Book Reviews

A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden Book Review

hell yeah Review

  • A Gathering of Ravens.
  • Scott Oden.
  • 337 pages.
  • Fantasy / Historical / Historical Fantasy / Dark Fantasy  / Fiction.
  • My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.

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Book Blurb:

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?


blog tour

Firstly, before the review, we shall get the formalities out the way. Faugh! Formalities! This is the last stop on The A Gathering of Ravens Blog Tour, many thanks to all those involved before me, the other awesome blogs, those who organised the tour and of course, Scott Oden for writing the book!

I’d read the book and wrote my review for the book over a month ago and I have been eagerly awaiting the chance to post it. I hope that I can give Grimnir a decent last tour stop and that he won’t come after me for revenge!


Book Review:

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


“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.”

Meet Grimnir, loveable, kind, caring, eloquent, polite, well mannered, sociable and pacifist cuddle bunny.

Faugh! Meet Grimnir, snarky, foul-mouthed, bad-tempered, mean, vile, obstinate, brutal, loner, all around badass, your new favourite anti-hero and a fucking awesome character!

You know by now that whenever possible I avoid spoilers or detailed analysis of the story in my reviews and in this case, I think that the blurb does a great job of outlying the overall story for you anyway.

Clocking in at 337 pages in length, A Gathering of Ravens is a short book but it is brilliantly paced, short, sharp chapters keep the story ever moving forward and there’s no wasted words or scenes cluttering up the narrative. Everything written has a point and helps to propel the story onwards building to the inevitable climax and Grimnir’s chance to enact his revenge.

“Witch, I think you’ve been mounted more often than Odin’s favourite mare.”

The writing found in A Gathering of Ravens is high quality, the characters, emotion, humour and the locations used in the book are all brought to life with the descriptive fast paced writing of Oden.

“We are all born, and we all die – be it from age and illness, like your people, or from battle, like mine. Everything between is what you make of it,” Grimnir said.

The world building is excellent, the mixture of Norse, Dane and Irish mythology all woven together works really well set against the backdrop of the historical medieval Europe setting.

The magic used is subtle and the Norse myths, standing stones, spirits, wights, witches and familiars that are encountered all feel organic to the story.

Another stellar aspect of the book is that of religion. The old Pagan ways of magic, creatures and Gods are dying out, being poisoned, forgotten and replaced by the new faith in Christianity and The Nailed God. This is where Oden pulls a genius masterstroke, by giving Grimnir a companion, pairing him with the devout young Christian Etain for a large part of the story. Taking what would otherwise have been a very solitary journey for Grimnir and turning it into something far more. Yes, a journey towards the end goal of revenge for Grimnir but also a journey of self-discovery for the pair.

During the arduous journey, encompassing Denmark, Ygdrassil, England and finally Ireland we are shown their two opposing and conflicting views of the world. Both are stubborn, set firm in their beliefs and ways. Grimnir with the old ways, Etain with the new and throughout the events that take place on their travels together, self-discovery, reluctant respect and admiration grows between the two.

Grimnir’s tale is a gory one, it’s a blood-soaked tale of revenge. He’s out to settle a centuries old score and there’s plenty of fighting that takes place throughout A Gathering of Ravens to back up his quest for vengeance. From one on one fights to full-scale battles and Oden writes them all brilliantly, you really get a feel for Grimnir’s savagery and the wicked glee that he takes in combat.

I really liked Etain as a character, she gets dragged along on Grimnir’s journey and is often the perfect foil for him. Also, Bjarki Half-Dane the object of Grimnir’s revenge. But at its core, A Gathering of Ravens is Grimnir’s tale and as such, he is the focal point of the story and what a character to base the book around!

Grimnir is not your stereotypical protagonist, far from it, usually an orc set on gaining vengeance would be the antagonist, the bad guy in the tale, but he’s not and Oden, thanks to his characterization manages to turn him from someone you should despise into someone you can’t help but like and root for. While not overly complex (sometimes you don’t want or need a complicated character in a story, just a badass who isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty, to shed blood and get the job done) he really is an ingenious creation.

A Gathering of Ravens was a book that I’d been eagerly anticipating since the beginning of the year. After subsequently reading both good and bad things about the book, suffice to say, my anticipation had been slightly tempered and that my expectations upon starting were rather mixed. Now, after finishing, I can safely say that those fears were unfounded and that I fucking loved everything about A Gathering of Ravens. Grimnir, the rest of the characters, the writing, the world building, the story being told and I personally, cannot find anything to pick fault over.

With the perfect blend of mythology and fantasy, A Gathering of Ravens is an outstanding read and sure to be one of the books of the year.


Purchase A Gathering of Ravens:

Amazon UK  /  Amazon US  /  The Book Depository


About Scott Oden:

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Scott Oden was born in Indiana, but has spent most of his life shuffling between his home in rural North Alabama, a Hobbit hole in Middle-earth, and some sketchy tavern in the Hyborian Age. He is an avid reader of fantasy and ancient history, a collector of swords, and a player of tabletop role-playing games. When not writing, he can be found walking his two dogs or doting over his lovely wife, Shannon.

Oden’s previous works include the historical fantasy, The Lion of Cairo, and two historical novels, Men of Bronze and Memnon. He is currently working on his next novel.

