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Grimnir #1

A Gathering of Ravens

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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?

Scott Oden's A Gathering of Ravens is an epic novel of vengeance, faith, and the power of myth.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published June 20, 2017

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About the author

Scott Oden

24 books315 followers
Scott Oden is a bestselling author of historical fantasy and sword-and-sorcery. Since his debut in 2005, his books have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist; he has been an Amazon Editor’s Pick and has been nominated for a Gemmell Award. His work has been endorsed by such preeminent authors as Steven Pressfield, David Anthony Durham, and John Gwynne.

Scott lives in the foothills of the Appalachians with his lovely wife, Shannon, and a variety of dogs -- all of them neurotic and prone to dancing like no one’s watching.

Before turning his hand to writing, Scott worked the usual slate of odd jobs, from delivering pizza to stocking shelves at a local grocery. In his spare time, he likes table-top roleplaying games, reading, and making the occasional bracelet from old stone beads. He dreams of running away from reality and living in a Hobbit hole . . .

If you want to know more, please visit Scott’s website at https://scottoden.wordpress.com/, where you can follow his blog and be there when he finally takes the plunge and creates a mailing list.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 184 reviews
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
311 reviews1,329 followers
April 2, 2020
I received a review copy of A Gathering of Ravens in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Scott Oden and Bantam Books.

A Gathering of Ravens is the tale of Grimnir, the last orc, and is set in an alternative Europe circa the 11th century. The narrative begins when two Christians, the Danish warrior Njàll and young English hymn-singer Étaín, are forced to seek shelter overnight in a cave due to dire weather. This dwelling is Grimnir's abode and after a violent confrontation, Grimnir essentially kidnaps Étaín. He believes that Étaín will be invaluable in assisting him on his travels to seek Bjarki Half-Dane who Grimnir plans to destroy. This gentleman is responsible for the destruction of the orcneàs and Grimnir will not rest until they are avenged. A Gathering of Ravens sees the duo travelling from Denmark to England and eventually to Ireland where there is to be a reckoning between the Old Ways and the New Ways.

"I am called many things, Christ-Dane, Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of the Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent. I am the last of Bàlegyr's brood, called Grimnir by my people."

Grimnir is bitter, vile, violent, and murderous. He follows the old Norse Gods, wields an awesome seax and is generally bad-ass. He's pretty much the perfect grimdark anti-hero. Étaín is a pretty cool character too and she develops greatly throughout the narrative. I found her a joy to follow. She witnesses magic, speaks to unspeakably powerful beings, and witnesses the wanderings of spirits and still remains strong in her faith throughout. The odd duo's chemistry is interesting with many ups and downs. They eventually become quite fond of each other in their own unique ways, although neither would admit it, and Étaín becomes a sort of victim of Stockholm syndrome.

Apart from Grimnir, Étaín, and Njàll, there aren't any other main characters in the first half of the novel and the events that happen are mostly travel-focused. In the second half, more point of view perspectives are introduced including those of Bjarki Half-Dane and Kormlada the Witch of Dubhlinn. By this time Grimnir et al have arrived in Ireland so we get a 360-degree view of the events and happenings there that lead to the upcoming confrontation between Dubhlinn's Norse occupants and the Gaels of Leinster. Will Grimnir come face to face with Bjarki and settle things once and for all? There may also be someone else who has a debt to settle with Grimnir that has been 15-year in the making. Also, I'd like to quickly acknowledge the character of Blind Muave who made a quick but lasting impression here.

A Gathering of Ravens is an exciting and invigorating merger of fantasy and historical fiction with a grimdark tinge. It's full of gory moments, skirmishes, showdowns and violent touches aplenty. Oden's take on magic, myth and folklore was finely imagined and seemed extremely well researched and reworked. A Gathering of Ravens is a steady-paced fantasy saga that builds up the excitement levels gradually and culminates with an incredible finale. This novel acts as a complete standalone and everything is wrapped up admirably. I will definitely be reading Twilight of the Gods as soon as I can and look forward to following the Sagas of Grimnir.

I've not read many books where readers follow the so-called evil or dark creatures such as orcs but have had positive experiences every time I have. If A Gathering of Ravens sounds like your cup of tea then I'd also recommend reading Chris Sharp's seriously underappreciated Cold Counsel which follows the adventures of a Troll.
Profile Image for Nick Borrelli.
366 reviews354 followers
May 18, 2018
Click here for my full review:


Let me first begin by saying that I absolutely love Norse mythology. I have been obsessed with it since I was a boy and remember vividly walking to the public library on the corner of my street to check out any book that I could find on the subject. I had heard smatterings about Scott Oden's A Gathering of Ravens from various social media outlets and I must admit that the cover of the book instantly caught my attention when I saw it. I mean what's not to like about the image of a huge black raven swooping down in a menacing manner against the backdrop of a gray sky? I really had no idea when I first heard about the book that it had a heavy Norse mythology influence, I just wanted to read it because the buzz was all positive and from people who I greatly respect. That and it just seemed like a book that I would enjoy. By sheer luck a representative from Transworld Books and Penguin saw me discussing the book on Twitter and asked me if I would like a review copy delivered to me. I instantly jumped at the chance, since I had already made the decision to read it, and a week later the book was on my front step. Thanks go out to the publisher for providing that copy for me, I was extremely grateful to receive it. So with book in hand I was more than ready to crack it open and begin reading it that evening and did so once the kids were fast asleep.

A Gathering of Ravens begins innocently enough in Scandinavia (Denmark to be exact). Two travellers are seeking shelter from a storm for the night and stumble upon a secluded cave. One is a Dane who has recently converted to Christianity named Njall. The other is a Briton and also a Christian named Etain who serves as Njall's companion in Christ and friend who is also helping to guide him through his newly-discovered faith. They begin gathering everything that they will need to hunker down for the night when they suddenly hear faint noises emitting from the back of the cave. At first they believe it may just be an animal startled by their presence but the squatter soon reveals itself to be an orc who is angered that the two have trespassed upon its lair. The orc's name is Grimnir and after a heated back and forth he grudgingly agrees to allow Njall and Etain to stay in the cave until morning but makes no promises that they will awaken alive with the sunrise. Njall and Etain take the orc's threats somewhat seriously but assume that he will keep his word and allow them to shelter for the night in relative peace. That being said, they do not sleep too soundly and when Etain awakens early she discovers that their horse has escaped its mooring and run away. After tracking down the horse she returns to find Grimnir brutally beating Njall to within an inch of his life. Grimnir takes Etain hostage and tells her that the only way that she will remain alive and not meet the same fate as Njall is if she promises to be his guide to England. He reveals to her that he has an old score to settle with a Dane who slew his brother many years back. Grimnir has been harboring an insatiable anger against the filthy Dane and wants nothing more than to exact his vengeance upon him. What also becomes apparent is that Grimnir is the last of his kind, the last in a line of ancient monsters that once ravaged the land but are now all but extinct. What is quite amazing about Grimnir is he insists that he has been alive for over a thousand years, telling Etain that he walked the land during the same time as Etain's "Nailed Christ" as he continually refers to the Christian God. Grimnir's disdain of the religion is palpable and it is obvious that he has no time for it. Etain is terrified of Grimnir but also puts her faith in her creator to help see her through the journey that Grimnir has forced her to embark on upon fear of death. As they travel to England to carry out Grimnir's murderous plot, the relationship between Grimnir and Etain slowly changes. Is Etain having an effect on the volatile orc as she continually references her faith in their conversations? Will Grimnir reconsider his plan to slay the killer of his brother? What travails will be encountered along their journey to England and most mysterious, what is the story of Grimnir's life and how he got to where he is now? Was he always a belligerent wretch or did he live a life of happiness and peace at one time? All of these questions can only be answered by reading A Gathering of Ravens. And some of the answers are not ones that you might expect.

