A Gathering of Ravens: If Robert E. Howard and Poul Anderson collaborated on a novel…

A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden fantasy book reviewsA Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden fantasy book reviewsA Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden

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 (2017). 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.

Published June 20, 2017. 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. 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.

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GREG HERSOM’S (on FanLit's staff January 2008 -- September 2012) addiction began with his first Superboy comic at age four. He moved on to the hard-stuff in his early teens after acquiring all of Burroughs’s Tarzan books and the controversial L. Sprague de Camp & Carter edited Conan series. His favorite all time author is Robert E. Howard. Greg also admits that he’s a sucker for a well-illustrated cover — the likes of a Frazetta or a Royo. Greg live with his wife, son, and daughter in a small house owned by a dog and two cats in a Charlotte, NC suburb. He retired from FanLit in Septermber 2012 after 4.5 years of faithful service but he still sends us a review every once in a while.

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