My second tour today is for an epic piece of fantasy, I was super excited to get my hands on this book and it did not disappoint…read on to feast on my review and see why you have to pick this up and read it yourself!
Beowulf meets The Lord of the Rings meets Bernard Cornwell in an epic novel of vengeance, faith and the power of myth.
To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcnéas; 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?
The Press Release I received stated that this was inspired by Beowulf and John Gardner’s Grendel, queue a geeky happy dance while I realised I was diving into a book that I was now even more keen to devour. As a teen studying Beowulf had triggered my fascination with all things Norse and then reading Grendel when it was released and seeing it’s ties to Beowulf was a treat.
We have two main characters in this novel. Grimnir, an orc like character, who having been disturbed in his cave in Norway is now looking for our second character, Étaín, to be his guide through England as he searches for Half-Dane, the man who killed his brother Hrungnir.
A Gathering of Ravens was a slow starter for me, and for a while I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. It felt very Christianity heavy and Étaín our Saxon character was a hard character to like for quite some time. I stuck with it though, and after part one, which wasn’t a long section things really picked up and I felt like I was well and truly in the groove with our characters.
Étaín has had a rough life, treated as a whore almost from birth, then kidnapped by Vikings until she wasrescued by the one who she converted to Christianity. Now she has been kidnapped by Grimnir. Given all she has been through, all she has overcome I wanted her to find her backbone much sooner than she did and I think that’s why I struggled to like her! I also have to say I find her loyalty to Christianity somewhere between admirable and delusional given all that she see’s during her journey with Grimnir.
Grimnir is a tough character, he has no qualms about killing anyone and everyone, the body count in this book is suitably high as a result. In my continued trend of liking the bad guy I loved this character, he was grumpy and resigned to having this welp of a human along even though he had kidnapped her which made the resentment even more amusing. I found his choice in weapon rather unusual, he used a seax which seemed quite a mundane weapon for such an extraordinary character. He also had many human traits and I think this may be what made me find him such a lovable rogue.
As the book progresses we meet other characters who become important to the story arc and we see the story come together for Grimnir and Étaín as they leave England and enter Ireland. This is a strongly written book centred at a time when the Old Gods were being foregone for the dawning of Christianity and this theme rides strong throughout.
Sending a huge thanks to Scott Oden and Transworld Publishers for the ARC so that I could read and honestly review this novel.
About Scott Oden
Scott Oden was born in Indiana, but has spent most of his life shuffling between his home in rural North Alabama, a hobbit hole in Middle-earth, and some sketchy tavern in the Hyborian Age. He studied history and English at the University of Alabama. He is an avid reader of fantasy and ancient history, a collector of swords, and a player of tabletop role-playing games. His previous books include Men of Bronze, Memnon and The Lion of Cairo. When not writing, he can be found walking his two dogs or doting on his wife.
Book & Buy Links
Title: A Gathering of Ravens
Author: Scott Oden
Genre: Fantasy | Epic Fantasy | Mythology
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publication Date: 20 June 2017
Review Format: Paperback
Other Formats: eBook | Hardcover
Buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Speedy Hen | Wordery