue. Most of this book was spent introducing characters in the world, and journeying to a destination. Things didn’t really “start” until the very end. That’s pretty much how Malice felt to me as well. I guess John Gwynne really likes his long, “setting the stage” first books.

Also, by the end, I was massively sick of the phrase “thought-cage”. It’s used as a replacement for “mind” or “head”. Like: “What’s going on in that thought-cage of yours?” Drove me nuts.

This wasn’t a bad book; it was still much better than Malice. But I still don’t have that same amazement and wonder that so many other people seem to have. It’s a bummer, because some components are definitely there. The three characters we follow all have intriguing stories. For me, John Gwynne is just missing an X factor that actually makes me fall in love with them and invested in their fates.

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I'm a 30-something California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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