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3.57  ·  Rating Details  ·  501 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
In a land where gods walk on the hills and goddesses rise from river, lake, and spring, the caravan-guard Holla-Sayan, escaping the bloody conquest of a lakeside town, stops to help an abandoned child and a dying dog. The girl, though, is the incarnation of Attalissa, goddess of Lissavakail, and the dog a shape-changing guardian spirit whose origins have been forgotten. Po ...more
Paperback, 547 pages
Published September 20th 2011 by Pyr (first published January 1st 2011)
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Shadowheart by James BarclayThe Leopard by K.V. JohansenBlackdog by K.V. JohansenAvenger by Richard  BakerTowers of Midnight by Robert Jordan
Raymond Swanland
3rd out of 15 books — 1 voter
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodAnne of Green Gables by L.M. MontgomeryThe English Patient by Michael OndaatjeAnne of the Island by L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
Great Canadian Books
55th out of 81 books — 20 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,618)
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May 26, 2014 seak rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-review, 2014
I've spent a good amount of time on online fantasy forums (you know, with all my free time) where I can geek out about fantasy books and authors and discuss the important questions like who would win in a fight, Ser Loras Tyrell or Aragorn (Sorry Loras, Elf training wins!). Be it sffworld (where I found Goodreads actually), r/fantasy on reddit, or a number of other places such as blogs.

Often, they are filled with jaded readers who've read all the traditional stuff, and they're always looking fo
Jared Millet
I appreciate an author who isn't afraid to be cruel to her characters. Even more, I appreciate an author able to create a fresh, memorable fantasy setting without following the current fads of the market (urban/steampunk/etc). Most of all, the blessings of the Old Great Gods themselves on K.V. Johansen for telling her story in a single, complete volume as opposed to the standard 7-book epic we've come to expect.

The story is simple: bad guy drives good guys from home, good guys go on a journey of
Aug 29, 2011 Justin rated it really liked it

My wife and daughter were out of town this past week so I took the opportunity to really plow through some of my to read pile backlog. K.V. Johansen’s Blackdogcoming out this September is hard to justify as "backlog", but it's a title that’s called to me from the first time I laid eyes on it. The cover is another one from Raymond Swanland who has done such good work for James Barclay, Glen Cook, and others. His covers always contain such tangible motion an
Jun 26, 2015 Allison rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtq
This is going right into the list of my ten favorite fantasy books.

First of all, the setting and mythology are GORGEOUS and AWESOME and INTERESTING. Mostly the vibe was Central Asian steppes/desert, with some Northern European and Baltic flavors. I love books with tons of gods and spirits and demons, and I love books with gods interacting with humans, so basically I LOVED THIS BOOK.

I fully enjoyed all the povs, from Attalissa and Holla-Sayan to Ivah, the daughter of the novel's ~big bad~, Tamg
Chris King Elfland's 2nd Cousin
Sep 09, 2011 Chris King Elfland's 2nd Cousin rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Epic Fantasy Fans
NOTE: This review first appeared at The King of Elfland's 2nd Cousin . If you enjoy this review, please stop by!

It is tough to write an epic fantasy that adheres to the sub-genre's conventions while still offering something new and innovative. Different authors use different techniques: Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn: The Final Empire subverts the idea that the hero always wins, Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon expands the scope of epic fantasy (see my earlier review), and N.K. Jemisin's
Nov 16, 2012 Anuj rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 14, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
While I rarely mention cover art in a review, I feel like the cover art of Blackdog particularly supports the book. It’s artistic, ethereal and mysterious without being over-the-top. It causes potential readers to wonder what it’s all about, setting the perfect tone and attitude before the reader even cracks the spine and Johansen carries that through to the last page. Everything about Blackdog is measured, deep, planned and thought out. An incredible world and wonderful characters are created i ...more
Jan 25, 2012 Chris rated it did not like it
I like the story idea and the main characters but the author gets bogged down in character details (pages of writing that gets boring/repetitious). I think it would be better as a shorter novel so the pacing would keep me more intersted. I unfortunately did not finish this book. I will try K. V. Johansen's short story collection though.
Charlie Holmberg
Oct 25, 2011 Charlie Holmberg rated it really liked it
Overall, I loved this book. The characters were fantastic, the setting excellent, the plot fluid and the prose beautiful. The ideas behind the story are very original, and I love that in a fantasy.

