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  • The Shadow of the Gods

  • Written by: John Gwynne
  • Narrated by: Colin Mace
  • Length: 18 hrs and 14 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (355 ratings)
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The Shadow of the Gods

Written by: John Gwynne
Narrated by: Colin Mace
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Publisher's Summary

From acclaimed fantasy author John Gwynne comes the first in the Bloodsworn trilogy, an epic of wild lands and wilder magic, where not all monsters fight with tooth and claw...and the treasures of the gods come at a price.

This is the age of storm and murder.

After the old gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrio.

Now, power-hungry jarls carve out petty kingdoms, and monsters stalk the shadow-haunted woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power, promising fame, and fortune for those brave - or desperate - enough to seek them out. 

As whispers of war echo over the plains and across the fjords, fate follows the footsteps of three people: a huntress searching for her missing son, a jarl's daughter who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who has cast off his chains and now fights alongside the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.

All three will shape the fate of the world, as it once more teeters on the edge of chaos.

For more from John Gwynne, check out:

Of Blood and Bone series: A Time of Dread, A Time of Blood, and A Time of Courage

The Faithful and the Fallen series: Malice, Valor, Ruin, and Wrath

©2021 John Gwynne (P)2021 Orbit

What the critics say

"Gwynne, a Viking reenactor, puts in the work, with fine historical details that make the story come to life. Fans of the era will be delighted with the accuracy. This is a duly exciting start to the series." (Publishers Weekly)

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For fans of dark fantasy looking for collections of short stories and epics like Geralt of Rivia in The Witcher, finding a new adventure to get swept up in once again can be challenging. Whether you binge-watched the Netflix series or devoured every incredible book in Andrzej Sapkowski’s series, we’ve compiled a fantastic list of audiobooks that will return you to the world of The Witcher and keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

What listeners say about The Shadow of the Gods

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Gwynne is Gold

John Gwynne never disappoints, and this introduction to his latest series confirms it. Gripping from the first chapters, beautiful world building, with a great pace and a thrilling ending. When you add in a the voice talents of Mr. Mace for this audiobook, it's a home run.

Only listen if you're interested in: fantasy, vikings, exceptional story telling and violence.

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4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

it's pretty good 🤷‍♂️

I feel like an anomaly since everyone else loves it lol
I think the writing is beautifully done, and the dark fantasy is fascinating. However, I personally didn't love the characters or dialogue. I also don't like so many female warrior characters without any "magical" explanation for them. But these are all subjective so others may love all that. (*I only got half way through before losing interest)

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2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

The Very Definition Of "Dark" Fantasy

This tale is subdued, gritty, brutal, and loaded with viscerally-affecting gory imagery. John Gwynne paints a vivid picture of a Norse Myth-inspired grim reality - following three plot threads to establish his imaginative world: 'Orka' - a hardscrabble hunter-scavenger trying to avenge a murdered husband & rescue a kidnapped son; 'Varg' - a thrall (~peasant-slave) training to join the legendary "Bloodsworn" mercenaries; and 'Elvar' - daughter of a "Jarl" (feudal lord) abandoning her birthright to seek glory. Each plotline is delivered capably - if a little overburdened with violent encounter after violent encounter - and does a nice job of exploring interesting characters with interesting motivations.
Unfortunately, the societal myth aspects of the overall story arc (involving ancient battles among the now-absent Gods) are unclear - we have no idea *why* this is all happening; invented languages (too frequently quoted) feed the magic system - nonsense phrases get tiresome pretty quickly; virtually *every* chapter includes a bloody death or a fight with a horrible monster dripping saliva and black ichor - it's unrelenting; and I was frustratingly never captivated by the story - frequently finding my mind wandering.

Likewise unfortunate, the narration from Colin Mace contributes to the "droning" impression that I frequently got from the book (noticing it "playing in the background").
Don't get me wrong.. Mace's performance is actually spot-on: pacing, diction, timbre, cadence, and voice-acting are all exemplary (in fact quite a bit above-average) - but he picks up on Gwynne's dark tone a little bit too well. He reads with such seriousness & severity that the narration comes across as almost monotonously gloomy. I furthermore couldn't immerse myself in the fantasy.. actually unable to maintain concentration.

