A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden

31450847To 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?

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

Source Format Pages Publisher Genre Publication Date
Netgalley eARC 336 St Martin’s Press Historical Fantasy June 29th, 2017

If you read the whole synopsis for the book then a round of applause to you and, really, it’s the most comprehensive synopsis I’ve come across in a while. What the book promises, book delivers. Vengeance? Check. Faith? Check. Myth? Check.

Eh, but this is going to be such a difficult review for me, because even though I could see the things I could appreciate, there was something about the book overall that failed to fully capture me and convert me into a diehard fan.

A Gathering of Ravens is a story of revenge, set in the time of Vikings when the power play in between Odin and Jesus was in full swing. (And we all know who came out on top, damn it!) The historical settings, myth and magic are intertwined as Grimnir (an evil, ugly AF orc) takes hostage a Christian to be his guide in England. Together they travel from Denmark via Yggdrasil to England. On the way they meet dwarves, get up to all sorts of super violent and bloody shenanigans and generally have a proper spat over whose god is the best!

The second half of the book takes us closer to the ‘revengee‘. We are now in Ireland, Dublin and get introduced to elves, nature spirits, a couple of witches and local armies battling it out. We get a great look at the Half Dane who Grimnir is after and the implications of his power and ambition. TBH, anything that Grimnir might have in store for him, no Christian would stand in the way of. Half Dane is awful.

So, a couple of observations overall:

That Grimnir needed a guide, is questionable. I am more than certain that Grimnir the mighty Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent  would have managed just fine on his own on the journey to find Half-Dane. He had the means and tools to not need a Christian ‘fellow’ hanging with him. The only reason those two characters were thrust together was purely for the ‘entertainment‘ factor, I suspect, upon which the above mentioned religious spat depended on.

Another thing with the mixology of myth, history and otherwordly beings was just that I felt there was a whole pile of different elements put into the story and as such most of their presences were fleeting and not entirely built upon to their full potential. OK, their parts in the story were valid and necessary to play their part, but I didn’t get entirely not enough of them… I would have liked to have more of a hand in play by the Witches, dwarves, elves and spirits. But that’s just me… personal preference alert here, guys!

The first half of the book went rather slowly for me because all it was was a strong clash of beliefs with a trippy trip via Yggdrasil and nothing but brutal behavior. The second half of the book was more full bodied and had a lot more going on. Still, reading A Gathering of Ravens was a bit laborious for me… the characters didn’t go through tangible development, there was a whole lot more praying going on than I could stomach and all the brutality (whether by action or word) felt a bit automatic or mechanical because it moved from one bloody murder to the next bloody beating… Essentially, this is a book of bloody action to the extremes but without any real substance to the characters which I would have liked. Simply explaining actions by way of their respective religion gave me no indication of the people behind and beyond their religion. Well, no.. I lie… everyone in this book was evil in a way, Christian or heathen. But yes, I guess what was missing was soul… (I’m laughing here now…Do evil beings even have souls? let me ask the Christian!) See? I told you, it’s a hard review to write… I don’t even know!

So yes, I have to admit, Grimnir’s ‘statements‘/dialogues were fantastically principled and loyal to Odin and the Old ways, with bits of evil contempt and sarcasm thrown in but I don’t know if it’s just because he was an Orc, but that was pretty much all there was to him and it got a bit old rather soonish.

Having said all of the above,  I can see and appreciate how certain elements were used to create this historical fantasy and all the pieces did fit together well enough. I don’t consider myself an expert in historical fact, myth or old tales to be able to analyze them and give you a factual overview.

You can expect some flashbacks to get you up to speed for why an Orc is seeking for revenge, also some rhymes and tons of interesting characters making their rather short but useful appearances and… yeah, I’m saying it again- some bloody gore… Odin’s will is going to be read from livers…

I think this is a book that will either completely and utterly satisfy a reader or not be what was expected at all… I’m sitting smug in the middle… It was in parts great, in parts not so much but I sure am happy I read the book and I look forward to reading more reviews of the book!