The story starts when a wizard named Tamghat attacks the temple of mortal-born goddess Attalissa, who is only eight years old and hasn't come into her powers yet. She's protected by a demon called Blackdog, who has possessed the bodies of different male hosts over the millennia, always at her side. Tam
Kelly Flanagan
Feb 20, 2014 Kelly Flanagan rated it it was amazing
Gods are becoming an approachable subject for books more and more. I'm glad, for out of those came Blackdog. Blackdog is the name of a spirit that inhabits a man's body in order to be a guardian of Attalissa, goddess of Lissavakail. Attalissa has for many lifetimes, reincarnated in a human body, much like the Dali Lama. Inn this world the old mighty Gods have been fought and have backed away from humanity either by choice or by force. to keep some connection there are smaller Gods, gods of sprin ...more
Jay Requard
So after a couple of months away from this beauty, I have come to appreciate Johansen's work more and more when I think about it. The stylistic blend of stream of consciousness and third limited lend itself very well to the characters she has built in this East Asian Steppes-world of truly high magic and blindingly smart action. From top to bottom, the characters breath on their own, which is something very hard to do when one considers how many different POV characters there are in this book. G ...more
Mar 19, 2013 Clawfoot rated it it was amazing
I tend to read a lot of epic fantasy, and I do have to wade through a lot of chaff to find the wheat. This book was recommended to me because it was a rarity: an epic fantasy that was a stand-alone story, and not "part one of eight." Don't get me wrong: I love multi-volume series, but it's really refreshing to read a book that's just a self-contained story.

The world is rich and interesting, and the characters consistently engaging, and the plot although simple (man gains great power; challenges
Tommy Carlson
Dec 31, 2013 Tommy Carlson rated it it was ok
Like pretty much everyone else who read this, I picked it up because it was billed as an epic tale in a single book. Like most other folks, I found it lacking in terms of storytelling and characterization, which may well be unavoidable in a single-book epic tale.

There are some interesting ideas here, particularly regarding the world's gods, but the plotting lags. Midway through the book, I really had to push myself to finish. It wasn't bad, but it just wasn't holding my interest. I did push on,
Ingrid Seymour
Feb 17, 2012 Ingrid Seymour rated it really liked it
Epic? Intricate? Rich? Yes, Yes, Yes

Long? Certainly . . . but if you stick with it you won’t be disappointed.

Not the traditional type of fantasy. So if you’re looking for something different. Something found in the slush pile which actually caught someone’s attention because it stood out from the rest, then give this a try.

My only complaints: I wish Atalissa had kicked butt a little more, a little earlier. And maybe it could have been a few pages shorter with less exposition.

But as a whole, I e
Jeff Doten

Sadly, I'm done, I really tried. At something like 550 pages and a protagonist that I haven't seen for over 200 pages, the writer owes me my money and time back. Its more like a series of connected novelettes than a novel. That isn't so good for pacing. Beautiful opening, great cover. Completely self indulgent. I'd read a sample and was so ready to love this book. This is very disappointing.
May 09, 2013 Nicole rated it it was ok
After reading a glowing review on one of the book-blogs I follow (sorry can't remember which one @ the moment), I picked up this book and ... well ... am having a hard time making it into the story. I like the idea behind the meaning of the blackdog, and so I will persevere - crossing my fingers that the story picks up & I can get into it.
Nov 02, 2011 amanda rated it really liked it
It took me a little more than a few chapters to really become immersed into this book, but once I did, it was hard to put this read down. Love the religion, love the characters, and I am eager to see more of this fabulous world; I do so very much want a sequel!
Bryn Hammond
Oct 08, 2014 Bryn Hammond rated it liked it
Shelves: steppe-fiction
I started out enthusiastic for the Central Asian setting and the blessed lack of sex stereotypes (in both, similar to Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky tril). The local gods and godlings of place were limited enough to function as characters – they were individuals, mad or immature – while the cases of spirit possession led to interesting split psyches. The title character was one of these and seized his centre place for me... at least in the first half...

