Norse and Celtic mythology are beautifully woven in this historical fantasy novel set in medieval Europe, where the battle between the Old and New religions are at its peak. With his masterful storytelling skills, Scott Oden spirits the reader across different legends and lore while introducing a diverse cast of characters, including Grimnir, our not-so-normal protagonist who is the last of his kind.
The book begins in Denmark where two Christians find shelter in a cave, only to find out that it is an orc’s lair who goes by the name of Grimnir. Their host quickly takes advantage of this opportunity and abducts the youngest of them to take her hostage so she can help him fulfil his quest for vengeance. Étaín is forced to guide him through England to save her own life as well as her friend’s. Transported through Yggðrasil (an ancient mythical tree) to England, she is faced with a surprising twist and in the midst of a chaotic war.
The novel’s strongest element were the characters, which were three-dimensional and complex since all of them come across as spellbinding with their intricate backstories that cling to them throughout their journey. For Grimnir, his cruel and bloodthirsty personality turns him into a unique “you love to hate him” character, but it is Étaín’s character development which is truly remarkable. She slowly evolves from cursing her gender because of the social issues women faced and still face to this day, and eventually embraces it to become a strong woman whose skills are numerous.
The relationship that birthed between Grimnir and Étaín is wonderful as Grimnir goes from being too possessive as well as mistreating his captive to becoming an ally of hers, and most of all, a friend.
Let’s talk about Grimnir for a second. He is the most intriguing protagonist I have personally read about with many names to accompany his ominous character. To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcneas; to the Irish, he is fomoraig. He is also known as the Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent. Although his lust for vengeance seemed somewhat ridiculous at first, along with his barbarous and feral ways making it difficult to like him, the author makes sure you are able to understand his character so you’re eventually able to sympathize with him and understand his convoluted past.
Another stellar element is the world-building. Oden gracefully introduces the world and magnificently throws in fantasy elements from the Yggðrasil to the spirits that haunt the lands, to the witches and the many wars that take place. The author excels at capturing the atmosphere of that time, staying historically accurate and adding in his own twists and turns to keep the novel magical and lively.
The superb writing style makes the novel even better as Oden adds such detail when it comes to describing the settings and the characters’ emotions. This is especially noted during the battle and war scenes as you can almost smell and see the darkness, the hate, and the cruelty that spreads throughout such scenes.
Have we raved enough about this brilliant book? We’ll wrap it up by discussing its intriguing plot which primarily focuses on Grimnir and Étaín’s journey as the duo find themselves overcoming many obstacles that threaten to tear them apart. You’ll also meet characters such as witches, spirits, dwarves, kings and ravens in the lead up to the final confrontation between Grimnir and his enemy, and this only fuels this fantasy world even more.
Overall, this is a really well-written novel with a fantastic plot, group of characters and a magical fantasy world. A Gathering of Ravens is a must-read for historical fantasy lovers!
Have you or will you be reading the book? Tell us in the comments below!
SYNOPSIS | GOODREADS
Beowulf meets The Lord of the Rings 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?