The Children of Gods and Fighting Men
by Shauna Lawless
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Pub Date 01 Sep 2022 | Archive Date 01 Sep 2022
Head of Zeus, Head of Zeus -- an AdAstra Book
They think they've killed the last of us...
981 AD. The Viking King of Dublin is dead. His young widow, Gormflaith, has ambitions for her son – and herself – but Ireland is a dangerous place and kings tend not to stay kings for long. Gormflaith also has a secret. She is one of the Fomorians, an immortal race who can do fire-magic. She has kept her powers hidden at all costs, for there are other immortals in this world – like the Tuatha Dé Danann, a race of warriors who are sworn to kill Fomorians.
Fódla is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann with the gift of healing. Her kind dwell hidden in a fortress, forbidden to live amongst the mortals. Fódla agrees to help her kin by going to spy on Brian Boru, a powerful man who aims to be High King of Ireland. She finds a land on the brink of war – a war she is desperate to stop. However, preventing the loss of mortal lives is not easy with Ireland in turmoil and the Fomorians now on the rise...Reviewers on The Children of Gods and Fighting Men:
'Lawless blends fantasy with historical fiction to great effect.' SFX
'A novel that celebrates the extraordinary history and cultural traditions of Ireland while giving voice to the women who helped shape it. Highly recommended.' Lucy Holland
'An excellent read.' Mark Lawrence
'Highlander meets The Last Kingdom... I was hooked from page one.' Anthony Ryan
'Gripping and beautiful. A Celtic Last Kingdom with wild magic and fierce heroines.' Anna Smith Spark
'A beguiling blend of fantasy, history, and politics.' D.K. Fields
'A vividly written story that makes the ancient past feel contemporary.' Joseph O'Connor
'Rife with atmosphere and armies, magic and compelling characters, it swept me along and refused to be put down.' H.M. Long
'An epic historical fantasy that weaves myth and history into a sprawling tale of magic, intrigue, and war. Absorbing and richly detailed.' Ian Green
'With all the complex political machinations of A Song of Ice and Fire and the bloody battles of The Warlord Chronicles, it's ideal for fans of both.' Stephen Aryan
'An atmospheric journey into a thrilling historical fantasy world.' R.J. Barker
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 147 members
I was granted a digital arc by the publisher via NetGalley - thank you to Head of Zeus, NetGalley and Shauna Lawless.
I can’t get over how well-written this debut historic fantasy novel is. Shauna Lawless is one extremely talented and well-read lady. The depth of her research for this book can be seen at every turn and her love for Irish history and mythology shines on every page. The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is easily one of my favourite books so far this year!
This highly intriguing epic is set in tenth century Ireland, a time when the coasts of Ireland are beset by opportunistic Vikings and Christianity is spreading far and wide taking over from the Vikings’ belief in the Norse gods and Valhalla. It follows the fates of a Fomorian - a witch in possession of fire magic who have extremely long lives and do not age until the final year of their life - necessitating that they leave everything and move every so often to hide the fact they are not aging. The Fomorians have been persecuted and almost wiped out by another band of non mortal beings of power, the mysterious Descendants of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The Descendants believe they have wiped out all of the fire witches, thus saving mankind from their evil. However they have missed two - Gormflaith and her brother.
There are two main point of view characters, whose stories are told in alternate chapters - two very different strong women, Gormflaith the Fomorian and Fódla the Descendant. These are both so well-written many layered females who are hell bent on survival in a man’s world. Both are fiercely protective of their charges - in Gormflaith’s case this is her son, Sitric. Her ambition for him to become a respected King of Dublin knows no bounds. Gormflaith is a relentless, Machiavellian character, extremely smart and well-versed in politics and history, she can see exactly who she needs to manipulate in order to get what she wants for her son Sitric and has no qualms about whatever needs to be done. We see her murdering his rivals in cold blood, using her body where necessary, or any other means available to her to get what she wants. She is someone it would be wise to keep on your side rather than make an enemy of! She was very enjoyable to read.
“The Fomorians were a strange breed to be sure. Power-hungry, dangerous, destructive. It’s in their blood.”
The other main character, Fódla, has sworn to look after her nephew, Broccan, after his mother, her beloved sister Rónnat, is banished to an island by the rest of the Descendants of the Tuatha Dé Danann for falling pregnant by a mortal. Blessed with healing powers, Fódla is in hiding in a secret fortress with the remainder of the Descendants at the beginning of the story.
She is a much gentler character than Gormflaith, brave but cautious, sensible and loyal to her people, fiercely protective of those she loves and quick to anger over the senselessness of war and the pain and suffering it causes. After voting on a New Agreement, the Descendants have withdrawn from mankind thinking they have saved the mortal race from the witches. Having been warned of the anger and destructive power of mortal men by Tomas, the leader of the Descendants, naturally cautious Fódla is wary of them. She is a rule follower and eventually has to weigh up her protective nature and desire to save lives against her inherent need to follow the rules of her people.
The powers of the Descendants are slowly fading and Tomas, is keen to find ways to strengthen them. Tomas believes that breeding with mortals is a factor in the weakening of their gifts and demands strict punishment when he discovers Rónnat’s pregnancy.
“How strange things had become since we had voted for the New Agreement and withdrawn from the mortals. Laeg had once used her gift to drain and refill rivers and lakes – now it was a party trick to fill wine goblets. Gobnat had once used her gift to change her appearance to kill her enemies – now she used it as a tool for her own vanity.”
Tomas sends Fódla accompanied by four year old Broccan out into the world of men to infiltrate King Brian Boru’s court to spy and report back what she learns about the likelihood of a peace treaty and this is where her story arc really takes off. What Fódla discovers surprises her:
“I didn’t speak. I couldn’t. His words mirrored many of my own thoughts. Was it truly possible that this mortal man wanted to change things? My heart fluttered at the thought of it. A world of peace. A world where a girl like Aoife could have left the fortress on Fennit Island and found a man worthy of her. A land where Broccan could grow up in safety, just as Rónnat wanted. “I hope with all my heart that the treaty holds. Is it possible?””