Scott Oden has delivered a truly epic story with A Gathering of Ravens. The fact that the book relies heavily on Norse and Celtic myths just served to ramp up my enjoyment factor. Grimnir is a truly complex character who starts the book out as a murderous singularly focused creature who by the end of the book becomes so much more than that. And therein lies the brilliance of this book, the characters evolve and become something other than what they ever thought they could be when we were first introduced to them. I couldn't help but make the connection to real life where people who you never thought would ever change begin to look at things differently when exposed to different people and experiences. It also shows how our stereotypes are incorrect in most cases and that often when we pigeonhole people into just being a specific way or thinking a certain way, we find ourselves having to reevaluate our preconceptions. Scott Oden does a masterful job of using Grimnir as that vehicle and shining a light on how we can sometimes put people in a box. In addition to the characters, the world-building is just fantastic, taking place in the desolate reaches of Scandinavia and then shifting to Medieval Europe and England. And yet even with these real places as the backdrop, Oden injects a significant amount of mysticism and magic that works as a wonderful dichotomy and makes the setting of the book a real treat to experience. This book was so good that I finished it in about four days. I spent the last couple turning the pages feverishly well past my usual bedtime because I needed to know how everything would wrap up. It has been a long time since a book has done that to me. In the end, I found A gathering of Ravens to be one of my favorite reads of the year and a book that if you have not read it, you need to find a copy of soon and devour it like I did. I can't recommend this highly enough to anyone who loves Norse and Celtic mythology but also just likes a page-turning fantasy that involves deep complex characters that seem to leap from the page. Well done Scott Oden, I look forward to the next book in the series!
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,604 followers
June 22, 2017
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/06/22/...

Ambitious in scope and audacious in its execution, A Gathering of Ravens spectacularly weaves together the threads of history and mythological tradition, spiriting readers away on a journey through legend and time. A master storyteller, author Scott Oden has combined elements from Norse and Celtic lore with the richness of the early medieval landscape to create a novel that is epic in every sense; we have bloodshed and triumph, love and loss, tragedy and hope…and yes, we also have an Orc.

Grimnir is the last of his kind. The Anglo-Saxons call him orcnéas, while the Danes name him skrælingr, but most would agree that he is a monster, an evil creature birthed from the earth’s dark depths. But in truth, he is a lot more than that, as the plot expands to reveal his quest for vengeance against Bjarki Half-Dane, the oathbreaker who killed his brother. When two weary followers of Christ unknowingly take shelter in his cave one stormy night, Grimnir kidnaps the younger of them as his hostage, forcing her to be his guide to the land across the sea. Frightened and grieving for her friend now lost to her, Étaín has no choice but to do what her beastly captor says, accompanying him through the Danish wilderness to the Ash Road, a secret passageway which would lead them to England.

However, their journey does not go exactly as planned. Grimnir and Étaín arrive at their destination to find that changes have swept across the country, and the two of them are now outsiders in every possible way. Yet Grimnir remains undeterred in his desire for revenge, and in spite of herself, Étaín also begins to see more than the monster in the Orc. The two of them are now each other’s only ally, with faith and honor ultimately leading them to a shared purpose.

The strength of this book lies in the author’s skill in evoking the spirit and atmosphere of a time gone by. He perfectly captures the life and culture of the people in this era. Throughout the early sections of A Gathering of Ravens, I could practically feel the bitter chill of the Danish hinterlands, sense its sharpness deep within my bones. As the story unfolds, we also got to see the cruelty and injustices of war, the power struggles that result between different groups when their religious beliefs collide. Scott Oden’s forte is clearly his interest and enthusiasm for history; that much can be gleaned from every page of this meticulously crafted novel. However, I also simply adore the fantasy he has injected into the mix, incorporating mythological elements and ancient folklore like the Celtic fairies and even a few allusions to the legend of Beowulf. It is precisely because of this melding of magical factors that makes historical fantasy one of my favorite subgenres.

And of course, there are the Orcs. In his afterword, Oden describes his impetus behind the story’s premise, offering some excellent insight into his process of creating Grimnir. To tell the truth, it gave me an even greater appreciation for this book, knowing how the concept behind this fascinating character was conceived and executed. One thing you can be sure of is that Grimnir is most definitely not your traditional kind of hero. From the start, he was an enigma, brutal yet complex. I loathed his treatment of Étaín at first, and saw him as a villain, but gradually as their journey went on, I began to sympathize with his bloodthirsty quest. Their relationship—especially their transition to becoming eventual allies—was written very well and handled realistically. Along with Étaín, my eyes became open to the Orc’s deeper sense of honor and duty. It may not be as we understand it, but it does go a long way in making Grimnir seem more heroic and worthy of the reader’s support. Non-human protagonists are often tricky to pull off, but the author has shown that they can indeed work, somehow also making it look easy at the same time. While Oden may have set out to redeem the Orc, whether or not he achieved that is going to be up to the individual reader, though personally speaking I can honestly say that by the end of the book I was solidly won over by Grimnir and was rooting for him all the way.

So, should you read A Gathering of Ravens? Well, if you enjoy historical fantasy novels of vast and epic proportions, then yes, yes you absolutely should. Scott Oden’s delectable prose and attention to detail brought this story to life before my eyes, immersing me in a riveting world steeped in history and myth. I was also amazed at how easy it was to instantly engage with plot and feel invested in the characters. Clearly there’s a whole lot here to fall in love with, and I would not hesitate to recommend this novel to all fans of dark historical or mythical fantasy. I can’t wait to read more by the author.
Profile Image for Nicholas Eames.
Author 5 books5,552 followers
March 23, 2020
My brother has bounced off a lot of books lately, but he recently plucked this off my shelf and loved it, so when he finished I asked him if he wouldn't mind writing a review. His first one was a bit...verbose (haha), so he wrote a second that I'll post below! He really, really liked this book!

"Beowulf meets Old Boy".

