The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne @JohnGwynne_ @orbitbooks

Posted May 17, 2021 by Robin in Book Review / 8 Comments

Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne @JohnGwynne_  @orbitbooksThe Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne
Series: The Bloodsworn Saga #1
Published by Orbit on May 4, 2021
Pages: 489
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

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.

Shadow of the Gods is the first book in the new Bloodsworn Saga trilogy by John Gwynne.  It loosely follows some Norse Mythology as three different PoVs unfurl the story.  They are caught up in something big on the horizon, something that will change the world they live in.  They just don’t know how tangled up they are.

Years ago, animal gods walked the land.  Dragon, bear, wolf, fox, snake, rat and many more.  But there was a struggle for power and a war between them where none are thought to have survived.  Life has gone on and the blood of the gods has survived in some humans, diluted over the years, but still present.  These people are so feared they are hunted and collared to be trapped as slaves and used for their gifts/curses.

Orka, is a mother living with her son teaching him the ways of this magical world.  When he is taken, she will become who she was before to find him.  Varg grew up a slave and his only goal is to find who is responsible for his sister’s death.  He needs a witch for that seeing, the Bloodsworn have one so he joins their warband, if he proves himself and becomes one of them the witch will tell him who killed his only family.  And finally, Elvar left her home to build a name and find glory for herself.  She is part of the bounty hunter gang the Battle-Grim.  They search for the men and women with the blood of the gods left in them to be captured and sold.  She just never thought she would search for the last battle ground of the gods until a twist of fate take her down that path.

This is a magical world full of deadly creatures, Fjords and some blood debts owed.  It is the beginning of an epic tale of how the gods died and who is looking to try to return them to this world.  Each PoV gives insight into how the world works and why some are happy with the new brutal peace that enslaves anyone gifted with gods blood and why others would do horrendous things to bring back the ways of old.

As a first book in such a series, it takes awhile to get going to set up the main characters.  I found that time entertaining, but I am a patient reader and know the payoff is worth all the set up most time.  The beginning pacing may be a little slow for some.  All the main characters were interesting and have some complicated histories.  I did like the teasing out of those histories and how they will play into the overall story lines.

Shadow of the Gods ends in a BANG and makes you really excited to see where things go in the next book.  Gwynne is not afraid to kill off characters and really rip your heart out in places.  He knows in blood and war not everyone makes it out alive and that is what he gives his readers. Fantastic first book to a series.


This is a world of blood. Of tooth and claw and sharp iron. Of short lives and painful deaths.

“All is lies” she murmured. “They call this the age of peace, because the ancient war is over and the gods are dead, but if this is peace…” She looked to the skies, clouds low and heavy, snow falling in the sheets now, and back at the blood-soaked corpses.  “This is the age of storm and murder…”

About John Gwynne

My parents are from Wales, but I was born in Singapore because my dad was in the RAF. We moved around pretty regularly, roughly every three years or so. I saw a fair bit of the UK because of this semi-nomadic lifestyle, beautiful landscapes that left their mark on me and I may have turned our travelling into an imagined fantastical quest.

I studied and lectured at Brighton University. I’ve played double bass in a rock ‘n’ roll band, packed soap, been a waiter in a French restaurant, worked on landscaping and carpentry crews, travelled the USA and Canada.

I’m married with four children and a handful of dogs, most of whom will chew anything that stands still for too long. I suspect one of them thinks she’s a wolf. Medieval_Gwynnes

I live in Eastbourne running a small family business with my wife (which means doing what she tells me to do) rejuvenating vintage furniture (which means lifting, chopping, painting and gluing, not necessarily in that order).
When I’m not writing or fixing furniture I can be found training for battle with spear, sword and shield on the South Downs, dressed in a coat of mail and standing in a shieldwall.

Rating Breakdown
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Posted May 17, 2021 by Robin in Book Review / 8 Comments

8 responses to “The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

  1. Wow, this sounds an amazing series opener! This line from your review reminded me so much of George R.R. Martin and what he does to his characters in Game of Thrones: “Gwynne is not afraid to kill off characters and really rip your heart out in places.” I love that about Martin so I’m excited to hear that Gwynne does the same thing. It made me chuckle a bit because the cover also made me think of Game of Thrones. Definitely adding this one to my TBR.