Fódla was a much nicer character than Gormflaith but somehow she was less compelling. However, I found the diminishing of their magical powers and the decreasing numbers of Descendants being born with gifts to be a very interesting concept. I would love there to have been more focus on the history of this group and to have found out more about their origins - I thought they were fascinating!
“In the old religion, the people of Ireland followed the teachings of the Tuatha Dé Danann. There were fewer rules to be sure, less judgement. Our ancestors spoke of peace and love, but also, I had to admit, revelled in mischief. The new religion had none of that.”
The characters were what really grabbed me with this book, I do love strong female protagonists, but there is also plenty of detailed world-building. Ireland and the other locations are painted lovingly by Lawless and the history and mythology are ever present without there being any sense of too much information being given at once. The magic and ‘gifts’ feel like natural magical skills rather than outlandish powers. There are no spell books or magical equipment involved. The action is fast paced and exciting and the inevitable meeting of the two sides and the two main characters had me holding my breath, waiting to see if Fódla would recognise Gormflaith as a Fomorian.
Fans of historical fiction will enjoy this book just as much as those who love epic fantasy and I cannot recommend it highly enough!! It absorbed my full attention on the first page and didn’t let go of me until the bitter end. Bring on the sequel and then the TV adaptation!
I absolutely love it when I end up being blown away by a book that I had virtually no knowledge about before reading it. Such is exactly the case with THE CHILDREN OF GODS AND FIGHTING MEN by Shauna Lawless. All I knew going into it was that it dealt a good deal with Irish mythology/history and also had a solid basis in the pagan vs Christian split in Ireland at that time. And yes, there are Vikings, so I had some inkling that this book would be right up my alley. But I wasn't prepared for just how "up my alley" it was.
So many things kept me glued this story. One in particular was the amazingly executed political maneuvering and intrigue. I mentioned in one of my updates that it is really hard to pull off a story with lots of political intrigue because you have to make it interesting or you will quickly lose the reader. Well, this is some of the most tightly written and compelling maneuvering that I've come across quite honestly. The newly widowed Gormflaith is determined almost to the point of obsession to help her only son Sitric rise to become King of Dublin. And the lengths that she goes to try and place him on the throne are limitless. I was inspired by her dedication and yes, also her calculated scheming at times. But we all know that a mother's love can sometimes lead to extraordinary measures being taken in defense of their children, am I right? (See Orka from John Gwynne's Bloodsworn trilogy).
As the story goes on we get introduced to other characters who are on the complete opposite side of the coin in their motivations and desires. And that is really what made this book such a captivating read, both sides are given equal time through the alternating POVs and we get to view how the ensuing conflict develops through each of their perspectives. One thing is very clear, both sides think they are the "good guys" despite the growing feeling that neither one of them may be in actuality. And yet each has a strong sense that they should lead, resulting in many a violent altercation as you would expect.
I feel like there is so much that I want to say about this book but nothing seems profound enough or nearly sufficient to do it justice. All I can say is as I was reading it, with every passing chapter, I got the sense that I was reading the start of a series that is going to make big waves once it is released into the world. There's so much crossover appeal here with plenty to enjoy for fantasy fans, historical fiction aficionados, and those who love a good dose of folklore. Honestly, I can't wait until more people get an opportunity to experience it.
Lawless writes historical fiction steeped in fantasy and mythology like Bernard Cornwell, Mary Stewart, and Stephen Lawhead at the top of their games. I don't say this lightly either, I'm aware of the track record and accomplishments of these authors. But I have to say that Lawless more than holds her own among that lofty company. If you are an admirer of those books, you will absolutely love this.
Okay, i'm done gushing. Maybe. I'll just finish by saying that I was so impressed with every single aspect of this book. Shauna Lawless has loudly and triumphantly announced her presence to the world with this unforgettable debut and first book in the Gael Song series. Preorder it now because this is just one of those books that you must read the moment it is available. THE CHILDREN OF GODS AND FIGHTING MEN is truly an epic tale that nobody is going to want to miss. Now I just have to figure out how I'm going to deal with waiting for book two!
The Children of God and Fighting Men is dense and interesting read based on Irish mythology. If you are interested in myths, history, and fantasy genres I would recommend this novel! 4 stars
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher, Head of Zeus, for providing me with an e-arc of this book. My opinions are my own.
The first thing I noticed about this book was its title. That and the cover immediately gave me the kind of fantasy vibes I love so much. In the end, it also turned out to be an excellent description of what this book is about :) I loved how the story is based on real events and real Irish history, but also strays a little from that history and incorporates some fantasy elements that truly add to the story.
We follow the lives of two women: Gormflaith, Queen of Dublin and one of the last two Fomorian, an immortal gifted with fire magic. And Fódla, a healer and a descendant of the Tuatha Dé Danann. They are enemies of the Fomorians, and have slain all of them... Or so they believe.
Whereas the last two Fomorians try to gain power and rule over Ireland, the descendants of the Tuatha Dé Danann stay hidden in their fortress and do no longer live among the mortals. They only keep an eye on the kings fighting each other, so they can try and keep innocent women and children safe, without meddling in the ways of Men. Men are bloodthirsty beasts that only crave for more power, after all.
I thought Gormflaith was a very well-written character. She is always scheming and plotting and stops at nothing to make her son become what she wants him to be. She has to hide her Fomorian magic to be safe from the Tuatha Dé Danann, but to defeat them is her ultimate goal. To defeat them, and finally be seen as the powerful woman she is.
And on the other hand there was Fódla, spying on another Irish king to try and find out if the innocent people could be kept safe. I loved following her story and seeing her slowly learning that maybe not all men are so evil as she was led to believe. She has to tread very carefully to not go against the rules her kin have set.
