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The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne | ARC Review

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Shadows of the Gods by John Gwynne
Published by Orbit on May 6 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Dragons, Mythology, epic fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 496
Format: Paperback, ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

Set in a brand-new, Norse-inspired world, and packed with myth, magic and bloody vengeance, The Shadow of the Gods begins an epic new fantasy saga from bestselling author John Gwynne.

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

Now a new world is rising, where power-hungry jarls feud and monsters stalk the woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power for those brave - or desperate - enough to seek them out.

Now, as whispers of war echo across the mountains and fjords, fate follows in the footsteps of three people: a huntress on a dangerous quest, a noblewoman who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who seeks vengeance among the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.

All three will shape the fate of the world as it once more falls under the shadow of the gods . . .


Never has there been a more impossible review to write. The Shadow of the Gods,  a book that has not only captured my imagination but stolen my heart with the range of differing but equally loveable characters.  Some you love to hate and some that carve a big gash across your chest with glistening sharp axe.  The storytelling is magical but brutally real, the atmospheric worldbuilding enraptures you, you can feel the raw and biting waves as you travel with these Norse folks on longships, you can feel the ground they trod upon and you can feel the pressure of being a part of their shield wall.  Long story short – Gwynne is the master of immersive storytelling. 

Gwynne will always tell a story with heart and grit.  His of Blood and Bone series is my absolute favourite Fantasy series of all time (he very swiftly took over the position from A Song of Ice and Fire), I was nervous and giddy starting it, but Gwynne knows his readers and knows what they want and need – even if the reader themselves don’t quite know it!  The Shadow of the Gods is a brand-new series, with a whole host of new characters but for me anyway, kind of felt like a homecoming.  The reader came home once again to the Gwynne firepit, a story that can be told through the times, he is the ultimate Skald

The Shadow of the Gods is the kind of story that almost must be inhaled…as much as I tried to read slowly…it was virtually impossible.  The cogs in my mind span at incredible rate, trying to make connections, look through the wreckage and see past the smoke and ruin, the narrative is sublimely perfect and never have I read a more dominating book such as this. 

The Shadow of the Gods takes place in Vigrid in the Shattered Realm.  Three hundred long years have passed since the Gods were in a world destroying war against one another.  The result being gods falling to the ground and rupturing the plains, creating a rift that spawned Vaesen (all kinds of creatures and monsters.)  It is now a land full of brutal and harsh terrain, the weather and life beating down upon the characters in true Gwynne fashion.  Be prepared for monsters, bones of fearsome gods and Dragons a plenty. 

John Gwynne’s flair to hook the reader and to transport them to another world is outstanding but it’s the way that he gets his readers to fall entirely in love with the characters that always has me coming back for more. 

In the Shadow of the Gods the story follows three distinct POV’s, Orka, Elvar and Varg.  The different roles, the varying backstories and a generous cast of characters supporting them allowed them all to become a part of me.  You can tell which are going to be developed in further books and those that will have enormous parts to play going forward.  Children are going missing and each character becomes embroiled in discovering just who, what and when is happening.  A brewing storm is coming and the impending arrival of Queen Helka will test the resolve and strength of those that are battle hungry.  Will Vigrid become a place of smoke and desolation once again? 

The Shadow of the Gods’ plotting is tighter than two coats of paint.  On the edge of your seat? No it will have you strapping on the armour and engaging your seax with practised ease…This is the story you have all been waiting for!


John Gwynne Author 700x400 - The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne | ARC Review

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.

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.

(Sometimes I can be found stuck in my coat of mail. It’s harder than it looks).

I am a passionate Viking re-enactor, standing alongside my three sons, who share my passion for history and swords.

The reading bug came early. I clearly remember my teacher settling us all down in a circle and then beginning to read from Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three. I was around seven or eight years old, I think. It was a slippery slope from there, filled with Hobbits and Ringwraith’s, magic, minotaur’s and snake-haired monsters, dragons and giant spiders and Holy Grails. A love of fantasy, mythology and ancient history sank its claws deep into me.

Even so, I didn’t begin writing until I was in my early thirties, and only then because my wife and children encouraged me to do so.

I can remember vividly the moment I decided to have a go at writing. It kind of happened by accident, really. I used to teach at Brighton University, but stepped out of that due to the poor health of my daughter, Harriett. She is profoundly disabled, my wife and I being her sole carers. Early in 2002, which is when the Faithful and the Fallen began, I have a vivid memory of returning home from watching The Two Towers at the cinema with my family. We were sitting around the table and having dinner, and Caroline, my wonderful wife, said.
“You should try writing a book!”
I told her that was a silly idea, explaining that there were necessary ingredients to writing a book that I was most definitely lacking, such as characters, a plot, and talent. But then my children were caught up in the excitement of it all and so my resistance began to crumble. I had been thinking about taking up a hobby, one that I could do from home, as that’s where I spent most of my time because of looking after Harriett, as well as our vintage furniture business, which is also run from home. So eventually I thought.
“Why not. It might be fun.”
So that’s how I started writing the Faithful and the Fallen, as a hobby.

Malice, my debut novel, is inspired by the epic and heroic fantasy I fell in love with, and then thrown in the pot with my love of mythology and history. At its heart Malice is a coming-of-age tale about a young man named Corban, who yearns to become a warrior, although there is a lot more going on than just Corban’s tale. It’s a story of love and loyalty, betrayal and hope set in a feral, war-torn land that is prowled by monsters and on the brink of the God-War, about to be fought by angels and demons.

Malice was published by Pan Macmillan in 2012 and went on to win the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Debut of 2012. That was a truly wonderful moment, as David Gemmell is a hero of mine and one of the reasons I write.

The following three books in the series – Valour, Ruin and Wrath, were all shortlisted for the David Gemmell Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novels of 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Wrath, the fourth and final instalment of the Faithful and the Fallen, won Fantasy Faction.com and Booknest.eu awards for best fantasy novel of 2016.

My new series has gone back to the Banished Lands. Book one, A Time of Dread, was published in January 2018. Book two, A Time of Blood, will be published in March 2019.



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