By: John Gwynne
Genre: Norse Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit/Hachette Book Group
WARNING: There will be spoilers for The Shadow of the Gods
Just when I thought a sequel cannot possibly be any better than a five-star review of the first book, John Gwynne does it by creating a brilliant, gut-wrenching Book 2 of the Bloodsworn Trilogy, The Hunger of the Gods. Like The Shadow of the Gods, Mr. Gwynne’s The Hunger of the Gods captures the reader from the first page and never eases up on a gripping, action filled story that is a continuation of the journey of Orka, Varg, and Elvar. The Norse realm he has created fills the imagination with halls of the Jarls, the long ship drakkars with their heaving oars, the brutal, bloody fights, the magic of Seidr-witches and gods, and the cities and villages that assault the senses with smells, sights and sounds. As he continues the tale of the protagonists, Mr. Gwynne has furthered their story arcs as they each come closer to fulfilling their quest. While developing the characters further, I wasn’t always happy with how some evolved. However, that is not a negative statement about the writing. Quite the opposite. Great writing elicits a visceral response from the reader. The three traverse through dangerous lands filled with incredibly imaginative, frightening creatures, cold that even the reader feels sinking into their bones, and remnants of homes of the long dead gods. But are they truly dead? In The Shadow of the Gods, Lif-Rifka, the dragon-god has been set loose from her prison and is wreaking havoc across the land. To stop her, in The Hunger of the Gods,the Battle Grim raise Ulfrir, her brother the wolf-god, from the dead. It is important to note that the gods can take both human and animal form. The stakes are raised high in this book as they race to find the missing children and stop Lif-Rika. Just like The Shadow of the Gods, The Hunger of the Gods was sheer genius. Mr. Gwynne added to his world building, character arcs, and use of magic, and once again intertwined it with this incredibly authentic Norse world.
The story continues with Orka, Varg, and Elvar, still on their respective quests. We find that both Orka and Varg are “tainted”, the blood of the gods runs in them. Both Orka and Varg are “children” of Ulfrir, with the blood of the wolf. They can call upon the characteristics of the wolf for enhanced strength, speed, sight, and smell. Each of the Bloodsworn is tainted with a different god. The tainted are hunted, and thralled when found, and it is why they hide their true identity. Added to the protagonists are the antagonists, Biorr and Gudvarr. They were in The Shadow of the Gods, but the story was never told from their point of view. Biorr is tainted with the blood of the rat-god, Rotta. He infiltrated the Battle Grim, became Elvar’s lover, and eventually kills Agnar. He leaves to return to the dragon-born, with Lif-Rika calling all the tainted to her to change the world. Elvar’s arc takes an interesting turn. Think “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” She vows to find Biorr, avenge Agnar’s death and his betrayal to the Battle Grim. Elvar becomes hardened and does things that I found surprising, but certainly fit with the direction Mr. Gwynne is taking her character. Gudvarr is the nephew of a powerful Jarl, and is a sneaky, spoiled man who does anything to survive. Neither Elvar or Gudvarr are tainted.
Once again, I can only say Mr. Gwynne’s prose is as sharp, effective, and imaginative as to take the reader into the pages and into the story. As in the previous books, each chapter focuses on a different one of the three main protagonists. However, now added in are chapters told from both Biorr’s and Gudvarr’s point of view. In The Hunger of the Gods, many of the characters finally meet. Orka, while looking for Breca, finds Glornir, Chief of the Bloodsworn, and Thorkel’s older brother. Glornir is searching for his kidnapped wife, Vol, a Seidr-witch. Orka, while having this attachment to the Bloodsworn, continues her journey to find her son, with several Bloodsworn vowing to go with her. Orka finally meets the Battle Grim, who have Ulfrir, and a Seidr-witch looking for her son. Ulfrir senses her as one of his children, but she still journeys on her own. Varg is entwined in plots against him as well, from the son of his master he killed to escape, and his killing of a dragon born. Biorr embraces his life among Lif-Rika, but is haunted by his time with the Battle Grim and Elvar. Gudvarr, is well, one of those conniving characters you love to hate. One that you just can’t wait for him to get his due.
