The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne – Review

Published: May 4, 2021

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Bloodsworn Saga #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 528 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


From acclaimed fantasy author John Gwynne comes the first in the Bloodsworn trilogy, an epic of wild lands and wilder magic, where not all monsters fight with tooth and claw…and the treasures of the gods come at a price.This is the age of storm and murder.

After the old gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrio.

Now, power-hungry jarls carve out petty kingdoms, and monsters stalk the shadow-haunted woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power, promising fame and fortune for those brave – or desperate – enough to seek them out.

As whispers of war echo over the plains and across the fjords, fate follows the footsteps of three people: a huntress searching for her missing son, a jarl’s daughter who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who has cast off his chains and now fights alongside the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.

All three will shape the fate of the world, as it once more teeters on the edge of chaos.

You guys! The hype for this book is completely 110% justified! I cannot believe how much I loved this, even after seeing all the super early reviews waxing poetic about the glory of John Gwynne’s latest fantasy book. I will warn you though… there aren’t actually any dragons until very late in the book despite the ominous beast on the front cover. That might genuinely be my only disappointment in the entire book. I also got slightly confused at one point because every main character was on separate boats at the same time.

The Shadow of the Gods has three point of view characters. The first is Orka, a retired warrior who is trying to live a quiet life in the country with her husband and son. Children begin to go missing in the area and one day she returns from a short outing to find her home burned and her son gone. Thus begins Orca’s journey to find Drekr, the leader of the child nappers. Then there is Varg, an escaped thrall who wants to find his sister’s killer and therefore must find a seiðr-witch to perform a reading. This leads him to join the Bloodborne – a company of mercenaries who become his new brothers and sisters. Lastly there is Elvar, a woman escaping her past and family, who has joined the Battle-Grim to forge her own path and make a name for herself. While the characters are all similar in their toughness and bad-assery, they are distinctly different people with their own journeys and motives. I genuinely enjoyed each POV and I devoured every word of their chapters.

The story is phenomenal – emotive and deep in lore – and oh how I want the sequel in my hands! John Gwynne could not have ended this book on a more incredible, jaw-dropping note (or that’s how I felt anyway). The character reveal, if you can truly call it that, blew my mind. I think I might have actually yelled out loud I was so shocked and ecstatic. There is going to be bloodshed and vengeance to come, folks! Leading up to this banger of an ending is a series of incredible journeys. Elvar and crew are stomping their way across little known lands to find the tree where the gods fell, with enemies at their backs. Orka is both running from enemies and towards others, with a pair of semi-competent local guys that just want vengeance for their murdered father. Varg’s story is surprisingly one of the happier ones in my opinion, as he goes from slavery to being a new, yet liked recruit of a respected mercenary company. The book strikes a fine balance of dark moments with lighter or at least hopeful ones and it grabs the attention.

This is hands down probably one of the best books I’ll read all year. I can say with certainty this is my favorite of John Gwynne’s books thus far – I fell in love with it almost immediately, while I found his other series to just be good (controversial, I know). I love the setting, the characters, the story thus far and can’t wait to see what traumatic adventures he takes readers on next! Fortunately for us, he’s recently announced that he’s finished writing  the second book in the series! No release date yet, but I’m sure it will soon be on the radar.

6 thoughts on “The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne – Review

  1. I’m so happy to see you share my HUGE enthusiasm for this book! Gwynne keeps getting better with each new book, indeed… And good news about his finishing the second volume: maybe we can expect it for the end of the year or the beginning of the next one. Sooner would be better of course! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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