Title: The Shadow of the Gods
Author: John Gwynne
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Goodreads Rating: 4.29
“Death is my only companion.”
In The Shadow of the Gods, Gwynne starts his next epic fantasy series with a morally grey set of characters, fascinating and harsh setting, and sacrificial magic system. You will follow three main characters as they navigate a cruel world of slavery, secrecy, and death. Prepare yourself as the author throws you into a complex world and relies on you to peel back the layers like an onion to better understand what makes it tick.
Variety of diverse, relatable characters
Gwynne beautifully creates complex, morally grey characters. Along with the diverse personalities of the characters, he also weaves together hybrid humans, magic users, and standard humans. If that is not enough, the author introduces a societal hierarchy of thralls, mercenaries, and jarls. The Shadow of the Gods truly intertwines an intricate web of personalities, races, and classes.
Without giving away any spoilers, there will be moments throughout The Shadow of the Gods that will catch you off guard. Like I mentioned earlier, this world acts like an onion with multiple layers to peel back as you start to connect parts of the story and realize the severity of what you’ve just learned.
Lacks clarity due to fast-paced action
At the start of the second book (The Hunger of the Gods), Gwynne provides a summary of the first book. As I read the summary, it cleared things up and had me frequently saying, “Oh! That’s what happened!”. Given that this book is the start of a new epic fantasy series, I wish the author had taken more pages to clearly outline what was happening for our three main characters. I would rather have a longer book that doesn’t leave me confused at the end.
Connecting with the characters
The Shadow of the Gods moves so quickly and has such an imperfect set of characters, that I found it difficult to connect with the main characters. It took over half of the book for me to form an emotional attachment to any of the main characters. By the end of the book, I was invested in all three. However, it was a bumpy ride getting there.
The first book in an epic fantasy series has a tough job. It must introduce you to the world including the protagonists, enemies, magic systems, locations, and so much more. On top of all of this… the author must also develop an emotional connection between you and at least one of the main characters. It’s a tough task and The Shadow of the Gods does a decent job at it. Let’s just say, I’m looking forward to The Hunger of the Gods now that I’ve ripped the Band-Aid off with the first book.