Top positive review
Rather More Grim than Author 's Prior Trilogies
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 5, 2021
While this book, was as riveting as all his other novels, it was yet difficult to truly “enjoy;” even as brilliantly written as this is. John Gynne is a remarkable & gifted writer; he has become my favorite author & I leapt into this with excitement. This is a heavy tale though & as I read, the story itself was dark & daunting. Perhaps the pandemic unfolding made this tale feel that much more grim, sometimes even 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 redemption. We, all & each one, read for different reasons. For me, now an old woman, I know well I long for kinder, heroic fantasy. Do not get attached to any character; this tale is not afraid to shed characters. At times, the story evoked 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, but as well a different world as each of the 3 character inhabits a life, a journey, & a place . not seen by the other main characters. 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 operating 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, alive in 3 unique places-settings not seen by the other characters…yet apparently all have learned only this solitary term- reading, rereading the expression “Thought Cage” began to make me flinch. It lifted me out of the tale as I muttered “Really? Again? Has no one, in all of the worlds we read through, tried another term to express the brain, thinking, etc? Will we be hammered with “Thought-Cage through each book in this series?” The English language, I learned, leaned heavily on old Nordic or Viking language. So many similarities between these languages. I was surprised to discover for myself how very many words connect; Viking/ Nordic to the younger English terms such as traust- trust, oddi-odd, Porsdagr/ Thor’sDay- Thursday. Knifr - knife, etc. In the worlds of our 3 main characters, however, we have are granted only one reference to represent thinking, pondering, brain, or mind. ALWAYS referenced ONLY AS “Thought Cage.” Trivial? Yup, label this whining 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." That anxiety proved 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 once again. In this book now, we see hope burn into despair. 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 he gets to tell the tale. I am just a fretful old woman with yet 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 & third time. I will, of course gratefully read on in this newest series. I strongly encourage you to read this newest series; apologies if you too suddenly become gloomy. Hoping against hope his storyline might 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 & pain. We fans of Mr. Gynne know to support one another as we go!