Scott Oden's A Gathering of Ravens is an epic endeavour of Historical Fiction. Much like his anti-hero Grimnir, Oden's world is coarse and slick and drips with the viscera of legends past. The story pulls apart the threads of Norse & Saxon histories and reweaves them seamlessly into a dark tapestry of Orcs, dwarves and Elven-kind.

Pious without zealotry, ambitious without pride, this fast paced love-song of death and vengeance will hit you like a seax to the face.

'Faugh'! if you miss this one...
Profile Image for Alice-Elizabeth (Prolific Reader Alice).
1,151 reviews153 followers
July 6, 2017
For anyone who likes historical fantasy or mythology, this is the book to go to! I would like to thank Tom over at Bantem Press for the opportunity to read A Gathering of Ravens for review and taking part in a promotional tour for it. This is an adult fantasy that was pitched as a "Beowulf meets Lord of The Rings." Having not read either of those books/series, I was going into reading this not knowing much about what to expect or how the ending was going to turn out.

This is set across the years 999AD and 1014AD with settings in Denmark, England and Ireland. The story follows Grimnir who is trying to travel across the oceans to Ireland to face his nemesis. He finds and kidnaps a woman called Étain who he holds hostage and also kills her companion Njall but whose presence still lingers in the story. Since I am not an expert on this genre, I don't want to ramble on about historical fantasy but for potential readers, there are a few gory scenes throughout and tons of battles but also great worldbuilding and in my ARC edition were two maps, the part of England where the novel was set is where I'm actually from so it was nice seeing some references to Glastonbury (don't live there but know it very well).

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Profile Image for James Schmidt.
103 reviews24 followers
February 6, 2017
My review today is for:

A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden

A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.

Where do I begin with this epic historical fantasy? Let’s go back a little. I struck up an internet friendship with Scott after I kept seeing mention of his book. A book with Norse myths, and an Orc as the protagonist? Sign me up! I was not disappointed. I received a very early e-arc of the book thanks to Scott. I was in a huge reading slump and needed something to help me snap out of it. This book did that and so much more. I don’t think I have ever been more excited for a new book to come out. If ever there was a book that was me, or for me, it is this book.

Scott has seamlessly weaved a modern saga full of Norse myth and culture, a Norse, English, and Irish medieval historical setting, and the battle of old religions and new. This masterpiece is full of complex characters, gory battles, and a realistic and well researched historical setting. Oh, and did I mention Orcs! Yes, you read that right. But how you may ask. Our main character is the one and only Grimnir.

“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.”

This is not your normal protagonist. He is not someone to root for (but I did) or to be your champion. He is mean, nasty, ill tempered, and only has vengeance on his mind! My kind of Orc. Honestly this character is amazing. I am very impressed with the way this character was conceived and executed. Bravo Mr. Oden! The other cast of characters are on par with Grimnir, complex and multilayered, but none have his ability to demand your complete attention.

The setting is an amazingly detailed, historically accurate medieval Europe. Well researched and realized in this novel. Norse, English, and Irish myth and culture collide with the new religion of the Nailed God. The world is in a monumental struggle to see which one will survive. I think this struggle between the old ways and the new was one of the biggest high points for me in this book. Something I have diligently researched on my own. The author has done a spectacular job of bringing this struggle into a real life battle within his novel. Did I just say battles? I think I did, and there are plenty of bloody, gore stained battles in this book. Not overly gory, but enough to get your blood pumping. Action, adventure, battles, religion, history, and most importantly phenomenal characters. What more can you ask for!

In conclusion Scott Oden has a novel that is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I expect it to stay firmly planted at the top of my best of 2017 list. I rarely have such a bond with a book and a character as I have with A gathering of Ravens and with Grimnir. I am beside myself with excitement to see what comes next in this epic saga!

As you know if you have read my reviews before I am not about long reviews with synopsis and spoilers. I just give my opinion on my experience with this book and you can take it from there. Now on to the next book.

5/5 Stars! - MightyThorJRS

You can find all my reviews here: https://mightythorjrs.wordpress.com/
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 19 books431 followers
January 28, 2019
“Tense, atmospheric, and vividly written, A Gathering of Ravens is one of those books that has been underappreciated, too overlooked, and not received nearly the attention it deserves for the incredible work that it is. If you’re a fan of historical fantasy, and you haven’t read this yet, you’re really doing yourself an injustice. Oden infuses this book for the passion of his craft, and love of the subject he writes about.

This is worth your time.”

Profile Image for S.wagenaar.
67 reviews
December 7, 2017
To start things off, this is one of the best historical fantasy novels, and one of the best books of any genre I have read in a long time. I don't read a lot of modern fantasy, as I find many of them too bloated with padding to achieve a high page count. Scott has done in some 350 pages what many a modern fantasy author fails to do in 500+ pages; entertain the hell out of me! This book simply kicks ass. The story is always moving forward, each scene informs and entertains while moving the plot forward. There is never a wasted word or scene that does not keep things going. I like that.

The setting is Viking Age Britain, and especially Viking dominated Ireland on the eve of the Battle of Clontarf. Gimnir is our protagonist, and I'm not spoiling anything by saying he is an Orc, but he is not your father's Orc. Grimnir is mean, harsh and bad ass. He's crafty and he will kill you just because he can. He is like Conan with a hangover and a toothache. And he's your hero. If you like your tales gritty and rough, you are gonna love this story.

Swords clash, shields are sundered and spears are shattered. You can smell the smoke, feel the grit in your eyes and taste the blood. Mr Oden writes great combat scenes, from one on one to full on battles with a cast of thousands. I feel he can match even Robert E Howard when it comes time to let loose some blood 'n' thunder. Also, I really enjoyed the contrast of paganism vs Christianity, of the old ways of magic and Gods and the new cult of the Nailed God.

Basically, Grimnir is on a quest for revenge, and nothing is going to stop him from his vengeance. Not man, nor beast nor God. There are also a couple of human characters at the forefront of the story, but not so many as you will lose count(or interest). However, they are all fully fleshed out and interesting. The magic in the story is neat and organic, fitting the setting perfectly, but not dominating the story. Scott's background in Historical fiction shines through by giving everything a realistic feel; it really could have happened like this (and maybe should have!).

In the end, this is truly an excellent novel, and should not be missed by anyone who loves a good adventure. This is one of the few sword and sorcery novels I have read that works well as a full length novel. You can call it Fantasy, or Historical Fantasy or even Grimdark if you want. But this here is some good old-fashioned S&S with an awesome pulp-adventure flavor that REH would would appreciate. And so should you.
Profile Image for Dyrk Ashton.
Author 12 books646 followers
May 14, 2017
ARC Review

I want to start out by saying if you love, well, anything whatsoever having to do with extremely well written fantasy, read this book. To focus that: Norse mythology, Celtic mythology, thrilling action, epic, a bit of the ol' Grimdark, fascinating characters, human and non-human, amazing locations, deep history and colorful world... I could go on. I'm going to keep this short because I want very badly to trespass into spoiler territory. So I'll just say this...

