Let’s be clear, John Gwynne has nothing to prove.
But he went ahead and proved it anyway.
He already has plenty of accolades: David Gemmell Morningstar Award, BookNest Award, bestselling lists, and more. He is already acknowledged in the fantasy world as one of it’s brightest stars, thanks to his famous ‘The Faithful and the Fallen” and “Of Blood and Bone” series.
He proved that he can get even better. Somehow, he accomplished this, with the debut entry of his new “The Bloodsworn Trilogy”, called “The Shadow of the Gods”. When a writer of this calibre shows that he still has another gear, that he can turn things up quite a notch, and exceed already lofty expectations, it is incredibly impressive. Gwynne will have your “thought-cage” spinning with the dizzying brilliance of his latest novel.
The concept of “The Shadow of the Gods” is an intriguing one. In this Norse-inspired world, a war has taken place between the gods, where all of them were either killed or imprisoned, and they have left the land that humans inhabited partially devastated in the wake of the conflict. These gods took the form of mammoth beasts, such as dragons and giant wolves. Because of the havoc they wreaked on the land, called Vigrid, for the most part, the gods are reviled, rather than revered. While there are still some devotees to these seemingly callous gods, most people shun them, hoping they stay dead, and vanquished. The gods may have vanished, however eerie, tangible traces of them remain. Such as major human cities constructed inside or even on top of their bones. The dichotomy is that humans still covet the protection of the gods, and believe that the carcasses of the individual deities that were worshipped can ward off further evil.
With incredibly beautiful prose, compelling human drama, fantastic world-building and realism, and of course Gwynne’s trademark – some of the most gripping and realistic battle scenes this side of GRRM or Bernard Cornwell – “The Shadow of the Gods” deftly marries dark and high fantasy into a blood-soaked, gritty, ingenious saga, full of heart, romance, humour, stunning plot twists, and overall, pure magnificence on a completely epic scale.
The plot pivots around three main POVs. The first is Orka, an indomitable warrior, married to another awesome fighter, Thorkel, with whom she has a son, called Breca. The three are simply trying to lead a peaceful life on their farm, however someone in the vicinity is stealing children and murdering their parents. The three are drawn into political intrigue and danger, as they begin to unravel what is behind the sinister kidnappings and killings.
The second POV is Varg, a fugitive on the run, haunted by the death of his sister, and thirsting for vengeance. Varg’s life changes when he encounters the eponymous Bloodsworn crew, as he seeks to trade bondage for battle, and find a true family to belong to.
The third POV is that of Elvar, a warrior of noble birth, trying to prove herself, and seek glory, among a hardened group of sellswords, called the Battle-Grim. The loyal and fearless Elvar will end up on one of the greatest quests ever dared: to seek the sacred tree Oskutred (the equivalent of Yggdrasil), and uncover its treasures. But the costs will be high, and formidable enemies, betrayal, and the unleashing of ancient evil await her.
“The Shadow of the Gods” is sure to make the vast majority of ‘Fantasy Book of the Year” lists, and that is entirely well-deserved. Many may have considered Gywnne to be a jarl in the nobility of fantasy wordsmiths – safe to say with “The Shadow of the Gods”, he has ascended to princedom, and no doubt kingship awaits. I have long been a huge John Gwynne fan, and no secret he is one of my influences as a writer. He has truly outdone himself, and “The Shadow of the Gods” is a masterpiece.
I will be anxiously awaiting book two of “The Bloodsworn Saga”!