In case you didn’t read last week’s review on ‘The Shadow of the Gods’, here’s a quick TL;DR: Norse-inspired fantasy trilogy, excellent first book, go read it if you love weird monsters, violence, and rounded characters. Got all that? Good.
And once again I’m going to misspell everything because I’m a dummy dumb-dumb, I’m so sorry John Gwynne.
As soon as I finished the first book in the Bloodsworn trilogy, I fell into a dilemma: did I wait for the third book to drop so I didn’t have to live with a cliffhanger for a year or more, or do I suck it up and go straight into book two? You can probably guess by the mere fact that this article exists what my choice was.
It has only been a few months but the wait is already killing me.
The Hunger of the Gods picks up right where the first book left off. After a brief reunion with her old family in the Bloodsworn, Orca and her companions continue their quest to find and rescue her son, Breka. Now a fully-fledged member of the Bloodsworn, Varg devotes himself fully to claiming revenge on those who killed his friend and kidnapped the only woman who could lead him to his sister’s killer. Having survived the revival of the Dragon god, Elvar and the Battlegrim make a desperate move and revive Ulfrier, the Wolf god, to fight her. Meanwhile, Beorn struggles with separating his fake life from his real one while living under the Dragon god’s terror. And finally, the cowardly Gudvarr finds himself in over his head as he steps into the world’s political scene.
One of my largest critiques about the first book was that we didn’t get much time with the antagonists to learn about them as we do the protagonists. Luckily, that problem is addressed in this book, as two of our major antagonists, Beorn and Gudvarr, have now become perspective characters! Beorn’s chapters allow for greater insight into those villains that remained hidden in shadow, along with the big-bad of the series, all through the eyes of someone who only half agrees with what they’re doing. And Gudvarr is so cowardly and pathetic, not to mention petulant and spiteful, that you can’t help but enjoy it every time something bad happens to him.
Which is a lot. Gudvarr (rightfully) can’t catch a break.
As for our returning characters, their stories are… good. I wouldn’t say they’re as exceptional as the first book, but they’re still solid. Orca’s plot is great, as she gets some great new side characters to give her a fun little group dynamic. Varg is as likable as he was before and I still love the Bloodsworn as a group to death, but Varg himself doesn’t really get much of a character arc in this book beyond learning how to shave and maybe being in love with another member of the crew. Elvar gets the most character development, and she gets a cool badass Wolf god as a companion, but most of her chapters are just too uneventful to get me hooked; for fuck’s sake, there’s a whole chapter that’s just Elvar and her crew going up a flight of stairs, and nothing else. Still, despite my complaints, I did enjoy all three of their plots.
We’re also treated to yet more worldbuilding! Some of it delves into the fantasy, further defining the magic system and introducing yet more horrific monstrosities that make me want to vomit (this is not a world that I would want to live in, make no mistake). Most of it, however, is dedicated to the political structure of the world. How the slave trade works, how the Tainted get by, how politics works among the Jarls and the Kings and Queens. It’s all fairly interesting and it all comes into play for the finale.
Speaking of which: good god this ending took me for a turn! The final few chapters completely subverted my expectations in an extremely clever way; looking back, the twist made perfect sense, yet it was hidden just well enough that it kept me guessing right up until the end. And to top it all off, we got one hell of a cliffhanger that left me frothing at the mouth for more. All around an excellent ending.
Have I mentioned how painful the wait for book three is yet?
Overall, I love ‘The Hunger of the Gods’. It’s an excellent follow-up to the first book that sets the stage for the third brilliantly. If you haven’t checked this series out, you’re doing yourself a disservice. This is one of the strongest running fantasy series out there right now and it deserves your attention.
I’ve sat here trying to come up with some clever closing paragraph for about ten minutes now. I’ve got nothing. Read the Bloodsworn trilogy. Like, right now. Get out of here.