To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcnéas; 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.
Author: Scott Oden
Publisher: Transworld Digital
Release Date: 29/06/17
My Chosen Format: Paperback
My Rating of ‘A Gathering of Ravens’: 4 out of 5
I received this book in return for an honest review.
I had been excited to read ‘A Gathering of Ravens’ for months. When the chance to get my hands on it as an ARC came about, I nearly bit the publisher’s hand off to get my mitts on it.
At first, I thought the book started off really well. I was immediately sucked into the simple yet daunting task our protagonists had of bringing the word of Jesus Christ to savage Danes. The first few chapters had me hooked, the world was immersive and felt very real. The author did such a fine job that I could almost hear the wind and rain lashing at the Danish countryside. I felt the promise of non-stop action told at a fast pace loomed tantalisingly ahead. After getting past those chapters I felt a tad let down. The tale seemed to slow from the pace I expected and it almost felt like the author was trying too hard in certain places as far as the fights and gore etc … went. In fact, at some points, it felt a little too fantastical.
This feeling of unenthusiastic reading persisted for large parts of the first half of the book. It was broken up with smatterings of intrigue and great interest but it still lingered. I just felt like I was plodding along on a bit of a slow-burn. I then thought of Stephen King and how ALL of his books are like that. A slow-burn often leads to a dazzling pace in the latter half of the book. So I placed my faith in this thought and this thought alone.
And my faith was well-founded and duly rewarded.
Grimnir started off as a bit of a one-dimensional savage. In fairness, that’s about the only way he could have been painted to begin with. He is, after all, the last of his people (an orc of a type, no less!) and has been living in seclusion with nought but his burning rage for the vengeance of his slain brother to keep him company through the long centuries of his life.
He develops throughout the book into one of the more interesting characters I have experienced in my time as a reader (and as an author). His character development is, obviously, a slow-moving thing, but it has to be. He has centuries of isolation and bitterness to overcome! His little Christian captive, Etain, whom is his chief target for enjoyment as far as ridicule goes (blasted hymn-singer, kneeler, worshipper of the Nailed God etc …) feels somewhat surplus to requirements as far as much of the first part of the book goes. I genuinely felt that she was simply there so that the author had a human viewpoint rather than the very alien viewpoint of Grimnir.
My opinion changed when the second half of the book loomed. She fast became the catalyst for Grimnir’s shift in personality. His character development would not have happened had he not had his little hymn-singer by his side, doling out unwanted Christian teachings whenever he wanted to simply smash or kill his way through the next obstacle.
The second half of the book certainly made me re-think my opinions on the first and had me smiling at the cleverness of it all. On the face of it, ‘A Gathering of Ravens’ is an epic Norse, Irish and English historical fiction with a HEAVY fantasy/myth undertone to it. But, on top of that, and perhaps more so than that, it is the tale of the revenge and almost rebirth of Grimnir. Throughout the whole work I just found myself enjoying his metamorphosis from who he was when he began his journey of revenge upon Bjarki Half-Dane (his brother’s murderer) and who he became after his saga had ended.
I look forward to future works by Scott Oden and, with how A Gathering of Ravens ended, I wonder if we will see future adventures or, at the very least, future mention of Grimnir.
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