Review: A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden

I don’t even have words for how much I love it.

Love love love me some Norse mythology. This one is full to the brim with it. I’ve been excited to read it for over a year (and still managed to not get to this ARC of it I’ve had until after it was released -.-; oh well), not only because it is pretty AF, but because the blurb just made it sound amazing. The last orc in the world goes on a mythology-filled revenge journey? Sign me up!

(As I said, I did receive and ARC of this book from the author!)

To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcneas; 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?

“What did your Christ-Dane call me? The bane of his people? The truth is his people were the bane of mine! Your kind covers the earth like vermin, while I am the last of the kaunar! The world has changed, foundling. Twilight has come for the Elder Folk, and soon… soon will sound the horns of Ragnarok.”

Christ, this book was amazing. Oh there are so many quotes in here that I could have put there. This book is intensely quotable. Intensely quotable and really, really hard to put down. A lot of stuff in my life took a backseat to this book, and that’s not truly happened for some time. I really love finding books like this that make me forget to cook dinner.

Except when I have to then stop reading to actually cook dinner… Faugh!

The story is full of twists and turns, and I found myself just utterly captivated with it. I’m not going to give too much away, but the plot is gripping and never lets up. The characters are awesomely written and came to life for me. Grimnir is not, and is not really intended to be a ‘good guy’. He’s more of a chaotic neutral. Any way you put it, it’s really nice once in a while to follow a protagonist that isn’t good, but who you still cheer for. I like an antihero if they are presented in a way that makes it clear that they’re not on the good side of things, but they’re not a completely unlikable asshat at the same time. Grimnir does some crazy shit on his journey to fulfill his needs and to reach his goals, and he doesn’t apologize for it, or try and rationalize it with his hostage (the other main character). He just does what he needs to do and then moves along. When told from his POV we sometimes see that he acts the way he does because that’s just how his people act. He is what he is. I really liked that. Nonetheless, as the journey progresses, Grimnir grows as a character and I bloody loved it. He was awesome!

This book also has some awesome use of languages, throwing some Scandinavian/Celtic etc. words in among things, and it really made it compelling to read. The points of view also cycle somewhat between the main characters and a few side characters, who are at times in different places and doing different things. Occasionally they are at the same place and doing the same thing but the situation from at least two very, very different points of view give the story a lot of depth.

The plot is never slow, there’s usually a lot going on, and usually none of it good. One of our protagonists does not at *all* have a good time of this journey, and sometimes this story can be gory, but in a way that shows how horrible two factions with differing views on religion can really be to each other. This book is a grimdark AF ride through 3 different lands full of really well written mythological beings. The clash between the Danes, with their Allfather, and the Saxons with their White Christ was really well done, and the whole book seemed fantastically researched. If it wasn’t completely historically/mythologically accurate, it sure as fuck felt like it was. Magic, gods, and monsters seamlessly blended with early/high middle ages history to make a story that, while I know couldn’t have actually happened… still sounds like it totally could have. Loved it. Love-love-love.

The ending was really well done, made sense, wrapped things up in a way that made the whole thing worth it. It left it in a good place. It even left a little room for more. This was 100% the best orc I’ve ever read about. It was like taking a Tolkien orc and making him totally for realsies real. This novel was bloody brilliant!! I want more Grimnir stories!

Looks like I’m making another Skyrim character! Grimnir will happily slay the draugr/dragon/other people/monster/demon/whatever populace of all the lands. (I swear to god that not every book makes me think of Skyrim. Just most of them.) 😀

I’m not sure words are going to cover how much I loved this book. I loved this book with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. Big ones. Big, big suns. Five huge, burning day-stars. 5/5 stars!


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