I could not put this book down and I'm so happy I got the chance to read it. I recommend it to anyone who loves Irish history and mythology, and enjoys a fair bit of scheming with that :)
I'm going to start with the end of the book and the Author's Note about the story. Having the further details and context, plus explaining why the changes made were made, really added to the richness of the story.
Onto the story itself, I really enjoyed the dual perspectives of the two female characters and how that progressed the story across years and a vast landscape. This also made for a dramatic meeting when the two finally met, leaving you with a "will Fódla notice?"
The conflict Fódla is fighting with internally is also interesting and I'm keen to see how that plays out, along with her sister's warning to Colmon.
Gormflaith is going to do something drastic, besides the main drastic thing in the King's Hall, and I am very keen to know what and how. She's entirely power driven, for herself and her son, and written in a way that means you can't help but wonder what trick is up her sleeve next.
In a nutshell, the story pulls from history and the beautiful, often overlooked, wealth of Irish myths to build a series of characters you want to know what happens with and to, centred on two very different but equally strong main characters.
The first in a gripping new historical fantasy series that intertwines Irish mythology with real-life history, Wow what a rollercoaster of a ride… jaw-dropping and edge-of-the-seat… Instantly hooked… I literally couldn't put it down… I can't recommend this book enough!!!!
I had mixed feelings about his book and when i actually started reading it, guess what? I couldn't stop. Wonderfully crafted with plot inspired from Irish myths and legends and well built characters, you simply cannot help but get enamoured with the book. An absolute delight!
This is one of those stories where as soon as I put it down, I thirst for the rest of the series.
The Children of Gods and Fighting Men felt long but every second where I wasn't doing something, I had to read it. The urge to keep reading, and acquaint myself with the characters, swelled within me as soon as I woke up in the morning.
First, the most compelling part of this story are it's characters. The POV is mainly split between two characters: Fodla and Gormflaith. Two powerful, and vital women. The ways in which these two channel their power, and influence a society that women are widely unaccepted in as anything besides a mother, is fascinating. The Children of Gods and Fighting Men bleeds femininity, god knows I love it.
There is not a lot to say about this book without spoiling it, but if you thirst for a solid fantasy with strong female main-characters, invest in this one! Honestly, I don't care what your preferences usually are, invest in this novel anyways. I am confident Lawless' series will go far. Her characters and world are wonderfully forged. This is just the beginning.
Part history, part fantasy, mostly a bloody good read, this book sweeps the reader along and keeps you engaged all the way, you almost don't want the end of the book to happen
This was a beautifully written story. From the first page where the names were also written phonetically to the last I couldn’t put it down. It had a root in ancient Irish history and on that base the author has written an awesome tale. I look forward to reading more from Shauna Lawless.
Wow, go get this one as soon as possible. It’s like an adult Percy Jackson meets a mysterious Brandon Sanderson book.
This was such a riveting read that was well written, with an enchanting storyline and well developed characters that i really liked. This was much better than I expected and I couldn't put it down. I will definitely be reading more by this author.
“Marry, breed, move on.” This is the mantra that Gormflaith has grown up with and is now determined to resist in Shauna Lawless’s historical fantasy debut. Gormflaith is one of the last remaining Fomorian, an immortal race, that has been almost wiped out by their rivals Tuatha Dé Danann. The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is told from the viewpoints of the recently widowed Gormflaith who’s determined to make her son, Sitric, King of Dublin, and Fódla, one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, charged with spying on King Brian Boru. This is no slight to Fódla, whose journey really resonated with me throughout, but I absolutely loved Gormflaith’s character. I have to applaud the author for how she wrote Gormflaith’s character who manages to retain my sympathy even while being unapologetically self-serving and ruthless. I loved the Game of Thrones-esque political manoeuvrings and betrayals, along with the realistic portrayal of the lengths women needed to go to protect themselves and the people they loved in this bloody period of history. I’ve never read a book set in 10th century Ireland before, so I really appreciated the historical details which felt very vivid and fresh. The author struck a perfect balance between the historical and fantasy elements, and I also really appreciated the character list at the beginning, along with the pronunciation guide. Overall, I was swept along by this great read and I'm really excited to read more of Gormflaith's schemes in what promises to be an epic sequel.
Thank you so much Head of Zeus and Netgalley for an advanced review copy of The Children of Gods and Fighting Men.
Oh I just loved this book! Being Irish there was hardly any books about our culture and mythology on shelves growing up. While this certainly isn't a children's book, I adored the fact I can revel in this now.
Shauna really smashed it out of the park with this glorious, sprawling epic tale of Irish mythology, beliefs, Catholicism and the Vikings. Our history is so interesting, how has it not been taken advantage of?
I am obsessed with all the beautiful Irish names in this novel, it really made me fall even more in love with this book.
The way this book was written really hooked me and the interesting political landscape was so intriguing.
If you love Irish mythology, Irish history or just want to read more about it then this book
Where do I even begin. First thing I knew I'd be intrigued with this book based on the premise of Irish Mythology/history. I have a minor obsession with it so this book seemed right up my alley. What I didn't expect was how gripping this novel would end up being.
I still can't formulate into words what I thought about this book but what I know for sure is that whilst reading you get the sense that this is the start of an epic saga. The sheer capacity of this story to be continued and to create a massive universe that appeals to persons of all genres is indescribable. Especially those partial to fantasy and historical fiction.
The writing of the book is very immersive. It's so immersive it almost takes your breath away how caught up you get. The differing POV keeps you engaged in that you get to witness how the conflict arises from both sides. We get their reasoning and perspectives.
The characters, though many, are so well developed. I particularly respected Gormflaith and her dedication to her son, so much that she is willing to do whatever it takes to have him sit on the throne. I admire characters like that.
