Updated: Jan 20
This is one of the most immersive books I've read in an age. Forget it's fantasy, this book oozes with authenticity, of years of research and a deep understanding of Norse Mythology. The world is so well crafted, it could easily be Scandinavia or Iceland at the peak of the Viking age. The gods and their wars have ruined the world, their memories as tainted as the people they have left behind. No one prays to them anymore, just curses their past existence.
Into this world John Gwynne has written a blood soaked epic that will grip any fantasy or Viking lover. The explosive violence, vivid descriptions and brilliantly written dialogue draw you in and I often found myself unwilling to put it down.
The characters in the novel are brilliant, fleshed out, with each having their own journey to embark on, their own story to tell. The three POV characters, Varg, Orka and Elvar, each have a past they would rather not share, their baggage weighing more than their mail. Orka for me was instantly gripping, engaging. She is a warrior, a fighter, deadly with blade or spear. But more than anything else she is a mother and a wife, and when her family are in peril she will cut a bloody swathe through a gods ruined land to get her retribution.
Varg is a runaway slave. His sister murdered, he will stop at nothing to find her killer. He finds himself taken in by the The Bloodsworn, a band of mercenaries that earn their coin with shield and spear. His is a journey of growth and discovery, both within himself and the world around him.
Elvar didn't immediately hold my interest, not sure why. A member of another mercenary band, The Battle-grim, I don't think I quite understood the point in her involvement until I reached the end, and then I was completely hooked on her story.
As with most books that are the first in a series, the ending is sudden and many questions remain unanswered. I'm already chaffing at the bit to get a look at book two in what is sure to be an epic series.
*I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*