What strikes me as much as anything else is Oden's prose style. I love it. Classic fantasy prose a la Robert E. Howard, but well up to date and relatable. Honestly, this is brilliant writing, and the ancient orc warrior Grimnir is now one of my favorite fantasy characters ever. This book feels almost more like alternate history than fantasy, the world is that well drawn - but make no mistake this is indeed fantasy of the highest order.

A Gathering of Ravens is wonderfully written, epic in scale, deliciously detailed, fast moving and action packed. Thank you Mr. Oden, for an amazing reading adventure!
Profile Image for Tracey the Lizard Queen.
250 reviews40 followers
September 7, 2017
Originally reviewed here: https://thequeenofblades.blogspot.co....

3 Stars

A Gathering of Ravens was one of the 2017 releases that I was really looking forward to. I was super excited when I was approved for a copy.

I can only be honest when reviewing, otherwise what's the point? So, here goes. I didn't love it. I didn't hate it either. I just didn't connect with it at all. I really wanted too. Everything about the blurb screamed "perfect for Tracey!!". And yet, I was underwhelmed.

Why? Is it me? The vast majority of my fellow reviewers loved it. I struggled to form any kind of connection with the characters, and the plot I found a tad lacklustre. I'm loathe to say it, but it's true. I seem to be in the minority, though. And in this case I'm happy that most of my esteemed 'colleagues' disagree with me! This is one of the reasons I always say to people "Don't take my word for it, go read it yourself!"

I did enjoy Grimnir's insults, though.
Profile Image for The Tattooed Book Geek (Drew). .
296 reviews617 followers
July 11, 2017
As always this review can also be found on my blog The Tattooed Book Geek: https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress...

Meet Grimnir, loveable, kind, caring, eloquent, polite, well mannered, sociable and pacifist cuddle bunny.

Faugh! Meet Grimnir, snarky, foul-mouthed, bad-tempered, mean, vile, obstinate, brutal, loner, all around badass, your new favourite anti-hero and a fucking awesome character!

You know by now that whenever possible I avoid spoilers or detailed analysis of the story in my reviews and in this case, I think that the blurb does a great job of outlying the overall story for you anyway.

Clocking in at 337 pages in length, A Gathering of Ravens is a short book but it is brilliantly paced, short, sharp chapters keep the story ever moving forward and there's no wasted words or scenes cluttering up the narrative. Everything written has a point and helps to propel the story onwards building to the inevitable climax and Grimnir's chance to enact his revenge.

The writing found in A Gathering of Ravens is high quality, the characters, emotion, humour and the locations used in the book are all brought to life with the descriptive fast paced writing of Oden.

The world building is excellent, the mixture of Norse, Dane and Irish mythology all woven together works really well set against the backdrop of the historical medieval Europe setting.

The magic used is subtle and the Norse myths, standing stones, spirits, wights, witches and familiars that are encountered all feel organic to the story.

Another stellar aspect of the book is that of religion. The old Pagan ways of magic, creatures and Gods are dying out, being poisoned, forgotten and replaced by the new faith in Christianity and The Nailed God. This is where Oden pulls a genius masterstroke, by giving Grimnir a companion, pairing him with the devout young Christian Etain for a large part of the story. Taking what would otherwise have been a very solitary journey for Grimnir and turning it into something far more. Yes, a journey towards the end goal of revenge for Grimnir but also a journey of self-discovery for the pair.

During the arduous journey, encompassing Denmark, Ygdrassil, England and finally Ireland we are shown their two opposing and conflicting views of the world. Both are stubborn, set firm in their beliefs and ways. Grimnir with the old ways, Etain with the new and throughout the events that take place on their travels together, self-discovery, reluctant respect and admiration grows between the two.

Grimnir's tale is a gory one, it’s a blood-soaked tale of revenge. He’s out to settle a centuries old score and there's plenty of fighting that takes place throughout A Gathering of Ravens to back up his quest for vengeance. From one on one fights to full-scale battles and Oden writes them all brilliantly, you really get a feel for Grimnir's savagery and the wicked glee that he takes in combat.

I really liked Etain as a character, she gets dragged along on Grimnir's journey and is often the perfect foil for him. Also, Bjarki Half-Dane the object of Grimnir's revenge. But at its core, A Gathering of Ravens is Grimnir's tale and as such, he is the focal point of the story and what a character to base the book around!

Grimnir is not your stereotypical protagonist, far from it, usually an orc set on gaining vengeance would be the antagonist, the bad guy in the tale, but he's not and Oden, thanks to his characterization manages to turn him from someone you should despise into someone you can't help but like and root for. While not overly complex (sometimes you don't want or need a complicated character in a story, just a badass who isn't afraid to get their hands dirty, to shed blood and get the job done) he really is an ingenious creation.

A Gathering of Ravens was a book that I'd been eagerly anticipating since the beginning of the year. After subsequently reading both good and bad things about the book, suffice to say, my anticipation had been slightly tempered and that my expectations upon starting were rather mixed. Now, after finishing, I can safely say that those fears were unfounded and that I fucking loved everything about A Gathering of Ravens. Grimnir, the rest of the characters, the writing, the world building, the story being told and I personally, cannot find anything to pick fault over.

With the perfect blend of mythology and fantasy, A Gathering of Ravens is an outstanding read and sure to be one of the books of the year.
Profile Image for Sud666.
1,942 reviews158 followers
September 8, 2020
I have always been a fan of Robert Howard's Conan. Apparently, so is Scott Oden (is that his real last name or a pretentious nom de guerre?) and it shows heavily in his writing style. Conan stood as a stark barbarian alternative to the nature of "civilized" man. Conan's fighting style was a mixture of battlefield training since he was a child fighting clan wars and a well traveled mercenary. He was also tremendously strong and with superb reflexes due to his barbarian background. I am sure you are wondering why I bring this up. Well, what if Conan were an Orc? Not the green skinned ones from Tolkein, but rather think of Orcs in a Norse sense. Large human with feral features. This is the racial background for Grimnir.

Set during the late Viking age in England, this fantasy follows the tale of vengeance that is Grimnir's burden. He is the last of the kaunr or skrælingr, an orc of Asgardian lore. Think a very large and very powerful man with larger teeth and more orcish features and you have Grimnir. His speech is an old style of speaking often used by the warriors of his time. He has come out of his hibernation to avenge his uncle who was killed by his treacherous Half-Dane son.

Grimnir's journey, with a Christian girl named Etian, is a great and gory tale. Grimnir is a savage barbarian, but he has his own sense of honor. It is an interesting take on the codes of the more civilized men. Grimnir is Conan, if Conan were an orc. That rather simple concept works very well for this tale.

It is a fun, action packed rife full of ancient creatures, violence, treachery and dark magic this is a really well made setting. I immediately liked the character of Grimnir. A fun and enjoyable book, but I do not know if I'll be in a rush to get book two. This could easily have been an excellent stand alone story.