The author stands out in a very inundated genre. A statement I don't make lightly as there are some spectacular mythological and fantasy writers out there. But I fully believe Lawless has made an explosive debut that will absolutely knock everyone off their feet.
I was initially intrigued by the description of this book because I rarely ever see fantasy books based on Irish mythology, despite it being such a rich world to dive in and build upon. Because I love Ireland and its myths and am also interested in Irish history especially during and around the Viking Age I just HAD to read this. Obviously it was written for me, personally, and I thank Shauna Lawless for that.
"The Children of Gods and Fighting Men" is amazing. The world is beautiful and much of it reads more like historical fiction, but the added bonus of the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Formorians just provides that special extra to make this one memorable. The fantastical aspects are never the biggest focus of the book, but they add to it in a beautiful and intriguing way. The writing is stunning and drew me in from the very first page. I generally had a hard time putting this story down. There pacing is perfect, the plot exciting but still taking its time to allow us, as readers, to explore this world and get to know the characters. There ist political intrigue, there is history in the making, there are personal tragedies and grand scale wars. It's simply an expertedly crafted novel.
I absolutely adored the characters in it, too. The book focuses primarly on two very different women: Gormflaith, a Formorian and the widow of the king of Dublin, and Fódla, one of the Descendants, the last remaining link to the Tuatha dé Danann. Both of them have magic, which they use rarely but is still important for their characters, and both have very different goals in life. Fódla is my favourite, I absolute adore her inherently gentle nature and growing love for humans, while Gormflaith is a colder, less likeable but absolutely fascinating character. Both their points of view are written in first person, giving us an insight into their very souls. Both of their stories are exciting in different ways, and I couldn't wait for them to finally meet - especially because their kinds, Formorians and Descendants, are not the bestest of friends.
So do I have any criticism at all? Honestly - no. I was a bit taken aback sometimes by Gormflaith's thoughts on and treatment of other women, especially because she herself laments a woman's place often enough and demands betterment for herself, yet doesn't care for other women at all. But this is her as a character, and I do hope there will be more development in the future - so far, Fódla has more character development as a whole.
Lawless is an amazing new voice in the genre, and as I happen to really love historical fiction with perfectly weaved in fantastical aspects I will definitely read more of her. I cannot wait to see how this particular story unfolds. 5 stars.
The Children of Gods and Fighting Men
by Shauna Lawless
Pub Date: 01 Sep 2022
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 5’Star Book
The first in a gripping new historical fantasy series that intertwines Irish mythology with real-life history, The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is the thrilling debut novel by Shauna Lawless.
They think they've killed the last of us...
981 AD. The Viking King of Dublin is dead. His young widow, Gormflaith, has ambitions for her son – and herself – but Ireland is a dangerous place and kings tend not to stay kings for long. Gormflaith also has a secret. She is one of the Fomorians, an immortal race who can do fire-magic. She has kept her powers hidden at all costs, for there are other immortals in this world – like the Tuatha Dé Danann, a race of warriors who are sworn to kill Fomorians.
Fódla is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann with the gift of healing. Her kind dwell hidden in a fortress, forbidden to live amongst the mortals. Fódla agrees to help her kin by going to spy on Brian Boru, a powerful man who aims to be High King of Ireland. She finds a land on the brink of war – a war she is desperate to stop. However, preventing the loss of mortal lives is not easy with Ireland in turmoil and the Fomorians now on the rise...
Reviewers on The Children of Gods and Fighting Men:
'Rife with atmosphere and armies, magic and compelling characters, it swept me along and refused to be put down' H.M. Long
'Highlander meets The Last Kingdom in this assured and captivating debut... I was hooked from page one' Anthony Ryan
'Gripping and beautiful. A Celtic Last Kingdom with wild magic and fierce heroines' Anna Smith Spark
'I really enjoyed the book. It's an excellent read' Mark Lawrence
'A beguiling blend of fantasy, history, and politics. A gripping start to this series' D.K. Fields
'A vividly written story that makes the ancient past feel contemporary' Joseph O'Connor
'An epic historical fantasy that weaves myth and history into a sprawling tale of magic, intrigue, and war. Absorbing and richly detailed' Ian Green
'With all the complex political machinations of A Song of Ice and Fire and the bloody battles of The Warlord Chronicles, it's ideal for fans of both' Stephen Aryan
'An atmospheric journey into a thrilling historical fantasy world' R.J. Barker
The Children of Gods and Fighting Men blends Irish history and mythology into a high-stakes, groundbreaking fantasy. Besides the obviously well executed characterisation, the novel also featured women in power grounding on the throats of greasy ass men and well, you know how much I enjoy unhinged psychotic women. I loved that this novel did not stray away from accurate Irish representation and chose to keep all the events as accurate as possible (aside from a few minor changes). With that being said, the writing style was gritty and kept me on the edge of my toes. I've never wished to be in a fantasy novel so much before!
Thanks to Netgalley for this review copy. This novel is a superb re-imagining of a 10th century Ireland when Brian Boru and his fight against the Vikings looms large and the descendants of gods are still walking the lands, hiding their identities and magic gifts. The story centres around Fódla, a Tuatha de Danann and Gormflaith, a Fomorian, whose peoples, like in the myths, are deadly enemies. Though the two are separated initially by distance and circumstances, it’s inevitable that the two will meet. Fódla, gifted with healing is still grieving the loss of her daughter, one who didn’t possess the godlike long life. She is tasked by the leader, Tomas, the father of her dead daughter, to infiltrate Brian Boru’s holding and report on his activities. The Tuatha de Danann are concerned about his threat to the peace of the land, and their consequent safety, hidden on the island off of Ireland. To prevent any unwanted attention she has a glamour cast over her that renders her ugly and unappealing. In return she is allowed to look after her sister’s illegitimate son until she finds a home for him among the mortals.
