To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcneas; to the Irish, he is fomoraig. He is Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent. He is Grimnir, and he is the last of his kind–the last in a long line of monsters who have plagued humanity since the Elder Days.
Drawn from his lair by a thirst for vengeance against the Dane who slew his brother, Grimnir emerges into a world that’s changed. A new faith has arisen. The Old Ways are dying, and their followers retreating into the shadows; even still, Grimnir’s vengeance cannot be denied.
Taking a young Christian hostage to be his guide, Grimnir embarks on a journey that takes him from the hinterlands of Denmark, where the wisdom of the ancient dwarves has given way to madness, to the war-torn heart of southern England, where the spirits of the land make violence on one another. And thence to the green shores of Ireland and the Viking stronghold of Dubhlinn, where his enemy awaits.
But, unless Grimnir can set aside his hatreds, his dream of retribution will come to nothing. For Dubhlinn is set to be the site of a reckoning–the Old Ways versus the New–and Grimnir, the last of his kind left to plague mankind, must choose: stand with the Christian King of Ireland and see his vengeance done or stand against him and see it slip away.
This book absolutely blew me away. I first heard about this book on Twitter, with the tag line ‘Lord of the Rings meets Beowulf.’ If I wasn’t already champing at the bit to read it after that, the exciting synopsis (and that gorgeous cover) had me really eager to read A Gathering of Ravens. I started reading it pretty much as soon as it arrived, and I was instantly hooked. The blend of mythology and fantasy is just stunning, and I loved every second of it.
One of the things that particularly struck me about A Gathering of Ravens is the setting, it’s meticulously researched, with the medieval Europe setting instantly comes alive in Oden’s writing. The atmosphere is dark and bitter, and the cold icy landscapes of Europe definitely made me shiver once or twice. There’s also plenty of battles and bloodshed, making this book a really incredible story.
To be perfectly honest mythology is not something I knew too much about, I definitely find it interesting but I’m not as familiar with the different beliefs as some readers might be. That didn’t stop me enjoying this book though, the mixing of fantasy and mythology making that it a dark and enticing story, regardless if you’re familiar with the gods or not.
The characters are also similarly fascinating. Grimnir is such an interesting character, the last of his kind and determined to see his vengeance done. I also loved the fact that he was an Orc. He does a lot of not so nice things, and doesn’t let anyone stand in his way. Having Grimnir as the main protagonist is intense and interesting perspective to see things from. I loved the mix of other characters as well, from fae folk to dwarves. It all comes together to create a wonderful mix, that is seamless in its execution.
I will also say that while this isn’t an overly large book, it did take me a fair while to read. It’s such a complex story with so many different elements, I really wanted to take my time and savour every moment. The beginning of the novel is quite a slow burner, but I found that quite helpful as it gave me the chance to wrap my head around the different beliefs. The second half of the book does ramp up a bit more, particularly as you become more invested in the characters. I have seen online that this is the first of three stand-alone titles with Grimnir threading through them all, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what’s in store next. I loved this book from beginning to end, and if you’re a fan of fantasy fiction and mythology, this is an absolute must read.
Thanks for checking out my stop on the A Gathering of Ravens blog tour, be sure to check out the other stops below!