I think any fantasy or grim dark fan will like this tale of bloody handed reaving and vengeance. Well written and in a good setting this one appeals to fans of the Norse and Norse mythology.
Profile Image for Ned Ludd.
708 reviews16 followers
April 3, 2020
A wonderful blend of history and fantasy. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for S.E. Lindberg.
Author 17 books156 followers
August 22, 2017
A Gathering of Ravens delivers an Orc with serious depth, and he carries a bloody seax too.
“Since young adulthood, I’ve wanted to write a book about Orcs—those foot soldiers of evil first revealed to us in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. I wanted to write it from the Orcs’ point of view. And I wanted to redeem them.”Scott Oden, Author’s Note from A Gathering of Ravens

Scott Oden did not want to “write about a redeeming orc,” or the “redemption of an orc.” Rather, the author set out to present an orc that was not shallow, zombie-like drone (ala Tolkien, and most of high fantasy novels stereotype).

The milieu in A Gathering of Ravens is reminiscent of Poul Anderson’s Viking Age The Broken Sword, being full of Dane’s and Celtic faeries and Norse myths. The style is more readable than that classic, but is still saturated with just the right amount of call-outs to geographies and history to blur the lines between fantasy and history. This is no historical fantasy, but the foundation of history is so well played the fantasy feels “real.”

Equally balanced are the sorceries of Celtic witches, Norse deities, and Christian beliefs. All supernatural “sides” of faiths conflict here. All are presented as real, though some are being superseded.

So who is the orc protagonist employed by Scott Oden to redeem the orc culture? He is Grendel’s brother, as named by some. The lady Étaín, a servant of the Christian God, the Nailed One, and unlikely companion of him describes him:
“He is called Grimnir… the last of his kind, one of the kaunar—known to your people as fomóraig, to mine as orcnéas, and to the Northmen as skrælingar. In the time I’ve known him, he has been ever a fomenter of trouble, a murderer, and as cruel a bastard… I can vouch neither for his honesty nor his morals, as he is bereft of both. And while he did kidnap me, threaten me with death, mock my faith, and expose me to the hates of a forgotten world, he also saved my life …”

Grimnir is a brutal bastard. His name suits him, since he might as well be carrying a flagstaff with the contemporary “Grimdark subgenre” splayed upon it. Yet his predicament and motivations are compelling as any vigilante hero. Way to deliver on your muse, Scott Oden!

A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden
Profile Image for Eric Woods.
18 reviews6 followers
November 13, 2017
I love this book. It has everything I love in fantasy. Well… almost everything. It’s missing a named weapon and a dragon but it has everything else. Full bodied and interesting characters, deadly creatures of myth and legend, harsh and uncompromising action, a layered story built by the character’s desires rather than plot fiat, and a sense that the world is so much larger than just the peek we get. And all of this is done without falling into the traps that much of the popular modern fantasy suffers from.

For a full review see my blog post on the book:

August 2, 2017
This is my review that is also posted over at fantasyliterature.com :

Grimnir is a monster, literally. The Norse call him skraelingr. To the Irish, he is the fomoraig, and to the English he is an orcneas. Born and raised to do war, for and against the old gods. Immortal, they spend their endless lives, longing for glory in the final battle of Ragnarok.

So Grimnir’s disposition is already brutal, but to add to it, he’s the very last of his kind. To say he’s a pissed-off is a gross understatement. And what’s a centuries-old, angry monster, who only finds satisfaction in violence, to do, all by himself, while waiting around for end-of-time? Seek bloody vengeance, of course. Word of the one called Half-Dane has drawn Grimnir out of his lair, for the Half-Dane is who betrayed Grimnir and his kin. Meanwhile, a new religion has usurped the Elder Gods. Followers of the White Christ have stomped out the Old Ways and those ancient powers are all but gone. In order for Grimnir to find the Half-Dane now, he’ll require a guide. So he gets one by kidnapping a young Christian, Aidan, and their quest will drive them across the war-ravaged countries of England and Ireland.

If Robert E. Howard and Poul Anderson collaborated on a novel, it would very much be like A Gathering of Ravens. In fact, if there’s any new book out there that should sport a Frazetta-like cover illustration, it’s this one. Scott Oden creates a tone that is dark and primeval. The action is savage and instinctual. The conflict is wanton. But rather than simply be an awesome action-adventure story, A Gathering of Ravens runs deeper.

Like Howard and Anderson, Oden has their same natural creative ability to make a fantasy story not only seem more like historical fiction, but actually feel like true-life; like the truth that became the legend, that turned to myth, and was forgotten. I think there is yearning throughout humankind for gods and their mythologies. Novels like A Gathering of Ravens taps into that yearning.
Profile Image for Joanna Park.
492 reviews60 followers
July 3, 2017
Review can also be found at:

I loved this fantastic, gripping book! Firstly let me say that I don’t read a lot of fantasy books but I had heard so much about A Gathering of Ravens that I had to read it for myself, and I’m pleased to say I was not disappointed. My main issue with fantasy books is I find they are quite descriptive and that tends to lose my interest. This book is nothing like that it intrigued me from the start with the fast pace and action keeping me reading long into the night. The first part if the book is a little slow in places but I felt that was necessary as the reader gets to learn more about the characters and their world. Its definitely worth persevering though as in the second half the pace picks up with lots of action and brilliantly described. The author does a brilliant job in describing the Europe and Britain in the Dark Ages. I felt like I could really see the places that Grimnar and Etaine visits in my mind’s eye which really increased my enjoyment of the book.

I actually really liked Grimnar, though I’m not sure I was meant to. He is very fierce and a tad mean sometimes towards people who stand in the way of what he wants but he was also clever, resourceful and brave. I liked that he didn’t always rely on his strength and sometimes managed to outwit his enemies, which I loved reading about. Maybe I just liked him as I felt sorry for him having to put up with Etaine who was a very annoying character and manages to moan her way through most of the book. Her piousness was the most annoying aspect of her, and she manages to bring her views into most situations which is very frustrating at times. I wished that sometimes she would stand up and defend herself rather than rely on Grimnar all the time.

The author cleverly weaves some dark age history, including the introduction of Christianity, and some Danish myths into the story which was fascinating to read about. I love history, but didn’t know much about the dark ages so I found those parts very interesting.

The book is described as being great for fans of Lord Of The Rings, though if you didn’t like that book please don’t be put off. I didn’t actually like Lord Of The Rings (scandalous I know) but I lived this book. I think if you like great fantasy books with plenty of action you will enjoy this book. If, like me, you don’t read a lot if fantasy fiction I urge you to still try it as I think it will surprise you.

This is the first book by Scott Oden I have read and it definitely won’t be my last. I believe this book is the start if an exciting new series with Grimnar featured in all the books.

Huge thanks to Thomas Hill at Transworld books for my copy of this book and for letting me be a part of the blog tour.
Profile Image for Emelia .
131 reviews92 followers
November 5, 2017
A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden is a one of the best books I have read in awhile. From the very first page to the very last this book held me in thrall.

