Top positive review
Rather More Grim than Author 's Prior Trilogies
Reviewed in the United States on May 5, 2021
While this book, was equally as riveting as all his other novels, yet it was difficult to truly enjoy; even as brilliantly written as this one. Perhaps the pandemic made this tale feel more grim, so depressing. This is a tale filled with unsparing loss & sorrow. I kept looking, with some desperation for any thread, any reason to believe we might reach a place of inspiration, hope, or some redemption. We all read for different reasons & being now an old woman I know well I long for kinder, heroic fantasy. Do not get attached to any character; there is relentless desolation. The 3 characters maintain an unknowing distance from one another. Each chapter presents one of their 3 POV's. I began to suspect the 3 characters were kept alive only to move the plots along. Many readers enjoy such a creative leap/lurch from view to view to view as each chapter not only moves always to a different character, as well as each character inhabit a different place in the world. I admire your patience if your taste runs so; I was already gloomy at the various plot outcomes & wearied as the separate tales of the 3 maIn characters seemed somehow hollow. It seemed another loss; to endure these three operated in worlds ignorant of the others' existence. Also, the three tales bounce between long, passive descriptions, then abruptly jump into gore, savagery, & death. Perhaps reading straight thru in one night ( yes, a tribute to Mr. Gwynne skills), left me a bit broken myself as I made my way to the end. We meet the leads, Orka, then Varg, and Elgar without any of their respective backstories. We stumble through hints of each one’s past. Their secret wounds, & their motivations, fears, dreams, are cryptic. While no one enjoys reading through a long backstory narrative, Shadow of the Gods hides so much it becomes frustrating.
A minor point next but also distracting is the endless use of the term “Thought Cage” as the only word choice for thinking, mind, or one’s brain. As if every disparate character has learned only this solitary term- seeing “Thought Cage” began to become irritating. It lifted me out of the tale. English shares a shocking number of weird similarities with old Nordic or Viking language: traust- trust, oddi- odd, Porsdagr/ Thor’sDay- Thursday, knifr- knife, etc. In this world, however, we learn any reference to thinking, pondering, brain or mind was ALWAYS referenced ONLY AS “Thought Cage.” Trivial? Yup but the endless repeats of “Thought Cage” yanked me out of the tale time & again.
The story starts grimly & the tone remains steadfastly dour & grievous. After the sorrowful end of the final book in Mr. Gwynne’s series "Of Blood and Bone," (A Time of Blood,) I found myself on guard within the first few pages of "Shadow of the Gods." And that anxiety was appropriate. The despair and losses in this book may foretell the pattern of this new series. Maybe not. John Gwynne is an astonishing storyteller, but he has also shown no hesitation to bring grief Again in this book now, we see hope burn into sorrow. This author is unafraid to snatch away gladness; frequently choosing grief & betrayal for characters I had begun to love. Perhaps my jumpiness will be unwarranted in what is to come but the author's willingness to end A Time of Blood in such a mournful way. had me leery as I now read this violent tale. Mr. Gwynne is the author & of course gets to tell the tale. I am just a whiny reader with endless admiration for this writer. Even when we become attached only to lose another fictional soul to tragedy and death. He needn't cater to Happy Ending freaks like me. I just prefer books I can read again & again; such is his talent. Alas, that means only his first trilogy, "The Faithful and the Fallen" is enjoyable a second and third time. I will, of course gratefully read on in this newest series. Hoping against hope his storyline could conclude with less wreckage & betrayal. Other readers, more hearty than myself, will manage fictional calamity and chuckle at someone who becomes bereaved over an imaginary character. I find myself believing the characters & becoming invested in the characters Mr. Gwynne animates so profoundly.. You may be partial to lots of battle scenes ( then you are in luck!) & less dependent on how it all plays out. he favors realism, logic, motivation; his values are there in every one of his plots. He clearly avoids the Happy Ever After Club; my personal club membership too trivial to even scoff over. I highly recommend this book, well worth the anguish.