If you are enamored with GrimDark Fantasy dialed up to 11, 'The Shadow Of The Gods' is well-worth your time. I am not (not really). As it stands, I rate the book 7.5 stars out of 10: good enough to make it an enjoyable distraction for a couple of quiet afternoons, but not good enough to get me to invest in reading further in Gwynne's series.

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2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Addicting and captivating

I could not put it down. The author has created a thrilling story. The voice actor holds your attention and paints the story for you. Amazing pairing.

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1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

In running for best book of the year

11/10 cannot wait for next book.
The narrator is a modern bard.
The story is a well crafted tail in a very unique world. Passion, Violence, Love and War all twisted in to a beautiful masterpiece.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Amazing!

Completely and thoroughly loved this book. I loved the imagination and how the characters were brought to life. As soon as I finished it, I got the second book. Can’t wait until the final book in the series is released. The narrator is perfect for these books.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great book, I can’t wait to read the next!

Its a mix of Viking brutality, magic and adventure. I’m really enjoying the characters and their developing story lines. I’m excited to see how the characters lives intertwine and what will happen next.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

great narrator I loved it

very good. will read the rest if the books in this series. makes me want to play a barbarian in RPGs.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good listen

Excellent narration.
Interesting story .
unexpected twists .
Would recommend to a friend .
Starting the second book asap.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Awesome story

Vivid battles, deep world building. can't wait to dive into the next one. Worth reading.

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  • John
  • 2021-05-31

Not for me

I have heard nothing but gushing reviews for this book, things like "If you like Brandon Sanderson you'll love this book!" but I see zero comparison. Everything I love about Sanderson was missing in this book, especially interesting characters and a protagonist to root for. The three POV characters were all interchangeably boring from a perpetually unhappy mother who became murderously angry searching for her son (understandable but still not interesting) to Varg, a former slave sad-sack who could have been a great POV but just lacked any qualities to be able to empathize for him to finally a another character I have hardly any memory of or care for (nothing happened to her that I can recall).

I'm happy others liked this book, and perhaps the narrator just made the characters sound sad and uninteresting but I could barely finish this book (I hate to DNF) and ultimately I will not continue. Also, I hope to never hear the term "thought cage" again!

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40 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • George Palm
  • 2021-05-10

Amazing book with an unamazing narrator

The book is amazing, the story is enthralling, and the narrator was the only thing detracting from the book.

Seriously, his voice wasn't great, he constantly mispronounced words, and his characters weren't distinguished from one another even if the writing was. I'd pay to have someone else read this book tbh.

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32 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Virate190
  • 2021-07-07

Excellent Hidden Gem

Ive become a bit conservative with my book choices recently, cause when i take a chance on a book without a large preexisting fan base i usually regret it. This time I don't.

The worldbuilding is excellent and original, with a cool blend of high magic and gritty historical realism that work together surprisingly well. The story is interesting, and each of the characters has a few secrets that we get to tease out as we go. The narrator was excellent, although be warned that hed sometimes skip right over natural pauses in both internal and external dialogue--a habit which could be jarring--and his character voices could blend together sometimes. All in all, really impressive work.

If i have a criticism for the story, its that at times the MCs feel a little one dimensional and predictable. Id like to see them grow a bit more as people over the course of the book, maybe have a few more moments of inner conflict where the inevitable choice isnt so clearly obvious. Otherwise it was an absolute gem, and im probably going to reread it more than once. When all is said and done thats really the highest compliment i can give.

TLDR: This book is excellent and i do not at all regret spending my credit.

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16 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • stephen
  • 2021-05-27

Nordic Inspired Fantasy

John Gwynne is one of my favorite authors. John writes Epic Fantasy that will remind you of David Eddings, Robert Jordan and Robin Hobb. Colin Mace is brilliant performing this novel which uses 3 POVs to spin the tale. I could listen to Colin Mace performance for hours at a time. Definitely one of my favorite narrator as this is the third series I have listed to that Colin has been the performer. If you want to experience one of the best marriage between author and narrator check out this new series.