A Gathering of Ravens is a book about murder, revenge, and redemption. A tale of Grimnir. Some call him Orc, some The Bringer of Night, and some Corpse-maker. From Grendel to Grimnir their kind has always been feared and hated, and because of this fear all of his kind are dead except Grimnir. The last of his kind to walk the worlds.

Grimnir emerges from his lair by the calling of a blood oath, he must exact revenge against the man who slew his brother. But as he leaves his cave of exile he finds the world he knew has changed. The Old Ways are fading, being replace by a new a new faith. The faith of The Nailed God. Even though the Pagan ways are disappearing, Grimnir must still fulfill his blood oath and awaken from the darkness of his former world to seek out the Half-Dane and make him bleed.

Grimnir takes a young Christian hostage to guide him on the road to the Half-Dane; from Denmark, to England, down the Ash Road of Yggdrasil to Dubhlinn in Ireland, they travel as the blood oath cries out for vengeance. Through lands where spirits are awakening and magic is in the very trees and stones, his captive Aidan must struggle to stay alive.....and to stay sane.

This book will take you on a journey of emotions. First hating Grimnir for his absence of remorse for the death and horror he causes, to having sympathy for him; Discovering that the Monsters we see are not as evil as the monsters that are found in the hearts of men.

I loved this book. And there is no higher rating I can give it than that.

Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,430 reviews992 followers
September 9, 2017
A Gathering Of Ravens was really well written, a bloodthirsty tale, mixing mythology and fantasy in a really clever, engaging and often hard hitting way.

I found that I read it in short, sharp bursts rather than all at once, this worked really well for me as it was a challenging read in that the background was often murky. The two main characters here are utter opposites, one captured by the other, both though building a relationship throughout the book which I found compelling. A relationship based on hatred, fear and opposing views without much filter but made all the more intriguing for that.

The first 100 pages are endlessly violent which I did find to be a little too much - genuinely feeling it wasn't entirely necessary, I think that possibly lowered the overall rating for me - but later on it came into its own, exploring the themes of religion, myths, legends and history in a highly forceful way, I enjoyed the last third more than all the rest.

As a fantasy novel it stood its ground, I'm looking forward to reading more from Scott Oden, but I'm not sure this one was entirely within my fantasy reading comfort zone, I think I would recommend it more to hard core fantasy fans than I would to a mixed genre reader - still it was in a lot of ways a great read, I never once wanted to put it aside but I'm a little on the fence when it comes to how to review it. Can you tell?

Great writing always tells though. Even if the story it is telling isn't quite where you live.
Profile Image for C.T. Phipps.
Author 73 books586 followers
October 29, 2017
A GATHERING OF RAVENS is an interesting premise for a book: a tale of a monstrous orc-like creature who is the last of his kind along with an idealistic pacifist Christian girl during the last days of paganism in the Viking Era.

It is a story which is reminiscent of the tv show VIKINGS as well as some of the writings of Bernard Cornwell. You really don't think any fantasy which includes an orc would be so serious and grim but it's more Beowulf than a Lord of the Rings rip off.

This is definitely "grimdark" fiction with all the religious hypocrisies, secular cruelties, and racism which you can expect from this sort of story. There's also the World Tree, the last witch in the world, and a world where there's evidence of both God as well as other pantheons working together. It's a unique vision of fantasy and one which I think works well for the four hundred or so pages the story lasts. It's a tale of vengeance, the ending of an age, and more.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely. If you like dark and gritty fantasy then this will be right up your alley. It's a pretty harsh story for lighter fantasy fans but I felt the ending more than made up for the difficult journey--at least for our protagonists. It was bittersweet in all the right ways.

Profile Image for Cora Tea Party Princess.
1,323 reviews802 followers
June 29, 2017
5 Words: Religion, monster, power, revenge, mythology.

I don't read a lot of them, but I do love historical fantasy. And this one was pretty much perfect.

It did take a little while to get going, but once Aidan was revealed I was hooked. And once we got to all of the added politics later in the second half I couldn't put it down.

I loved the setting, how vast and realistic everything felt. I loved the mix of history and mythology, and I loved how the different religions explored strengthened the plot and the world. I'm not a fan of gore, but I did find that although this book had its fair share (it wouldn't have worked otherwise) that it wasn't too much and I could carry on reading without too much personal discomfort.

It's a pity that this is a standalone, as I would love to read more.
Profile Image for Liis.
572 reviews110 followers
June 15, 2017
Eh, but this is going to be such a difficult review for me, because even though I could see the things I could appreciate, there was something about the book overall that failed to fully capture me and convert me into a diehard fan.

A Gathering of Ravens is a story of revenge, set in the time of Vikings when the power play in between Odin and Jesus was in full swing. (And we all know who came out on top, damn it!) The historical settings, myth and magic are intertwined as Grimnir (an evil, ugly AF orc) takes hostage a Christian to be his guide in England. Together they travel from Denmark via Yggdrasil to England. On the way they meet dwarves, get up to all sorts of super violent and bloody shenanigans and generally have a proper spat over whose god is the best!

The second half of the book takes us closer to the ‘revengee‘. We are now in Ireland, Dublin and get introduced to elves, nature spirits, a couple of witches and local armies battling it out. We get a great look at the Half Dane who Grimnir is after and the implications of his power and ambition. TBH, anything that Grimnir might have in store for him, no Christian would stand in the way of. Half Dane is awful.

So, a couple of observations overall:

That Grimnir needed a guide, is questionable. I am more than certain that Grimnir the mighty Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent would have managed just fine on his own on the journey to find Half-Dane. He had the means and tools to not need a Christian ‘fellow’ hanging with him. The only reason those two characters were thrust together was purely for the ‘entertainment‘ factor, I suspect, upon which the above mentioned religious spat depended on.

Another thing with the mixology of myth, history and otherwordly beings was just that I felt there was a whole pile of different elements put into the story and as such most of their presences were fleeting and not entirely built upon to their full potential. OK, their parts in the story were valid and necessary to play their part, but I didn’t get entirely not enough of them… I would have liked to have more of a hand in play by the Witches, dwarves, elves and spirits. But that’s just me… personal preference alert here, guys!

The first half of the book went rather slowly for me because all it was was a strong clash of beliefs with a trippy trip via Yggdrasil and nothing but brutal behavior. The second half of the book was more full bodied and had a lot more going on. Still, reading A Gathering of Ravens was a bit laborious for me… the characters didn’t go through tangible development, there was a whole lot more praying going on than I could stomach and all the brutality (whether by action or word) felt a bit automatic or mechanical because it moved from one bloody murder to the next bloody beating… Essentially, this is a book of bloody action to the extremes but without any real substance to the characters which I would have liked. Simply explaining actions by way of their respective religion gave me no indication of the people behind and beyond their religion. Well, no.. I lie… everyone in this book was evil in a way, Christian or heathen. But yes, I guess what was missing was soul… (I’m laughing here now…Do evil beings even have souls? let me ask the Christian!) See? I told you, it’s a hard review to write… I don’t even know!

