Rating 3 out of 5
Not quite sure where to place this as the book had definite good parts but for the majority of it, I felt as if I was trudging along a very long road that doesn’t take me anywhere. In the end, the final chapters are so action-packed that it compensates for relatively little happening in the rest of the book, but I also have my qualms about the created fantasy world.
The premise is simple: it’s a heavily Scandinavian fantasy world and we have—at the start of the book—a thrall, a housewife, and a warrior to follow. What becomes clear quite soon is that none of these people are who they appear to be, but that’s not that surprising. There are numerous scenes of foreboding which tells the reader what to expect. While this is partially useful to add context, it also ruins much of the surprise that the author wanted to build.
The heavily Scandinavian part also worked against the book. Beyond replacing the gods with a number of animal creatures, the author also decided that the word “thinking” should be replaced by “deep-cunning” and “brain”/”mind” by “thought-cage”. While there is, again, some sense in this, it quickly became boring as it seemed to be the only decision that the author actively implemented in conversations. In addition to the gods, the author added in a group of people descended from the gods who are being hunted by everyone because one can make money by selling these people and a partially magical group of intelligent creatures which weren’t really ever explained in sufficient detail.
Shield-wall battles and duels were the two types of fighting that the reader can find here, and while there have been plenty of shield-walls in recent decades (every ‘Saxon Stories’ book by Bernard Cornwell), I found that Mr Gwynne was better at making these feel unique. The duels were… not that special, and overall the combat scenes are not that important (well, except where they are because they reveal important hidden aspects about the main characters).
While this was more than okay overall, I don’t want to continue with the other volumes in this series for now. I might change my mind later because there is so much that a Scandinavian-based fantasy world can offer, but a lot of this wasn’t used to its fullest here.