Review: A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden

Publisher: St. Martins

Publishing Date: June 2017

ISBN: 9780312372941

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.0/5

Publishers Description: 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.

Review: I am ready for the sycophantic backlash that will soon follow this review. Loins girded and hassock tight as I ply the lanes of verbiage. Nice cover art though.

So…..what is with all the 5 star reviews and none of a lesser? I read that the world building was “Epic!”, “Setting is historically accurate”, “Intricate plot” and “A blending of deep myths and ancient tales”. Fact, myth or folklore? To me this was a fantasy novel drawing on mythos and a surmised historical interaction between people that may or may not have existed in reality or interacted at all.

The characters were the main failing of this novel, which is just about the entirety of it. They just never seemed to grow along with the movement. Take Grimnir for instance. 1,000 year old skraeling killer dude that wends his way through the novel expounding his perspectives as if reading from a LARPing minstrels script. “Faugghh! You piece of Danish Filth will tremble to the marrow as my blood encrusted black clawed-fingers tear out your bleating hymn singing hearts that I roast on fires that sprang from Yggdrasil”. Every time Grimnir (One of Odin’s names) talks, he orates in high-handed heathen fashion, and oh does it wear painfully thin after awhile. Etain also fails to animate the story line as she is constantly dismissing the reality that surrounds her or too quickly forgiving transgressions like murder and torture. 

The name skraeling (as associated with Grimnir as an ancient evil warrior race), was in reality what the 13th century norse named the Greenland Inuits and 11th century North American natives.  While the novel is creative in that it borrows heavily from myth and wraps that myth into history, I found myself flipping through a lot of pages where the dialogue drowned the story line in static exchanges. In the end, the plot was predicated on revenge which is not intricate but rather an easy way to create a salable novel. 



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