Friday, July 14, 2017

Book Review: A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden

I received a free ecopy of this book from Netgalley and Thomas Dunne Books in exchange for an honest review. 

Title: A Gathering of Ravens
Author: Scott Oden
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: June 20, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Format: ebook
Source: Netgalley

To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcneas; to the Irish, his 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 waits. 

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? 

Scott Oden's A Gathering of Ravens is an epic novel of vengeance, faith, and the power of myth. 

My Thoughts: 

I was a bit skeptical about this book at first because of the strong religious aspects (not my cup of tea) but I kept reading and ended up really enjoying it. There was a good balance of mythology and religion and the two were constantly at blows so there was never a dull moment. 

The Norse mythology was not as simple as some other books I've read. You have to go into this with some prior knowledge of the gods, their backgrounds, and their realm, even though this is set in what is known to us as Midgard (or Earth). I've read a few fiction novels that explained some of those but there were still some things (words, places, and creatures) that I was unaware of. 

I loved that this read like a historical fiction, set somewhere back in the Dark Ages? Don't quote me on that. I tend to stick to the 17th-19th centuries. I won't pretend to know exactly when the Danes and Saxons were at war but I will make an effort to read up on that, asap. 

I had difficult choosing who to root for in this narrative. Etain seems like the likely choice but there really wasn't anything I particularly liked about her and I didn't relate to her much. I did come to like her more once she stopped being the victim and 'took up the sword'. I also liked that she was willing to continue on the journey with Grimnir--despite that she was no longer needed--just to see his revenge come to fruition. To see it through to the end, if only to have a story to tell. 

Grimnir is another main character in this story. He's either an antagonist or an anti-hero. I found myself wanting to read his bits more than the others, despite that he's a vile, loathsome creature who kills indiscriminately. He's incredibly interesting in that he is not an average man. He is a son of Fenrir so I imagined him to have some feral canine features.  I could relate to him in his grumbling and mockery of the 'White Christ' and for me, that really helped make the religion tolerable. It's really not something I like to read in fiction. 

There's a lot of traveling in this book but it is kept lively with plenty of run-ins with enemies. 
I really enjoyed the action. There's lots of blood and gore and I'll admit that that tickled my dark side. 

I would recommend this to fans of adult fantasy or historical fiction from authors like Bernard Cornwall or if you enjoyed Neil Gaiman's 'Norse Mythology' but more so if you want some Norse mythology that isn't about the gods themselves.

My Rating: 4.75


  1. I'm not a reader of religious historical novels...I tend to stick to Tudors and Plantagenets! Sounds like you really enjoyed it though which is good!

  2. I'm glad you stuck with it :) Thanks for a great review!

  3. I hadn't heard of this title before but your review has certainly piqued my interest. I enjoy fantasy and historical fiction so it sounds like I might enjoy this book as well. Great review!

  4. Norse mythology has always fascinated me, but i have to admit, I'm taking far too long to get through Gaiman's book of the same title. Not sure if this is for me -- not until I figure out how I feel by the end of Norse Mythology (Gaiman)