“In a world locked in eternal winter and haunted by prophecy, a young boy trains for years to become the Chosen One, only for another to rise and claim his place in the start of an unmissable epic from a rising star in fantasy. ”
The Gods of Wyrd Wood is a fantasy where the world almost overshadowed the characters. Cahan the Forester is “clanless”, meaning he is seen as lesser than those with clans. He is unwelcome in the nearby village of Harn and that suits him fine. He is a cranky recluse. While I like gung-ho heroes just fine, there is something about the world-weary grizzled characters that I just love. Cahan was once the chosen of a now-fallen god. His god’s fall from grace is mirrored in his own. He has pretty much had it with everyone and everything. He’s alone and he likes that just fine. Of course, a story can’t continue in that vein. He is roped into helping a monk search for a lost child.
If that seems like a bit of a stretch for a story arc, you wouldn’t be wrong. The plot seemed to meander, taking its time to really have a purpose. R.J. Barker makes it work, but I had to admit that I kept getting distracted by the massively detailed world that the book takes place in. I got lost in the creatures and how they behaved, in the fullness of the Deepforest, the way the differing religions ebbed and flowed, taking the people with them. There was so much thought put into these things that the world was almost a character in its own right. It put me in mind of a D&D homebrew campaign in which the world is so stinking cool that I almost want the game to pause just to soak in a certain aspect of a setting. The reader is dumped into the world without exposition, so if you like more explanation and setup, this one won’t be for you.
While Gods of the Wyrdwood starts by focusing on Cahan, there are other characters as well, of course. There was Kirven, the High Leoric (basically the ruler) and holy crap it’s been a long time since I’ve hated a character as much as I loathed her. Her treatment of others, particularly the lengths she went to regarding her child Venn, ruined any enjoyment in her point of view. There are characters I love to hate. And then there are characters that just bother me too much to even enjoy hating them. Kirven was the latter. And, as much as I liked Cahan, he was upstaged by others, particularly the monk Udinney.
The aspect of the Cowl, a power which lives inside servants of the gods, confused me at first. I hate an info dump, but I must admit that I would have liked to have that part of the world explained a bit more. I felt like I missed something, and even reread parts, just to make sure I hadn’t. Once it started to make sense, the idea was pretty cool.
The book alternated between fascinating and irritating me. I like books that take their time, but I felt that at least the first half of the story lacked direction. I don’t mind waiting for a story arc to form, just as long as I know that it will eventually get there. By the end, the pacing had kind of figured itself out, but I have to admit that I was frustrated for a good chunk of the book. The end was a doozy, though, and I am curious to see where the series is going.
R.J. Barker is an author with a distinct style, and Gods of the Wyrdwood requires trust in his skill. It does pay off, but it takes a while.
Thank you to Orbit Books and Angela Man for the opportunity to read and review this book. Gods of the Wyrdwood is available now.