Well hello there, dear reader. Welcome to my newest book review! This time around, I’m giving you the highs and lows of the dark fantasy novel In The Shadow Of The Gods. It’s the first in The Bound Gods series from Rachel Dunne. Additionally, it’s her debut novel from what I understand. I guess if you’re going to break out onto the book scene you should definitely do it with a badass book. Because trust me, she certainly did.
While it’s not flawless, it was an absolute joy to consume. I use the word consume because I couldn’t put the blasted thing down! Every time I made an effort to do something else, another plot hook popped up and reeled me back in. Sorry for the fishing metaphor there, but it summed up my feelings succinctly. In my years managing bookstores, I have read quite a few novels from budding authors, some good and some not so good. Few however, have had the same depth of characters as this one. I didn’t like every person in the book, but I was absolutely drawn in and ensnared with their personalities. But I’ll cover some of them in due time. Suffice to say that I found the book intriguing and well written.
Now, on to the review!
Imagine, if you will, a world where the gods are related in some ethereal way. I imagined it was quite like the Norse mythos, personally. The primary two gods, called The Parents, have removed their children from the realm of man. These children, called The Twins, are trapped beneath the surface and kept from mankind. To the followers of The Parents, this is done to protect the world from the evil that The Twins represent. In order to keep the younger gods from being reborn, it is the habit of nearly every person on the world of Fiatera to kill any human-born twins at birth. For hundreds of years this practice is followed, children are murdered as quickly as possible. All for fear of what might be.
But opposing this are the priests and followers of The Twins, bent on seeing a resurrection of the banished deities. If the legends are true, then they will need twins of man to be the avatars of their fallen gods. Toiling from within their mountain home, these men and women wait patiently for their chance, biding their time until the Fallen become the reborn. Among these is Joros, a seeker and a priest who wants, above all else, what is best for himself. However, he’s not adverse to murder and manipulation. For all his faults, though, he is mostly straightforward and adheres to his own sense of morality.
While the world seems divided into followers of each sect, there exists a multitude of people who simply seek survival. Two such people are the sister and brother duo of Rora and Aro. Rora is strong, cunning, and shrewd. She keeps her brother Aro safe, though they live on the edge of hunger and death constantly. Turning unfortunate circumstances into profitable ones, Rora manipulates adults and older street urchins (called Biggers) alike. But she harbors a secret, one that could see them both slain out of hand if discovered. These two are my favorites, so well-developed that you actually feel as if you know them personally.
A third story is intertwined with these others. The tale is of Scal, a Northern boy who is found wandering and finds himself being raised in a prison camp, high in the mountains. Solitary at first, he eventually befriends a few of the denizens of this desolate area. But when the devastation of war takes these friends from him, he is captured by Northmen who seek to indoctrinate back into their society in the cruelest of ways. It is his story that I found the most interesting, especially since details of his early life are few and far between.
Other characters like the priest Kiero, the scar faced Vatri, and the enslaved mage Anddyr round out the primary cast. Each has their own story, but these made less of an impact then the ones I mentioned previously. The book begins as multiple stories, eventually intersecting and binding them into one cohesive tale. Simplistic at times, the book emphasizes the differences in the gods and their followers. Focus is given to the concept of twins becoming the reborn gods, especially when older ones are discovered or young ones are nurtured.
This novel is, most obviously, the first of many books to come. There is a rich environment that has yet to be fully explored or explained. With that thought in mind, you can see the shaping of the major plot quite easily. But the path seems elusive, even impossible at times. Dunne brings a lot to the table with her introductory story, her fresh approach to world building is reminiscent of Raymond E. Fiest’s Midkemia. Bringing only enough out to further the story keeps the mystery alive and open for another time.
Grab this when you get the chance. Knowing it’s her first novel shouldn’t deter you, it should thrill you. Her passion for her work is evident in every chapter, as she layers in hope and despair equally. I’ll be looking for book two, just as I’m sure you will if you choose to explore this new world Rachel Dunne has provided us. Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your opinions of the book in the comments!