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15 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Kevin W.
  • 2021-11-12

Boring, Doesn’t Seem to Really Go Anywhere

None of the POV storylines are very interesting or compelling. To say this story is slow paced is an overwhelming understatement. The author seems to want to portray things in gritty realism, which is usually good in a novel. However, he then fells the need to inject SJW politics into this realism, which denuded it. The strongest warrior who became Jarl of course is a woman. The best warrior in the war band is again a woman. And there are other examples. It is perfectly fine to have women in leadership roles, but not through masculine traits, especially masculine warrior traits. When good authors portray women in leadership roles, their power is derived through lineage or magic or some other source that is realistic— with respect to the story at least—to their roles. I will agree with other reviewers who stated that because of the numerous names and terms the story may be better read than listen to; however, reading it will not remove the boring slow pace aspect of the story. And if I had read this book instead of listening to it I would have more than likely given up after the fourth or fifth chapter instead of making it to chapter 11. I have to disagree with other reviewers who have complained about the narrator. I find him to be above average, not as good as Roy Dotrice or Steven Band, but better than many others.

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10 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 2021-07-31

Great story, odd performance

This was a great story 10/10! And very excited for the next one! It was a refreshing new world that felt alien and exciting compared to a lot of fantasy I have read. Great work! My only criticism is I would have liked a little more exhibition and a few more slow moments for the reader to get their bearings in this violent world.

The reader made odd pauses in strange places in sentences. While I felt like the pronunciation on was on point, the voice was so monotone that it made it hard to tell who was speaking and from what perspective. It honestly made the book a lot harder to understand.

I plan to buy a version I can read to myself because I feel like I would enjoy it much much more! I recommend this if you don’t mind a performance that feels a little rushed. Otherwise read it with your eyes at some point.

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8 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Perry Taliaferro
  • 2021-09-06

My first, but not my last, John Gwynne book

I had never read John Gwynne prior to this title ... hell I had honestly never heard of him (to my shame), but wow, I am certainly glad I took a chance on this book. Sure, the main reason I did "take that chance" was due to the amount of positive reviews, but come on ... the cover? that fantastic cover is what originally piqued my interest, pulled me in and virtually forced me to listen to the 5 minute "sample". Yeah, hooked me from there.
But hey, an exciting cover rarely means an exciting read/listen, but trust me, this puppy is just as intriguing on the inside as it is on the outside. What you have here is not only a captivating story, but a captivating story with great narration as well. Really fits the tone of this book.
Well, that's all I have really, so I will close by quickly adding that I am now off to spend more Audible credits on more John Gwynne books!

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5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Revelle Shedrick
  • 2022-05-18

Slow to start and whispering narrator

The story is painfully slow to start. There’s lots of terminology that no one would know that’s never explained, or explained very late in the book. Eventually it picks up and the end makes you want to know what happens next. The narrator is okay. Greg voice but there is 0 excitement or animation to it, and anytime a character is speaking he whispers. People don’t talk like that. Overall I don’t think it was a waist of time, but it could have been better with a different narrator and more explanations of unknown terminology.

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3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • David Sprouse
  • 2022-05-14

absolutely amazing

John Gwynne is my new favorite author, by a long shot. I highly recommend his other 2 series as well

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3 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 2022-01-28

Non-stop Norse themed Jason Bourne murder fest

Absolutely exhausting book. I was intrigued at first but ultimately never hooked because there wasnt a chance to empathize or build a relationship with anyone.

This story centers on 3 uber fighter POVs on quests to avenge loved ones or something. Everyone around them is only there to kill or die, with more than enough gore to numb the reader quickly.

Everyone has a name but there's no characterization so it's an endless stream of surprise murders and and expected killing to the point I was completely numb and ultimately quite confused because theres no distinction between anything or anyone. Just dying.

The world is kind of cool but so brutal I'm confused how humans could actually survive in such a place.

I'm disappointed. Cool premise, but ultimately that sick book cover was the best part.

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3 people found this helpful