Book Review: A Gathering of Ravens

A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden

To 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?

I am a sucker for any story with folklore or myths. There is something about these kind off stories that is alluring, every myth is based on some sort of truth. A Gathering of Ravens in particular focuses on a Norse myth and my last encounter with them was over two years ago in the Valhalla series by Snorri Kristjansson. Good stuff. Anyway, I am was not familiar with the Scott Oden, so I did not know what to expect. But this book got my from page one. 

A Gathering of Ravens takes place in three different areas: Denmark, Scotland and Ireland, in the time of the great age of Vikings. Early on in the story you already get to meet the protagonist of the story Grimnir, who by the way goes through the history books with many different names, none of them put him in a very good picture. He is the harbinger. Grimnir has set out with a task. To avenge the death of his brother. Starting of his journey in Denmark he takes a young girl hostage to make the navigation easier. From there they travel towards Britain, because that is where the Dane who killed his brother is hiding. Along the way Grimnir is placed in his own set of challenges, if you can call them that seeing his sort of status through the history books. The main aspect of the story if Grimnirs' travel for seeking revenge, for that manner I will not into detail of what occurs on that journey. 

When you look at Grimnirs' character his is short from brilliant. He is an orc, grumpy, to-the-point, does not mind killing if it cuts down on having to small talk and did I mention out for revenge already? He isn't the person you want to meet in a dark alley. Even with friends, your no match. In all the actions that Grimnir shows there is ruthlessness. As is said he likes his seax. His hard actions and vision of the world is all balanced out by the girl that he "frees" or takes hostage depending on which perspective you share, the girl is called Etain and strongly believes in the way of the christians. There is your first contradiction in believes. Etain works very well in the book. She is not just some pushover girl, but firmly stands her ground and her believes, she even goes as far as sometimes trying to teach Grimnir. 

The way that A Gathering of Ravens is written helps to bring the mythological feeling to the front. You cannot create a flowing story by just merely giving a concept. There needs to be a definite flow through the story and this is what Scott Oden creates with his writing style. He keeps true to how he pictures the characters, keeping there dialogues just as short or elaborate as needed. As well as snappy and snide remarks. The battles scenes are just as remarkable, plotted out in detail with every slash of a sword or swing with a club. Remarkable. 

A Gathering of Ravens is definitely a book not to be missed. From the brutal showing of Grimnir to the delicateness of Etain it's a perfect tale of love, hate, revenge and brutal action. Though A Gathering of Ravens has a heavy focus on mythology and folklore, it is a story that everyone will like and keep in their fantasy minds for a long time. 


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