So yes, I have to admit, Grimnir’s ‘statements‘/dialogues were fantastically principled and loyal to Odin and the Old ways, with bits of evil contempt and sarcasm thrown in but I don’t know if it’s just because he was an Orc, but that was pretty much all there was to him and it got a bit old rather soonish.

Having said all of the above, I can see and appreciate how certain elements were used to create this historical fantasy and all the pieces did fit together well enough. I don’t consider myself an expert in historical fact, myth or old tales to be able to analyze them and give you a factual overview.

You can expect some flashbacks to get you up to speed for why an Orc is seeking for revenge, also some rhymes and tons of interesting characters making their rather short but useful appearances and… yeah, I’m saying it again- some bloody gore… Odin’s will is going to be read from livers…

I think this is a book that will either completely and utterly satisfy a reader or not be what was expected at all… I’m sitting smug in the middle… It was in parts great, in parts not so much but I sure am happy I read the book and I look forward to reading more reviews of the book!
Profile Image for Sarah.
638 reviews147 followers
May 21, 2017
Wow. I'm knocked a little speechless by this one. There is so much fantasy in this book, and seemingly so much history. I'm always impressed by historical fiction in which the writer has done their research and included real events, real times and real places and written them to be entertaining on top of it all. This book starts heavily on the fantasy side, and ends heavily on the side of history. I suppose, even the fantasy aspect was part of history. The author researched his mythology and wrote it well.

The writing in general was excellent. Oden transports his readers to another time and place where magic roams the lands and the old gods do battle with the new "Nailed God". We were treated to sights like Yggdrasil, and standing stones. We meet Fae and sorceresses and familiars, daughters of Morrigan, and wights. It's dark and gritty, which is what I love from both fantasy and historical re-tellings.

This book is told from the point of view of what is supposed to be, or resemble, an orc. Unfortunately it took me reading the author's note at the end to realize this. The author meshed together mythology from a few different cultures, Irish, Celtic and Danish/Norse. While I couldn't recall the word skraellingr from my knowledge of Danish mythology, and know little of Celtic mythology (though admittedly, this was stupid on my part because the word is right there- ORCneas), I do know a little about the Fomoraig. They were giants that did battle with the Tuatha de Danaan (the Fae). So I registered more with that word and glazed over the Orc in Orcneas. Additionally, he's described as having a wolf like appearance and being descended from Fenrir (a giant wolf of Danish mythology) and so I just thought of him as a wolf man. (What can I say- I just don't have Orcs on the brain.) No harm done though, I just reflected on it in a different light afterwards and it made perfect sense, and gave me a different appreciation for the story in general.

That being said, the beginning was a little slow for me. It took me until about halfway through the story before I really became invested in the characters and their endings. I think it was due in large part, to Etain's preaching. It just got old really fast. She was one of those "monks" a certain Anglo Saxon Viking probably would have murdered for looking at him the wrong way. It got better as the story went on and she saw perhaps there was more to the world then was written in the teachings of the apostles.

Once I was introduced to Blind Maeve and her wolf hound Conan, and the witch of Dubhlinn, Kormalda, the story began to pick up. The melding of the mythology and the history came together seamlessly and sucks the reader in and doesn't let go. I was rooting for them all in the end, Etain, Grimnir, Njall, and even for Kormalda. I even found myself rooting for the minor characters, King Brian and Ospak.

Just a final note- this book is not very long, but takes concentration and is not what I would call an easy read. I don't mean it as a critique, more of a heads up for anyone considering reading this. It is a book steeped heavily in ancient mythology and uses and re-uses words that will not be familiar to most readers.

Overall it was excellent and the author hinted in the epilogue that the adventures of Grimnir were not over, so I will definitely be on the lookout for a sequel. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, ancient mythology and fantasy. Thank you to St. Martins Press and Net Galley for providing me with an ARC!
Profile Image for Avery (Book Deviant).
372 reviews90 followers
May 11, 2017
Hi! I don't know who's reading this review, but if you're the asshole who's been sending me anonymous messages, you can kindly fuck yourself and get the hell out of my life. The review below is MY OPINION, and the fact that you're being this childish over it is pathetic. Get over it. I will not be removing it.

Original Review:

I would like to thank the people at Thomas Dunne Books for allowing me to have an ARC of this book via NetGalley.

See more of my reviews on my blog the Book Deviant

I'll be keeping this one short, mainly because I don't want to waste much more of my time on it.

Flimsy research

Oden falls into the unfortunate category of male fantasy authors who use offensive tropes and thinks it makes him some kind of big-name fantasy author. He obviously took care in researching cultures that he doesn't belong to, but there's apparent evidence that whatever research he did was inaccurate, or that he was just using whatever sounded cool.

The names he provides for Grimnir were inaccurate, as told by another reviewer here. The Norse research was also fairly flimsy, as I found most of the information that Oden used in a single Wikipedia search.

Offensive stereotypes and queer baiting

Another thing that really bothered me was the descriptions. Anyone who wasn't Grimnir was described as white, pure, and innocent. And Grimnir himself was described as "swarthy" and "dark" and "evil". He also slaughters a multitude of people within the first hundred pages, lending to the fact that those who are "white" and "pure" call him a "savage". Can you tell me whats wrong with that? (Answer: the "dark skinned aggressor" trope is really fucking racist and it pissed me off.)

In the beginning, the Christian is a boy. And then his companion asks him "But, what if they discover your true nature? What if you fall in love with one of your brother monks and he rejects your advances? What then" - ARC page 8.

As any logical person, I took this as a boy being gay, and that he was going to the church at Roskild to hide or something. I thought I had landed on unexpected queer rep, and I was SO excited. But then it was revealed that the boy was actually a girl disguised as a boy. Were they trans? No.

No, they were called a whore and a slut over and over again when her true gender was revealed. Because apparently that's how women are treated. Multiple instances, rape is normalized, but I didn't get far enough to truly tackle that one.

one star - Overall?

Remind me to never use NetGalley in hopes of finding a new favorite. I'll only be using it to find anticipated releases that I've already heard of after this huge disappointment. (By the way, everything I listed above took place within the first hundred pages. I didn't bother with the rest, as I was sick and tired of the book, and it was causing a book slump)

Would I Recommend?