It’s hard to explain why my enthusiasm waned
Nov 29, 2011 Odin rated it really liked it
Shelves: epic-fantasy
Synopsis: Long ago, in the days of the first kings in the north, there were seven devils…

And long ago, in the days of the first kings in the north, the seven devils, who had deceived and possessed seven of the greatest wizards of the world, were defeated and bound with the help of the Old Great Gods…

And perhaps some of the devils are free in the world, and perhaps some are working to free themselves still…

In a land where gods walk on the hills and goddesses rise from river, lake, and spring, the
Feb 16, 2013 Dan rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 19, 2012 Mallori rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mallori by: io9 review
This book was an interesting and enjoyable read. I read it on the recommendation/positive review by io9, where it was presented as a stand-alone (yay!) epic fantasy that asks interesting questions about self and godhood, in a similar vein to NK Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Loving those books, this was an irresistible endorsement, and it does deliver on those things (though not quite as developed as Jemisin's series). A few thoughts:

I love books with a well thought out mythology of gods t
Jan 11, 2013 Irfon-kim rated it it was amazing
I've loved fantasy in general, but lately I've not been reading a lot of fantasy, for two big reasons: One, there seem to be a lot of highly derivative "mechanically produced fantasy filler" books these days, and without being more on top of the genre than I am it's hard to separate those out from the good stuff; and two, with a busy life and a relatively slow reading pace, it's hard to commit to "book one of three of the first cycle of six".

Blackdog both provides a unique take on standard fant
Oct 02, 2013 Aster rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, slyly unorthodox fantasy. I often recommend this as the single best example I know of a fantasy world written without overt sexism. It would be worth reading just for that, because it's so well done it should shut down every assertion that misogyny is necessary to make fantasy feel gritty or real. And yet that's an utterly minor part of the reading experience; I was well into and wildly enthused about the book before I really noticed it. The mythology is captivating, the characters ar ...more
Jul 23, 2013 Ken rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
The first 50 pages of this book really pulled me in: it starts with a great action sequence and an interesting mythology. But after that, it just plodded. The book is called Blackdog, yet pages 100–200 focus on other characters entirely, none of them interesting. There are four different narrative threads through this book, but they don't begin to weave together until the last 100 pages. And despite everything happening slowly, the author's love of commas makes for some very long, dense sentence ...more
Mark Nuhfer
Sep 02, 2012 Mark Nuhfer rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book more. I liked the idea of it. I liked the characters. I read an ebook version that was frankly hard to follow. I don't know if this is true in the paper version. From one paragraph to the next the story would sometimes leap across the world, or across time, or across characters- with no immediate indication that was happening. And because the characters often had 3 or 4 versions of their names it was very tricky to follow. Also the dialogue often seemed to lack any kin ...more
Marie Loughin
Jul 14, 2013 Marie Loughin rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I read Blackdog while on vacation, which might have been a mistake because it turned me antisocial. I snuck away to read whenever no one was looking. People might have gotten irritated with me. Oh well.

This book may not be for all fantasy lovers. It is written in multiple viewpoints, which I happen to like. The prose is often lyrical, which I also like, but is occasionally hard to follow as a result. There's a large cast of characters (possibly too large) and a complicated social/mythological st
Nov 15, 2012 John rated it it was amazing
A goddess incarnated as a child is forced to flee a powerful devil who wants to absorb her as part of his campaign to attack the remote Older Gods, and grows into a teenager who returns--with some doughty allies--to reclaim her demesne. This is a good, sturdy YA fantasy in a fat book with a cast of marvelously distinct characters and only a few passages that wax too wordy (a rarity these days). In some parts it reminds me strongly in prose, relationships and general tone of C.J. Cherryh's Morgai ...more
Sharon Dwyer
May 04, 2016 Sharon Dwyer rated it really liked it
I had a really difficult time getting into this story. The premise was so interesting I picked it up, but after reading for a while I found the author tried too hard to write an epic fantasy in one book and continue to hold my attention the entire time. There were so many characters I found myself contantly going back to see who they were and how they connected to the story - and where was the protagonist in all this. She seemed to become a lessor character as the book went on and the story beca ...more
Jane Bigelow
May 31, 2012 Jane Bigelow rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book with a distinctly Tibetan Buddhist slant. It's multiple POV, and I love how Johansen shows different characters' perceptions of events and each other.

Finally finished reading it, and it continued to be fascinating. I did find that if I read it right before bed I tended to have odd dreams; not nightmares, but odd.
Benji Bright
May 10, 2013 Benji Bright rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Excellent read. The book bristles with good ideas and if there are some slower sections, well, I can live with that. I reject the notion that every fantasy novel is hungry for a sequel, but the ending/the tone of the entire book is so bittersweet and morally complex that I wouldn't mind spending more time in this world. Brava!
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Mostly, I write fantasy (epic fantasy ... character-driven epic fantasy ... with shapeshifters, demons, gods, and ... Moth, around whom even the gods get a bit nervous). These days, I largely write for adults, though I've written many children's and YA fantasy novels and some children's science fiction, as well as picture books, plus I've been known to perpetrate literary criticism.

2014 is going
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