43 comments

  1. Hymn singers!!!!!! 🙂 Love that phrase, sniggers, I bet some people won’t! 🙂

    Ah, sorry it didn’t entirely gel with you.

    I loved this book (July 11th) last day of the blog tour (that’ll be 6 weeks after I had written my review before I can post it) but not everyone can like all the books the same, at least you got some overall enjoyment out of it.

    I thought Grimnir was an awesome character, I didn’t think he needed more development but get your point that he’s not the most developed guy/orc around.

    Cool and fair review as always Liz though…..ugly AF????? What has happened to the swearing?? Has da Queen doth gone all polite on us?! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review, Liz. I think mine may have many of the same points. I have just started ‘book 3’ so am not actually finished just yet. But I also thought Etain was kind of surplus to requirements and that the furst half was a touch slow and very hard-going.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ll definitely have to check out this book further. Thanks for introducing it to me, and for an honest and in-depth review.

    I’m new to blogging and book reviewing, and I was wondering if you had any tips for newbie bloggers and book reviewers.

    If you have the time, please check out my blog @breenysbooks. I’d love any feedback. Have a wonderful day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Breeny! 🙂
      Thanks for commenting and for stopping by…
      oooh.. tips… well… I guess don’t sweat about it if you’re only starting out now.. youl find your voice and method to reviewing 🙂 Remember to always be you and let your voice shine through and don’t let anyone tell you your review(s) aren’t good enough… your thoughtst and opinions matter… but generally, the book blogging community is very nice and welcoming and supportive.

      There’s heaps and heaps on book bloggers out there so check others out for ideas and I wish you luck with your reviews! And also- welcome! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Have you noticed Ravens and crows are like the new “it” cover on books?
    I love this cover and I love the sound of th story…I didn’t know it was on NG, which makes me want to run over and get it, bc this book has been on my TBR! But I have so many I need to review from there that I’ll have to wait. But it sounds awesome to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know right? Last year it was all ash and princesses and fire and … whatnots! 😀 Ravens for the win in 2017!

      The book though? You know, I am super interested (I should check it out) who shelved the book on Goodreads as YA because it’s far from YA and honestly? Knowing you Teach I don’t think the book is for you… it’s grim and bloody… BUT maybe I’m wrong and you want to spread your wings? In which case I sure am interested in what you’ll make of the book! 🙂 ❤

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  5. Ah shame this wasn’t totally for you, cos yeah, that blurb is pretty epic! It’s a real pity that the characters’ actions were explained simply through their relation to religion- I tend to find that kind of thing a little lazy- even if I do like the occasional soulless character 😉 Great review though!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! 🙂
      Yes, and it was really a shame that all those other fantastical creatues were more teasers than full-time characters/presence because they could have blown it away completely…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for that review! I think I will leave this be – I am a fan of Norse mythology and a fantasy novel about it will always get my full attention 😉 But I’ve read a couple of negative reviews by now and some of the details don’t look that great to me 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • yikes… so sorry to put you off! Drew will hAve a review going up 11th July though with the blog tour so maybe he’ll manage to change your mind and you’ll want to try anyway… but I can understand when there are things mentioned in the reviews you know you’ll have an issue with!
      many thanks for stopping by! 😉