Gormflaith is the newly widowed queen of Dublin and finds her position and her grown son’s precarious in the face of her stepson’s dislike. Gormflaith will do anything to make her son, Sitric king of Dublin, beating out his half brothers. Through her scheming she manages to move her plans forward, not bargaining for her son’s independent actions or other events that hold her at their mercy.
Both Gormflaith and Fódla must struggle against the power and influence of a male dominated world were women are bargaining chips or objects of pleasure. Fódla is also forced to test her assumption that all human men are evil, while Gormflaith must confront the reality of her relationship with her son. They meet these challenges with determination and steel that make for a fascinating and gripping tale well researched, not only for the myth but for the history as well. Her resources reflect well on her research, something with which I have great familiarity having spent a significant time researching my own bestselling novel, In Praise of the Bees, set in 6th century Ireland and a recent fantasy series with the Irish gods in a modern Irish setting. Highly recommended.
Full review closer to publication date!
I'd like to thank the publisher, Head of Zeus and Netgalley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.
A beautifully written book. Really enjoyed reading this. Thanks to publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. Looking forward to hearing more from this author
To begin with, kudos to the author for inserting a character list with English pronunciations into the opening pages of the publication. This included place names and even animals. Making reading the book easier to read for us mere mortals. It was also valuable as a reference guide.
This book had all the ingredients for a terrific read; mythical fantasy, true history, and political shenanigans. And so it proved.
It encapsulates the bitter struggle faced by the two leading female protagonists in a country ripped apart by politics and war. Fódla is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann with the gift of healing, and Gormflaith is one of the Fomorians, an immortal race who can do fire-magic.
The novel manages to captivate the reader from the very outset, and the attention-grabbing details make this book stand out.
A compelling and fascinating storyline with a dark tapestry of events. The factual history adds a great depth to the narrative, making it enthralling, intense and powerful.
The characterization and plotting are good, as is the descriptive writing. The author paints vivid and vibrant pictures wherever possible, giving the reader an exceptional feel of the sights and sounds of the period.
This is a well-written and researched book, with plenty of scope for character and story development. It will be fascinating to see where the author goes from here.
I would have no hesitation in recommending, The Children of Gods and Fighting Men.
For the opportunity to read this advanced copy of the book, thanks go to NetGalley and Head of Zeus -- an AdAstra Book.
4.5 stars. rounded up!
Thank you to NetGalley for providing this eARC in exchange for an honest review!
The Children of Gods and Fighting Men</i> is a historical fantasy set in late 10th Century Ireland. It combines Irish mythology with real Irish history to create a rich yet vicious tale.
'Death had a finality that sleep could only imitate.'
As someone with limited knowledge on Irish history, this book was easy to follow. Lawless presents everything in an accessible and clean way so that you do not need any prior knowledge to understand the events of this book, as can sometimes be the case with historical fantasy. Moreover, Lawless provides a character guide with name pronunciations, making it easy for readers to refer back to should they get lost!
'Pride, as always with men, was the cause of their stupidity.'
The book consists of two female POVs; the Fomorian Gormflaith, and the Descendent Fódla. Both are long-lived, both possess some form of magic, and both are fighting to make their way in a male dominated world. Lawless' clever and intricate writing shows Gormflaith to be calculating, and always acting a role. Her physical actions and spoken words are often done to hide her inner-monologue of constant scheming. Though, sometimes that act falls. She plans so much that she can't help but overthink until she literally pulls her hair out in worry. Fódla is similarly intelligent, though less cunning. She's empathetic, and tends to let her emotion decide how she acts, though she doesn't necessarily always know why. However, she struggles to trust people, especially mortal men, causing her to be closed-off and guarded. Both of these women provide unique perspectives to each side of the story that make the alternating POVs captivating to switch between.
'"There is good and bad in everyone, Fódla. There is bad in our kind, and there is good in mortals."'
It took me a little while to get into this book. As I got use to the characters and the tale I read slower, taking in the new information that was being fed to me. It must be said, Lawless' exposition was clear and faultless. Never did it feel clunky or confusing as she laid down the lore of the setting and the mythology. It was clean and expertly introduced. The final 50% of this book I read in one sitting, thoroughly hooked and unable to put it down. And, I finished just in time for it to be placed at number five in my top reads of the first six months of 2022!
'Not so long ago, the lands beyond the walls were wild. The grasslands were covered in gorse and wildflowers, and the forest to the south was so thick that no invading army ever dared stray in there for fear of never finding their way out. The old people, those who first landed here from Norway, said that ghosts lived there, ghosts and wolves, and long forgotten curses.'
I really got sucked into this one very early on and it became one of those reads I had trouble putting down and when I did I couldn't wait to pick it back up. The world and time period just really clicked with me. I mean what's not to like with fantasy elements (magic) with Irish and Viking cultures battling for control of lands in Ireland!?
World Building 5/5
Character Development 5/5
It didn't take long to become attached some several of the characters as they were introduced and begin to get fleshed out. We also end up finding some truly annoying characters here as well. The world building was nicely done to make me feel I was truly seeing the time and geographical locations being described. The pacing was really smooth and only seemed to ease a few times but that didn't last very long at all.
All of this with a sprinkle of magic and the presence of gods among us just created such a great story.
We definitely find some heartache and loss of characters, as well as betrayal. But as I mentioned to the author one of my favorite aspects of the story is the fact as it progresses you begin to see the hypocrisies of those that continually point out the evil of their enemies when they are the deceitful ones themselves.
A really nice touch at the end of the book was the author taking a moment to explain why she didn't end up making this purely a Historical Fiction or Fantasy Fiction. I'm so glad she didn't go one extreme or the other because what she's put together just truly clicked for me and I can't wait to see what happens from here with the series!
I have always been fascinated with mythology, whatever origin, and there is such a close connection between Norse and Celtic mythology because of the Viking invasion on these shores that at points it was difficult to separate the two - but that’s not a bad thing.