No. Not to my marginalized friends, and not to non-marginalized peoples. The writing is fairly decent, but there is a large amount of Christianity that I wasn't expecting, as well as racism, queer baiting, and slut-shaming. Trigger warnings for all in the bold, as well.
Profile Image for Jason Ray Carney.
Author 26 books49 followers
December 7, 2020
This is a compelling fantasy novel, thoughtful, enthralling, and delightfully difficult to define: on the one hand, it is a historical fantasy written in the tradition of Robert E. Howard's "Worms of the Earth," and so *of* the sword and sorcery tradition (but not quite). On the other hand, it is also influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien's vision of the orcs, so it is *of* the the epic fantasy tradition (but not quite). Either way, it is saturated by Northern European mythology and history, structured by literary allusions to the Beowulf legend, and written in a vital, action-packed style. Thus, it is an eclectic mixture of the "high" (medieval literature and "pagan" mythology) and the "low" (pulp literature and the modern fantasy genre). Central to the novel is the rich moral tension between the two main characters: Grimnir (a pagan devil) and Étaín (a Christian saint). Grimnir is driven by vengeance, hatred, and anger, and Étaín by mercy, love, and hope. It's difficult to imagine but this novel dramatizes the way these two opposing forces arrive at a sort of modus vivendi, a "beyond good and evil" understanding, perhaps best articulated in High King Brian mac Cennétig's prayer as he watches Christians and Pagans in the throes of bloody melee: "It is as God wills it." All in all: this is a really fascinating, nuanced, and one-of-a-kind approach to fantasy. Fantasy is often pigeonholed as being morally naive, for rendering simplistic black and white worlds where pure good kills pure evil. Not so in this novel. Étaín and Grimnir's saga is enigmatic, gripping, and as philosophically rich as it is exciting.
Profile Image for The Nerd Daily.
720 reviews345 followers
June 28, 2017
Published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Ephrem

Norse and Celtic mythology are beautifully woven in this historical fantasy novel set in medieval Europe, where the battle between the Old and New religions are at its peak. With his masterful storytelling skills, Scott Oden spirits the reader across different legends and lore while introducing a diverse cast of characters, including Grimnir, our not-so-normal protagonist who is the last of his kind.

The book begins in Denmark where two Christians find shelter in a cave, only to find out that it is an orc's lair who goes by the name of Grimnir. Their host quickly takes advantage of this opportunity and abducts the youngest of them to take her hostage so she can help him fulfil his quest for vengeance. Étaín is forced to guide him through England to save her own life as well as her friend’s. Transported through Yggðrasil (an ancient mythical tree) to England, she is faced with a surprising twist and in the midst of a chaotic war.

The novel’s strongest element were the characters, which were three-dimensional and complex since all of them come across as spellbinding with their intricate backstories that cling to them throughout their journey. For Grimnir, his cruel and bloodthirsty personality turns him into a unique “you love to hate him” character, but it is Étaín’s character development which is truly remarkable. She slowly evolves from cursing her gender because of the social issues women faced and still face to this day, and eventually embraces it to become a strong woman whose skills are numerous.

The relationship that birthed between Grimnir and Étaín is wonderful as Grimnir goes from being too possessive as well as mistreating his captive to becoming an ally of hers, and most of all, a friend.

Let’s talk about Grimnir for a second. He is the most intriguing protagonist I have personally read about with many names to accompany his ominous character. To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcneas; to the Irish, he is fomoraig. He is also known as the Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent. Although his lust for vengeance seemed somewhat ridiculous at first, along with his barbarous and feral ways making it difficult to like him, the author makes sure you are able to understand his character so you’re eventually able to sympathize with him and understand his convoluted past.

Another stellar element is the world-building. Oden gracefully introduces the world and magnificently throws in fantasy elements from the Yggðrasil to the spirits that haunt the lands, to the witches and the many wars that take place. The author excels at capturing the atmosphere of that time, staying historically accurate and adding in his own twists and turns to keep the novel magical and lively.

The superb writing style makes the novel even better as Oden adds such detail when it comes to describing the settings and the characters’ emotions. This is especially noted during the battle and war scenes as you can almost smell and see the darkness, the hate, and the cruelty that spreads throughout such scenes.

Have we raved enough about this brilliant book? We'll wrap it up by discussing its intriguing plot which primarily focuses on Grimnir and Étaín's journey as the duo find themselves overcoming many obstacles that threaten to tear them apart. You'll also meet characters such as witches, spirits, dwarves, kings and ravens in the lead up to the final confrontation between Grimnir and his enemy, and this only fuels this fantasy world even more.

Overall, this is a really well-written novel with a fantastic plot, group of characters and a magical fantasy world. A Gathering of Ravens is a must-read for historical fantasy lovers!
Profile Image for Frank Errington.
738 reviews57 followers
June 23, 2017
Review copy

The story in Scott Oden's, A Gathering of Ravens. takes place a thousand years in the past. It is a mix of legend, history, myth, magick, and the growing influence of Christianity. It's not the kind of fare I would usually read or review, but I'm so glad I picked this up.

An epic tale from an orc's point of view. From the synopsis of A Gathering of Ravens...

"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."

At its root, the story is about Grimnir's quest for revenge against the Half-Dane Bjarki. A Gathering of Ravens is filled with wonderful characters, even secondary players like Blind Maeve are imbued with life in this wonderfully layered tale.

"With sudden vehemence, Grimnir carved his seax through the Saxon's throat. He slashed once. Twice. And on the third blow vertebrae crunched as the dead man's head came free. Grimnir straightened, holding his prize by its long hair."

If you like stuff like that, A Gathering of Ravens is definitely a tale worth your time. Treachery, double-crosses, epic battles, and unexpected compassion. All leading to the climatic Battle on the Plain of Tarbh.

"...carved the blade across (his) belly and ripped him open from right to left, viscera tumbled out, loops of red and purple intestine, sacks of organs; blood splashed the roots of the tree, and the stench of bowel rose from the cavernous wound."


A Gathering of Ravens: A Novel is available in both hardcover and e-book formats from Thomas Dunne Books, a division of St. Martin's Press.

From the author's bio - Scott Oden was born in Indiana but has spent most of his life shuffling between his home in rural North Alabama. a hobbit hole in Middle-earth, and some sketchy tavern in the Hyborian Age. When not writing he can be found walking his two dogs or doting on his lovely wife, Shannon.
Profile Image for Jeremy Jackson.
121 reviews21 followers
March 4, 2020
A fine Norse fantasy, on the lighter side of Grimdark, compellingly told and written well.
Profile Image for Clint.
485 reviews8 followers
May 1, 2021
I’ve been debating what to say about this book that adds to the conversation; honestly, I can’t think of much. It’s an enjoyable read. I started it while sitting by a pool on a working vacation, then inhaled the rest on a five hour flight home. It held my interest and kept me awake. That’s a high compliment. Good job Mr. Oden.

Random thoughts on other reviews:

• Some claim it’s not well researched. I don’t have the historical street credentials to say one way or the other, BUT, I thought we were talking make-believe here? Are we not allowed a bit of historical inaccuracy in make-believe land?

• I concur with one gripe: I’m not sure what the heck G ever needed Aiden for. Plot convenience I suppose? The story was ripping enough I will forgive this.

• At this time, Scott Oden has written one more book in this world with a third on the way (I believe). I’m not a fan of series as I don’t have much time for them; however, this book is independent and can be read and done. I enjoyed it enough that I will continue—a bit of truth here, I inadvertently picked up book 2 first, thinking it was book one, but I will read regardless.
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