The fight and battle scenes were as amazing as the first book. As with The Shadow of the Gods, they are gory, so once again, if that is something that disturbs a reader, you should know this beforehand. Orka is still my favorite character and I have always related to her. A mother searching for a child is dangerous, but add in the blood of a god, and she is nearly an unstoppable force. Through all the fights she endures, she aches for her son, and grieves for Thorkel. In The Hunger of the Gods, we get to fully see the Bloodsworn in action, using their god-blood. Mr. Gwynne’s fight scenes with them are so good. We see it through Varg, as he unleashes the wolf in him, and the others do the same. As he runs into battle, he describes his heightened senses and strength. They show no mercy, which I felt was perfect for them as they are hunted and thralled. When they go into battle, it is clear they go to kill. There are many battles and fights not only between the characters, but with the hideous creatures that were created by Lif-Rika. Each was distinct in how it was fought, and it brought such realism into the world Mr. Gwynne created.
I will simply mention again that the world building was genius. It takes place in the same world, with a few additions. The reader is still transported into this world that is so extremely descriptive and realistic. What is added is where Lif-Rika lives, and will mostly stay in her human form. She is quite unhinged, and frightening, even to the point where Biorr fears her. She lives in her large home carved into a mountainside. It resembles a Jarl’s home, but so large as to comfortably fit her in her dragon form.
Finding this series has truly been a highlight of my fantasy reading. It is at once a Norse fantasy, but on a deeper level, it is also about love, loss, betrayal, and revenge. It ran me through a gamut of emotions as I read it. I still think about being transported into this world again, and to know how these characters journeys will be completed. I am looking forward to the final book.
The Hunger of the Gods continues John Gwynne’s epic Norse fantasy, The Bloodsworn Trilogy. He continues the story of Orka searching for her son, Varg seeking revenge for his sister, and Elvar looking for battle fame. In addition, we get the point of view of two antagonists, Biorr, tainted with god-blood and who betrayed the Battle Grim, and Gudvarr, the nephew of a powerful Jarl who is a conniving coward who will betray anyone to stay alive. The characters are developed even more, with some taking surprising directions. Many of them do finally meet in The Hunger of the Gods, but they still proceed on their own journeys. His creative prose brought them together beautifully, and when they continue on their own, it flowed smoothly with the narrative. As with previous book, each chapter focuses on a different character, with addition of Biorr and Gudvarr. Leaving off makes the reader itching to find out what happens to them next, and I felt this was a very strong point in the narrative. Orka is still by far my favorite character as I related to her as a mother, and how I would feel if I could not find my child. I understood her feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, and at the same time, being laser focused on her task. I would do the same. There is plenty of action in The Hunger of the Gods, which began right at the start and never lets up. For me, as a reader, it was heart pounding action, hoping all the time that our protagonists would prevail. The Norse world Mr. Gwynne created was much the same, but it so well crafted, I felt a part of this world. He once again gives those small details of clothing, carvings, weapons, towns, and cities that sets his world apart from others. The battle and fight scenes were very vivid, and realistic in how they were portrayed. It is an important part of the story and his description of movement, weapons, and skills made them come to life. I highly recommend The Hunger of the Gods to fans of not only of Norse fantasy, but any genre of fantasy. I am looking forward to the next book.
Summary (from NetGalley)
Lik-Rifa, the dragon god of legend, has been freed from her eternal prison. Now she plots a new age of blood and conquest.
As Orka continues the hunt for her missing son, the Bloodsworn sweep south in a desperate race to save one of their own–and Varg takes the first steps on the path of vengeance.
Elvar has sworn to fulfil her blood oath and rescue a prisoner from the clutches of Lik-Rifa and her dragonborn followers, but first she must persuade the Battle-Grim to follow her.
Yet even the might of the Bloodsworn and Battle-Grim cannot stand alone against a dragon god.
Their hope lies within the mad writings of a chained god. A book of forbidden magic with the power to raise the wolf god Ulfrir from the dead . . . and bring about a battle that will shake the foundations of the earth.
My sincere thanks to Orbit Books for a copy of The Hunger of the Gods and NetGalley for an eBook in exchange for an honest review.
Find out more about John Gwynne on his website: https://john-gwynne.com/
Purchase The Shadow of the Gods on Amazon
Purchase The Shadow of the Gods at The Broken BindingFollow Me on Social Media