This book was incredibly well written, with Lawless’ own fascination for the subject matter undeniable on the page. Entwined with a battle for power that is terribly Machiavellian is a story that could be made into a TV show.
There’s magic, myth, prejudice, acceptance and the struggle of women to fight against the restrictions placed on them at birth.
Thank you net galley for the ebook!
I am very pleasantly surprised and happy about this story! When I first saw the cover and the blurb I was expecting a very standard adult fantasy novel but this is so above and beyond. The history and mythology are so well done and complex throughout the story. You can tell a lot of thought and work was put in to creating the best world possible. Not only that but it has amazing female characters when a lot of fantasy books portray women very one dimensionally. I am so happy to have received this book and I cannot wait to see more.
This book is a magical blend of Irish history and mythology. Set in 981AD the story follows two female POV’s. Fódla is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, a magical race that most people think no longer exists, with a healing gift. She is sent by her people to spy on one of the Irish Kings as a war is looming between the different nobles in the country. We also follow Gormflaith who is one of the last remaining Fomorians; an immortal and a right piece of work honestly. She also bears fire magic. She is in a position of power, seeks to win the throne of Dublin for her son Sitric, and gave me lots of Cersei Lannister vibes. We follow these two women and their stories against the political backdrop of the looming war for the throne.
I found it so easy to get sucked into this world and this story. Despite knowing little to nothing about Irish history everything was easy to follow and the exposition was spot on. Never too much or too little.
I loved both of the main characters we follow. Fódla’s story was really engaging and my favourite overall. From her grief about the past and her relationships, to watching her struggle to remain impartial and distant from the new people she meets I was itching to see what happened. The scheming and viscous nature of Gormflaith was equally as fun to follow. I loved how the author made it really easy to understand her POV and avoided her becoming a stock standard villian type character. A hard line to walk but it’s so well done here.
I loved the world building in this story so much. The author’s note at the end shows how much care has been taken to blend all the elements of this story together and it shows. I found myself just wanting to fall into 996 Ireland; despite all the axe-wielding Vikings and the harsh landscape. It all felt magical and real.
The pacing was spot on, and when the action is low there are so many emotional moments that kept me on the edge of my seat.
I’d recommend this book to everyone. I can’t wait for what comes next.
Obsessed! Tell me why I want to go back to Ireland in 996 where I would most likely die instantly in a Viking raid and why I am crying over fictional characters loosely based on people who died over a thousand years ago! Regardless I am and I am obsessed with this! Shauna Lawless and the Gael Song series are now must-read books for me. A lot is going on in this book so it was a little confusing but now I am firmly invested. My favorite plot line is that of Fodla her and Murchad they are without a doubt my favorite characters. I completely adore their friendship despite the lies, omission, and politics they have a very cute and pure friendship that I am obsessed with, and I really need book two given the ending of that plot line! Gormflaith also has an interesting and intense plotline and I love that it does shy away from the harsh reality of the times and the way women were and are treated the constant threat and brutality of both the Irish and Vikings. The intensity of Gormflaith’s plotline and desire to help her son and free herself along with Fodla’s relationship with her own people especially her husband Tomas is why I like Murchad and Fodla’s relationship so much. Murchard and Fodla are super precious and I need to see more of them I am super excited for the rest of this series and will definitely be rereading this and purchasing my own copy. Overall 10/10 and I will not stop recommending it
Whoah.... This is such a page Turner!!!!
This is my first time reading Irish Myth and I think I want to read more about it.
Totally action packed and it's hard to stop reading this book when you start reading it.
A great blend of Irish history and mythology .
Fans of historical fiction will enjoy this book just as much as those you like epic fantasy.
This was a fantastic historical fantasy set in Ireland circa 990, following the points of view of two women who possess different magics and occupy opposing positions within society. I haven’t read ,Cush from this era of history, so reading the authors notes and seeing how much was drawn from Irish history was a fun surprise.
The historical setting is fascinating, particularly with the depictions of the settled vikings versus the rise of Christianity at this time, with the conflict between these two religions being felt between characters and their beliefs.
This is very much a clever story about how the people in power manoeuvre the political dance with one another, all vying to be kings of different regions, or in the case of one character, to wipe out his enemies killed almost all of his race. The standout in this aspect of the story is Gormflaith, the queen of Dublin who is the puppet master behind a lot of the big players in the political game. Her cunning and planning was amazing to read about, and her drive to see her people avenged and her son in power made her a great character to follow, and a dangerous adversary to those that oppose her. I really liked this villainous character, and found her chapters to be very tense, as you aren’t sure whether he plans will work, who’s going to betray who next, and her own position often coming under scrutiny as she tries to hide her immortality from those around her.
Our other main character is Fódla, a magical healer who has been sent to spy on one of the provincial kings with her young nephew, as a descendant of magic, she too is immortal, and has been told all her life that mortal men are villainous and not to be trusted, and her only task is to report back to her leaders. But she goes on this incredible journey discussing food and evil, and the ability of ordinary men to be both, and seeing the greyness in the men she meets, whilst also questioning her own beliefs. I do enjoy watching characters form their own decisions and choose to believe something new and radical, so her journey was great to follow too.
Fantastic writing, a really easy book to read and the Celtic and Viking vibes are felt well throughout this book, it definitely lives up to its amazing cover!! Would recommend this to anyone who likes well written characters and interesting historical stories with lots of political games.
Video review to come
"The Children of Gods and Fighting Men" hits the nail on the head when it comes to historical fantasy. This was a gentle read for me, with a pull that kept me returning to the book whenever I could squeeze in a few extra minutes. It is so well written, with some truly remarkable characters, and a theme that was compelling. The negatives? I'm still not sure whose side I'm on! Looking forward to book 2 and returning to Shauna Lawless's imagination.
My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.