      Like

  7. Those are such epic titles to have…I kinda wish I was known as Jazz, the Bringer of the Night or something just as dark and brooding sounding 😛 You’re right, though. That is one HELL of a synopsis! It’s a shame that this book didn’t meet your expectations. It sounds like it has a lot of potential, if only it had been a better planned! I see your point about the Grimnir not necessarily needing a guide. Things like that can detract from the overall plot because it’s something that just doesn’t make sense and leaves you questioning the purpose behind it. Slow beginnings to books are a nightmare too! If you’re struggling to make it even to the halfway point and reading it feels like a chore, it doesn’t bode way for the rest of the book!
    Excellent review, though 🙂 Very balanced! I think it’s great when reviewers back up their criticisms with explanations 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL.. I know right? My title would be something like, Liz The Overseer of All Things XD Or… Liz the Bookslayer or something… hahaha.. but it is cool! Dark and brooding sounds great… 🙂
      Thank you 🙂 I always think certain reviews are hard to write but they really aren’t, they just need more thinking power and attention to get the point across… I know plenty of people liked the book, but… I guess, win some, lose some…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. HEy Liz, I read the book, too and I can see your points. I really thought the struggle between Christianity and the old gods a little old at some point and the first part of the book… I am glad I kept reading but I almost DNF-ed because it was just too slow and I didn’t really see a good plot there because as you said, it doesn’t seem like Grinmir REALLY needed a guide. Thanks for the review! I am so glad I’m not the only one who had some issues with this book. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great review! I seem to be having a high fantasy burn out and every time I see (for me) complicated names my brain starts farting. xD I do like the sound of this one though and there definitely seems to be a lot of good elements in there. I don’t think it would be for me, at least for now, but I’ll keep it on my maybe list for when my brain can handle these kind of books again. 😉 A shame it wasn’t a right fit for you either!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh that sucks this one didn’t work out for you. I’m keeping it on my TBR for the while. The synopsis sounds like something I would like but your review make me think I will be “in the middle” about it: neither love nor hate it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah… I think it’s one of those ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ books for a lot of people… I definitely do not wish to put you off and if fantasy is your thing (which it is) then it would be a shame for you to miss it… after all, you can then say you’ve tried it 🙂 And who knows.. you may completely like it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. The blurb is a bit much in my opinion. I just feel that so much shoukd never be needed to attract the reader? It loses my interest as I feel I may have well just read a chapter haha. But I started having doubts on this one. I had this stinking suspition that this was going to be an uphill read for me after several reviews and I feel as though you have confirmed that. I can appreciate the element of religion at times, but this sounds saturated and slow? Am I way off?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mmm.. yes, defo the blurb is… it’s really just the breakdown of the plot and the rest is ‘strong dialogue’ and action… but… what works for some, doesn’t for others, I guess! 🙂
      You never know, maybe Drew’s upcoming review will manage to sway your opinion of the book again, but… to answer your question… Slow? Yes, for first half but then again not, because things happened… it’s an odd one… Saturated? Yes! I mean… I love a religious spat like any other fellow but this one… eh, probably, more than likely, definitely my personal preference NOT to read all the prayers and it just put me off a bit… it was good I guess to create the contrast in between the Old and New ways but blimey! Essentially, what I think it boiled down to for me, was that it had sooooo much potential and if the book would have had 200 extra pages with more character dev and occurrence of all these fantastical, mythical creatures, then it would have been super duper good!

      Like

  12. This sounds like a story with a lot of interesting things going on, especially with a blurb like that. It’s sad to hear that the character development was lacking and that the action pretty much overruled it. Loved the bit with evil peepz and their soul; had me laughing at that hahaha Excellent review, Liz!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lashaan! 🙂 Heh, I’m glad you got a laugh out of the same thing I did… I felt a bit petulant with the whole religion thing… sometimes, the oddest things cause a blocker and put me off… but anyway, there’s plenty of people who have enjoyed the book and I sure am looking forward to Drew’s review… he’s a big fan of Grimnir the Orc so there’s bound to be some good comments made by him.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. The story in itself sounds interesting, even if some things don’t completely add up (I agree, he wouldn’t have needed a guide >.>). We all know how authors like to come up with ridiculous plot devices to move a story along, and those may or may not work depending on the reader/writing. Some more development wouldn’t have hurt, either.
    I’m not sure what to think about this, honestly… I might give it a go someday.
    Brilliant review, Liz! Made me laugh a bit too ^^

    Like

  14. I’ve just started and already seeing how heavy the religious themes are I’m thinking “can we just kill some more people already?!” I’m kind of obsessed with the Norse mythology and history so I’m hoping that will help me win out and enjoy it! 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

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