Medium: Audiobook/ebook (ARC)
Overview (No Spoilers):
I read Gwynne’s The Shadow of the Gods a few months ago and was blown away. Despite being eager and quite impatient to read The Hunger of the Gods, I couldn’t help but harbor a sliver of apprehension. What if this next installment didn’t live up to the first? Thankfully, my concerns proved unfounded, as I couldn’t put down this second book of The Bloodsworn Saga. For the first time ever, I yo-yoing between my Kindle and audiobook, utilizing whatever medium is most appropriate at that moment. In addition, I usually listen to my audiobooks at 1.5x to 2x the normal narration speed, however I deliberately dialed back the speed with The Hunger of the Gods in order to fully savor this story. I’ll openly acknowledge that I’m toeing the line into fangirling, but I can’t stop recommending this series.
The Hunger of the Gods picks up immediately in the aftermath of The Shadow of the Gods. Elvar and the Battle-Grim are still reeling, taking stock following Biorr’s betrayal and the freeing of Lik Rifa. Elvar was arguably the weakest POV from the last book, but her story grows in strength throughout this book until a shocking series of events at the end leaves her potential limitless. Orka maintains her tunnel vision in her pursuit of her son, and while her blinders lead to less than advisable decisions, her character continues to be one of my favorite female characters of all time. Plus she has the absolute best monster/vaesan sidekicks in Spert and Vesli, who both made me physically laugh out loud, usually when least expected. Varg and the Bloodsworn are on their own all consuming mission to rescue Vol, which takes this crew to new corners of this literary realm. While this quest seemed never ending at times, Gwynne utilized this time to add significant depth to the cast surrounding Varg, such as Einar Half Troll and Svik. Varg’s mental struggles between balancing his responsibilities to his new found family and the oath he swore to avenge his sister remains a recurring theme.
Gwynne adds in two new intriguing perspectives that instantly add complexity and insights to the villains of The Shadow of the Gods. Gudvarr and his inner dialogue are just as weaselly as anticipated. Honestly, it’s rather astounding the good luck he has at staying alive when considering the situations he finds himself. Gaining access to Gudvrr’s inner thoughts stirs empathy at his various plights, even though he has done some truly terrible things. That said, Gudvarr’s last chapters are easily my favorite. The sheer magnitude of twists and turns that Gwynne packs into just a few chapters is hard to put into words. The other new POV is the betrayer Biorr, who grants us valuable access to the inner workings of the Ravenfeeders and Lik Rifa. As Biorr has been absent from this rough lot for quite a while, he sees them through new eyes, while also processing how he feels after becoming a traitor to Elvar, Agnar, and the rest of the Battle-Grim.
I finished reading The Hunger of the Gods weeks ago, but have delayed writing this review to allow my initial reaction to equilibrate, curious if my strong feelings would temper down. Instead my delight in this read has only seemed to amplify. Gwynne layers an astounding amount of events and details into a single novel, with each chapter getting better and better. Every time my thought cage was convinced I knew where Gywnne was going to navigate the story he had a surprise waiting in the wings that had me constantly reassessing. Oftentimes in large novels, it is easy to favor one character’s plot arc over another, especially as the conclusion draws near, but Gwynne manages to craft equally remarkable endings for all characters, keeping the suspense building even as we are alternating between perspectives. In addition, Gwynne sets up an ending that easily takes a place as one of my favorites of all time.
Overall, with exquisite worldbuilding and characters that are among my favorites in literature, The Hunger of the Gods was a positively brilliant continuation of The Bloodsworn Saga and will be my go-to recommendation for the foreseeable future.
Have I convinced you to start reading this series yet, because you should!
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- That ending! I’m serious about spoilers so please do not continue on if you don’t want to have any of the amazing plot twists spoiled.
- Ok. I’m a firm believer in “if you don’t see the corpse then a character has the chance still to be alive”. That said, is Orka alive? I have a hard time seeing her survive after the ice spider attack but she is so very tough. If she is dead, she will be sorely missed in book three.
- Did the rest of Orka’s crew such as Bjarn, Breca, Halja, and Lif survive?
- Who would have guessed that Gudvarr would end up being one of my favorite characters. He’s sniveling, cowardly, and so very lucky. How does he escape from seemingly impossible situations over and over again? And can we please talk about his ending. I fully expected Lik Rifa to eat him, instead he leads the god to a surprise attack just as Orna the Eagle is resurrected; ultimately orchestrating the deaths of Queen Helka and Prince Hakon.
- Where will Skalk and Estrid end up?
- I thought it was interesting that we were given a glimpse of Brak Trolls-Bane, who we know to have had possession of Varg’s sister. Through his treatment of Breca we are able to extrapolate what happens to the sister. When will he and Varg cross paths?
- So many new gods! Ulfrir has been brought back to life and Orna’s new life was cut short. Could Snaka be brought to life? Rotta the Rat God was another character who significantly enriched this world. What are his goals? Did he sustain any real damage from Spert? Did Spert escape?
- With Uspa reunited with her husband will they now find Bjarn? Will Elvar continue shifting her opinion on the Tainted?
- What an ending for Prince Jaromir of Iskidan! Talk about a suspenseful, crazy battle sequence.