The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is an epic historical fantasy that expertly blends Irish mythology with real life history. Shauna Lawless proves herself to be a remarkable writer in this solid debut with compelling characters, a well-researched plot, and outstanding world-building. Be sure to check out The Children of Gods and Fighting Men today!
After reading The Children of Gods and Fighting Men, I am so excited for the rest of this epic historical fantasy series. This book will appeal not only to fans of feminist historical fantasies like Circe and Sistersong, but the epic fantasy genre in general. If you're hesitating at all, just look at the cover! It really encapsulates the spirit and vibe of this novel.
To say I absolutely loved the book is an understatement. Historical fantasy is my favorite sub-genre, and I especially appreciate a rich, compelling, well-researched world that isn't overburdened by the research. Lawless's world-building achieves just that. The reader feels that they've been dropped right into 9th century Ireland, with the added element of magic and the supernatural bubbling just below the surface. The way that stories and characters from Irish mythology are so seamlessly entwined with historical figures and events in Lawless's vision of Ireland is compelling and rich.
Written in first person, the novel is told from two narrators' points of view. At first I thought you couldn't really find two so completely different protagonists. But after following the women's stories more closely, the plot really brings their struggles and ambitions together - literally and metaphorically - making the themes explode on the page and highlighting the characters' similarities. Well-crafted character arcs truly made me love these women and all their flaws.
Anyone interested in Irish mythology, medieval history, the Norse invasions, epic fantasy with zest, or just new ways of looking at old stories should be sure to pick up this book.
I am a massive fan of anything that combines history and fantasy, especially Irish and Celtic history, so Children of Gods and Fighting Men was right up my alley. The story pics up in 981AD and follows the story of several key figures in Irish history, including Gormflaith and Fódla, our two POVs.
The main characters are both strong, powerful women who demonstrate their strength in different ways and with clearly distinguishable voices. I loved being in their heads and following the plot through their eyes. In a world designed to favor the masculine, our two MCs are powerfully, and unashamedly, feminine.
The intricacies of the plot and cultural elements were clearly well researched and thought out. I do have a history degree with a focus on early Irish history, which definitely contributed to my enjoyment of the book but I think it’d appeal to a vast readership regardless. It introduces what’s sure to be a vast and intricate fantasy series and I cannot wait for the next instalment!
It was difficult to believe that this was the authors debut novel, it was so accomplished and completely immersive. I usually read with others but was glad to have this to myself as I just romped through to the end. The political machinations somewhat reminded me of Game of Thrones, but that might just be me ! I will eagerly await more offerings from this great author.
Captivating and Mesmerizing are the 2 words that can be used to describe Shauna Lawless’ book” The Children of God’s and Fighting Men”. This book read as if I was watching a series of “The Last Kingdom” only set in Ireland.
Story: Follows the viewpoints of two main characters. Two incredibly determined, strong women, each with different goals, fighting in a male dominated world just to make their way.
Characters: First is Gormflaith, Widowed, Queen of Dublin, Fomorian, with only one goal. That goal is to make sure her son Sitric’s seat as King of Dublin is secure. Gormflaith will do whatever she has to do to
insure that is possible, no matter what that means. However, she has a secret. She’s Fomorian, which means she has “Fire magic” and she must do whatever, she has to in order to keep that a secret. For the Tuatha De’ Danann believe that they have annihilated all of the Formorian kind.
Then there is Fodla, who is known as a Descendant, and is a descendant of the Tuatha De’ Danann. She is blessed with the magical ability of healing and has sworn to take care of her nephew Broccan. Fodla is in care of her nephew because her sister was banished to an island by the rest of the descendants, for getting pregnant by a mortal. Now the descendants have scattered into hiding in the forests to avoid living amongst the mortals.
Yet Fodla has been tasked with spying on another mortal king, for the descendants.
While doing so, Fodla’s teachings of mortal men are evaluated. What she learns and what she learned are not what she was taught
Interesting Part: The interesting part is when the two women come together. Sworn enemies to the end. Ones ancestors have annihilated the others.
The other’s ancestors have been wiped out of existence by the other’s ancestors.
What a rendezvous that will turn out to be, eh?
Two Women: One just wants what is best for her son!
The other just wants what is best for her nephew!
Ending: Lawless comes head on, Guns blazing with this masterpiece.
She leaves no stone unturned and let’s no dust settle under her feet.
Her knowledge of historical Irish history is awe inspiring (I really must go to Ireland for sure now!)
that mixed with Norse mythology is splendid.
This one was a hard review to write, I kept changing my mind and rewriting it because of too many spoilers.
Then I made the review too long, Gosh! You just have to read the book yourself.
Compliments: Lawless absolutely SHATTERS THE CEILING!!
I always say the books that I take the longest to read are the best.
Here is another PERFECT example. This was another of my first NetGalley picks.
Thank you Head of Zeus/NetGalley/Shauna Lawless for this eARC, in exchange for my honest review.
I feel like there aren’t enough historical fantasy books based on Irish mythology and if they were all like this, I hope that number grows! I really enjoyed slowly submersing myself in this vibrant world and unfortunately it had to end sooner or later. I also loved that this book placed two women who were warriors in their own right at the forefront of this story, where other histories and historical fantasies might have sidelined them. It was reminiscent of the current trend of centering women that history forgot in stories. I would definitely recommend looking up the Irish/Gaelic pronunciations of names because it definitely added to the immersive feel of the novel! I wholeheartedly recommend this book for anyone looking for books similar to the current rush of Greek and Roman retellings but who are in the mood for something wholly unique and special.
The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is a wonderful, engaging tale based on Irish mythology and legends. Featuring main characters who are empowered women, this novel grips you from the get go.
The changing perspectives allows the reader to have an insight on the different events of the plot, which is a nice change given that the novel is rather dense.
If you enjoyed Lucy Holland’s Sistersong, where magical realism and real historical facts blend together, this book is for you!