 


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42 thoughts on “A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden Book Review

  1. So, you liked it, then? It’s hard to tell with such lukewarm reviews . . . 😀

    THANK YOU for the awesome review, Drew! I’m moderately surprised at the response Grimnir’s gotten. Years ago, when I started writing this one, a friend of mine threw down he gauntlet: “There’s NO WAY you can drop an Orc into history and it still be believable!” Now, I don’t know if he was just practicing a bit of reverse psychology or not, but I snatched up that gauntlet and ran with it. My editor at St. Martin’s just sort of shook his head and said, “what the hell.” If I was adamant about doing his, he said, then “it’s going to rise or fall on world-building. And you need to make your protagonist more sympathetic.”

    I embraced the former and ignored the latter. And I’m sure at some point he slammed his head into his desk and bemoaned the inclusion of songs and a whole section in Norse verse 🙂

    But, I ramble. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for taking part in the tour. If your readers have questions, I’ll pop around at different times, today, and answer them as I can!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I did love it and it’s a pleasure!

      Worked out well with the publicist forgetting I wanted to be part of the tour, sigh, as the book got a glowing review to end on! Really did enjoy everything about it, been a book I’d been eager to read since the beginning of the year after seeing it on James (Mighty Thor) blog and it was just as good as expected.

      Will look forward to future works.😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review Drew. Stoked for you for liking the book so much and you definitely sell it well. Maybe if I had read your review before reading the book, I would have interpreted in a different way, what with expectations, etc. 🙂
    I still like Grimnir but for me, it lacked something… Again- fabulous review and a banging end to the tour that is for sure! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you and yeah, I absolutely loved the book, as did lots of others. But I understood your points with it and it’s a book that divides opinion anyway, lots love it, some have issues with it and then some hated it.

      We’re all different and a review is only our opinion, at the end of the day offering our thoughts on our little space of the vast world wide web.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know . . . I’ve read some YA that made my hair stand up 🙂 I think it’s perfect for all ages, but I also started reading REH’s Conan of Cimmeria at the age of 10, so I might be skewed a bit.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Lots of covers with Ravens on! Lol I’m not being mean when I say books are ‘to dark’ for you. That post I wrote about reviewing in genres you don’t read was written because Y-A fans had been hating on grimdark for its language, violence and grimness, all the things that make adult fantasy adult. Though Y-A fans hate on each other too anyway! I’d say give it a go but be open minded that it’s going to be darker and more mature than what you normally read as it’s an adult book not Y-A.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t mean that!!! Sorry, I wasn’t implying anything like that! 😦 All I meant was that those people hated on certain books for including staples of the genre, you read the post, all I meant was it was unfair of them to hate on a book for including things specific to that genre as it would be like me hating on Smut books for including smut!!!! Obviously someone who reads mainly Y-A is going to find a grimdark or adult fantasy book darker, more violent and grittier because they are but those people hated on books for that when they would haveknown what they were requesting, I wasn’t implying anything about you Stephy, sorry. 😦

        Like

  3. Oh this has been on my list! And now I see why. Such stellar reviews from you all 🙂 Grimnir sounds like a new fictional character love haha. I am so a sucker for anti heros ❤ Yeah, I totally dropped a heart on here haha. Throw in mixed elements of mythology and pagan religion and you might as well take my money! I have encountered a few stories that incorporate the impact of Christianity on old Pagan beliefs and always find it to be fascinating. Fantastic review Drew 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I loved the book and can’t fault it. I read it end of May/beginning of June and I’d had my review written for over a month, plenty of time to change it and my thoughts but no, I still think it’s as great now as when I finished it.

      Lots of other bloggers love it too and others had some issues with it but still found some enjoyment, Liz for example.

      I found everything to be bang on though I love mythology and fantasy so combining the two together = winning. Grimnir is an Orc on a revenge tale, you don’t expect much characterisation in a revenge tale but Grimnir does grow, thanks to Etain who grows thanks to Grimnir and he’s a great character. I also loved the religious aspect, guess that’s weird for me! But I like religion in fantasy books it adds to the world building so seeing Christianity and Norse was great.

      I can fully understand people’s issues with the book, after all a review is only our own thoughts and opinion, and everyone is different but for me, loved it, top read.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Okay, two things:
    1) “Meet Grimnir, loveable, kind, caring, eloquent, polite, well mannered, sociable and pacifist cuddle bunny.” This confused me so much because I really couldn’t imagine YOU reading a book with such a character involved!
    2) 337 pages is so short for a fantasy novel! Fantasy usually intimidates me because of the 1000 plus page tomes the books usually are 😛
    Awesome review! It sounds like a great book, especially with the mythology and Pagan religion elements 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I certainly enjoyed the book.

      Ha! I thought that description was cool especially as I wrote the real one underneath, just something a bit different and fun. Though, who’s to say I wouldn’t read a book with a character like that!😂

      Hhhmm……you’ve read Kings of the Wyld it is no where near 1,000 pages Jazztin! But you have a point as most fantasy does seem to be between the 800 – 1,000+ page mark and yeah, I’ll admit a book that long cam be intimidating, even if you love it it takes ages to read and if you’re not enjoying it it takes forever!😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I imagine hell would freeze over before you did 😛
        That was precisely WHY I decided to read Kings of the Wyld. I’d been wanting to dip my toes into the fantasy ocean for aaaaaaages and that seemed like the perfect place to start. I’m painfully aware of how slow I am at reading so if I read the 1000 plus pages fantasy novels, you guys would be waiting a couple of months for a review 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m currently trying to read a book by a guy called Charles Bukowski and you could actually use it as a weapon it’s that big. Been reading it for two weeks and still only forty pages in 😂

        Liked by 1 person

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