Book Review : The Hunger of the Gods

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : The Hunger of the GodsThe Hunger of the Gods by John Gwynne
Published by Orbit on April 14th 2022
Pages: 656
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Bookshop.org
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two-stars
Source: NetGalley

The Hunger of the Gods continues John Gwynne’s acclaimed Norse-inspired epic fantasy series, packed with myth, magic and bloody vengeance.

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.

I was excited to see where The Hunger of the Gods took the Bloodsworn saga after The Shadow of The Gods, which featured the old, dead gods coming to life again, throwing the world into chaos. I was really happy to see some improvements from the first novel, but I found that overall, The Hunger of the Gods just didn’t click with me. 

 

The thing I was happiest to see included in The Hunger of the Gods, which was noticeably absent from the first novel in the series, was the inclusion of a glossary of terms and a character list. Was I still able to keep the characters straight? Heck no, but at least I knew what all of the Nordic terms were this time around. It was a huge help not having to figure out all these terms from context clues. And I wasn’t too concerned about keeping the characters straight, as in the first novel, I was only invested in the character Orka.

 

Though I was initially really excited about the dragon god Lik-Rifa coming back to life and amassing her followers to take over the world, I found the reality of her very underwhelming.  Sure, she threatens, yells, and sometimes eats her followers, but I never felt any fear or awe towards her. A god that mainly threatens and scares a bunch of kidnapped children doesn’t really strike fear in my bones. Plus, knowing that a human can come along and slap a thrall collar on a god to make them do their bidding makes them seem inordinately less threatening as a whole. Though the old gods look incredible and awe-inducing on the covers of the Bloodsworn Saga, they meet that larger than life portrayal in the actual books.  I felt pretty detached to most things that happened in The Hunger of the Gods, with no real tension or emotion during what should be climactic moments.

 

Unfortunately, I just found that author John Gwynne’s writing style isn’t to my taste. I can’t help but to find the descriptions very basic, not to mention repetitive. If I took a drink every time someone referred to their inner wolf stirring within them  or their “thought cage,” the regrettable term for brain, I’d quite literally be dead and buried. Similarly, character development  and dialogue runs no deeper than surface level. Each main character has no more than one defining goal—Varg, to avenge his sister’s death; Orka, to find her kidnapped son; Guðvarr  to save his own neck; and Elvar to prove herself as more than a spoiled Jarl’s daughter. Most of the notable side characters are even simpler, being a warcraft trainer, a lifelong protector, or something else. 

 

As such, I just didn’t really care when certain characters fell in battle. Not only does this happen a lot in a Viking culture, but also to me, almost all of the characters were interchangeable. A warrior dies? Replace him with another. It’s a shame because I really love the idea of the story of the Bloodsworn saga, with old gods coming alive and their bloodlines rising up against prejudice and enslavement to follow them, but the execution just doesn’t do it for me. Plus, the Norse setting and Viking feelings are something I’ve always been interested in, but again the reality of it for me is lackluster. I found myself skimming most of the countless fight scenes again. There’s only so many ways to write axes, seaxes, and spears impaling people and inner beasts awakening before it gets dreadfully dull.

 

Another thing I just couldn’t get over was how cheesy the dialogue was, for lack of a better term. Characters constantly walk around uttering the cringiest lines imaginable with zero irony. These types of lines are probably supposed to be epic or quotable, but I winced or laughed, as I was unable to suspend my disbelief that someone would actually utter these words aloud. It’s like what Harrison Ford said to George Lucas, “you can type this shit, but you can’t say it!” Here are just a few examples:

 

“The blow not seen is the one that ends the fight.”

 

“We are Bloodsworn….Death is a companion we are well-used to.”

 

“Walking away from Ulfrir and the Battle-Grim, she felt his loss, like walking away from the heat of a fire into a winter’s ice-touched night.”

 

“A new age has dawned, the wolf-god’s voice howled in her thought cage. A wolf age a sword age, and blood will flow in rivers. Remember, I am no dream to blink away with the coming of day; I will see you again, my fierce wolf-child.”

 

“Orka remembered the words Thorkel had often said to Breca could almost hear his bear-deep voice in her thought-cage. real courage is to feel fear but to stand and face it, not run from it.”

 

“To grieve is to be trapped in a world of loneliness.”

 

“Let her go and you will have a quick death. Harm her and your screams will fill the world.”

 

“I am your death.”

 

 

I could not fathom anyone referring to someone directly as their “fierce wolf-child.” Nor did I care for the Norse-ified takes on old sayings such as, “feel the fear, and do it anyways.”  Other expressions just seemed to me to be trying too hard to appear wise or quotable. But most of them just seemed unbelievable. If my wife were being threatened with harm or death, would I really take the time to say, “Harm her and your screams will fill the world”? I doubt it. Instead, I’d most likely say something simple in my panicked state, like “let her go,” or “don’t touch her.” What was actually said just feels melodramatic and unrealistic to me. This kind of language also just takes me right out of the moment of the novel to think about how theatrical the writing is.

 

Despite the Norse-inspired world, giant dragon gods that want to take over the world, and a badass female character, I just really don’t think the Bloodsworn Saga, and maybe John Gwynne’s books at large, are for me. Though I found the novel mildly entertaining, I just couldn’t get past the writing style. I think other fantasy lovers will find a lot to love in The Hunger of the Gods, but they simply don’t work for me and I don’t plan on picking up the other entries in the saga.

 

two-stars
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Book Review : The Hunger of the Gods - Blogging with Dragons

Posted March 22, 2022 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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