It’s the YA version of Percy Jackson and I am 100% here for it. The characters. The dialogue. The chemistry. All of it. Absolutely in love with this story. Give me more now. The characters were three dimensional and complex, the plot didn’t drag, the dialogue and banter was amazing- just yes. All of it.
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the Riordan books.
“981 AD. The Viking King of Dublin is dead”-
Ooft it was great to get stuck in to some historical fiction again and this did not disappoint! Pair that with the fact that this is a DEBUT and honestly I can’t wait to read more from this author.
Lets start with the cover it is Beautiful and gave me heavy fantasy vibes which on first look I thought it was, this definitely drew me to the book but this was so much more than I could have hoped for- this was well researched Historical Fantasy Fiction at it’s best.
Once I got stuck in I was immediately hit with the writing and the depth of the research, I learnt so much from this book as it’s not a period that I am overly familiar with unless you count my studies at the university of the Last Kingdom- there are so many layers to this book with impeccably written political intrigue woven with Irish/Celtic mythology.
Something special about this book is that it’s told with a female voice, the book follows the lives of two women Gormflaith, Queen of Dublin and one of the last two Fomorian, an immortal gifted with fire magic. And Fódla, a healer and a descendant of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
Gormflaith’s ambition for her son is palpable think Margaret Beaufort amped up, her plotting and scheming was fantastic!
Fodla while gentler, a healer gets caught up in political scheming as she despertaely attempts to stop a war and prevent the loss of mortal lives but with the Fomorian’s on the rise will she succeed?
These are two strong women determined to not only survive but rise in a man’s world.
This book was giving me Last Kingdom meets Game of Thrones flashbacks but in know way is this a hybrid or a replica, this is stand out wonderful historical fantasy fiction with magic, witches and warriors, I am so excited that this is the start of a series, I am not so excited that I’ll have to wait some time for the next book!
It gets full marks from me.
This is one of those books that when you start reading it you can't put it down. It first caught by eye by the title and cover, but the story is expertly crafted! I mean if a book has Irish mythology and vikings, I'm already sold.
This book is full of political intrigue, beautiful character building, multiple POV's, and magic.
Absolutely loved it! Highly recommended for anyone who loves irish mythology and history!
I’m always ready for a high fantasy that shares secrets of a country’s folklore, gods and magic. In this historical fantasy work, our author shares the myths and legends of Ireland in a loose retelling of the country’s history.
This story follows two female POV’s of women who have very separate magical powers and whose family histories have held conflicts for generations. Queen Gormflaith’s husband has died and she is consumed with having her son take the crown and making her voice heard, all while hiding her true self and magic. Our second POV, Fodla, carries the grief of a lost daughter and struggles to find her place and trust in a world of dangerous men.
I enjoyed this book and the history that it carried with it; however, I would have preferred a bit more action in the book (my own personal preference in any fantasy novel). The author did an amazing job of weaving together different beliefs in mythology and Catholicism and sharing so much folklore regarding Ireland.
Thank you to Head of Zeus Publishing for providing me with an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley.
Irish myth melded with history in a way that left me wanting more. We follow two characters in the medieval times during a generations-long fight between Descendants and Fomorians over the soul of the Ireland's future.
With their magic and immortality, the women could work in parallel with a constant eye to the horizon. However, their approach towards power and kindness set them clearly apart. This can come across as a simplistic pitting of good versus evil, but layering in with actual history helps to flesh out their perspectives and those around them.
This book is a historical fiction read, set in 8th century Ireland that explores some of Irish mythology in such a powerful way. I’m a person with a very limited knowledge of Irish history but I had no trouble following the story (although I did have to pause and google a few things so that I could be sure I knew what I was reading about). This read made me want to learn more about not just Irish history but mythology as well.
This story is told in a dual POV between two very different, but extremely powerful women. Fódla is a Descendent who possesses healing magic, fears mortal men (she’s been told her whole life about how dangerous they are), and spends a lot of time working as a spy for her leader. Gormflaith on the other hand is a Fomorian who possesses fire magic, loves her son, and spends a vast majority of the book trying to insure that her son is able to raise to power the way that she wants him too. She’s the master of manipulation and there’s really no limit to what she will do for her son.
These two women are on very different paths for a majority of the book but they do finally intersect towards the end of the book and it was everything I could have asked for.
Overall I did really enjoy this book even though it took me a while to really get into it (about 45%). I do think this set a beautiful framework for a series and am interested to see what happens next.
Thank you to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for providing me an arc of this book in exchange for my review
The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is a healthy mix of historical fiction and fantasy, set in 10th century Ireland and combining Irish history with folklore. As a lover of folklore and folktales, the choice of setting and story felt very true, as folklore is entrenched in history, culture, and tradition.
The story is told from two perspectives, following two women from opposing magical forces as they support two opposing mortal kingdoms. The main appeal of the story is human nature and political intrigue, so if you enjoy a book that has a solid plot and action, this might not be the story for you. I also assume this is the first in what will be a series, as this first book was mainly build-up of tension and very little release. I felt that there could have been a little more payoff for how much investment you put into the characters as a reader, however I'm sure it will get incredibly tense and exciting in future books!
The world building and character development was solid, however, for the first book in a series. It did feel a little slow for my personal taste in the first half, but this is in part due to its genre as historical fiction/fantasy. The pace was fairly meandering, as is the course of history, but there were time-jumps throughout which I felt gave me little time to feel properly connected to the characters. In turn, the characters' connections to each other would suddenly change which each time-jump, which was a little jarring.
Perhaps this illustrates more how I feel about this genre in particular, however, and is not necessarily a reflection on the writing, which I found engaging. There was plenty of dialogue (which I love, and helps increase the pace), and quite a few lovely, poetic sentences, especially in regards to nature and the elements. The story felt very grounded in the landscape, which is crucial in a story like this.
Recommended for readers who don't mind a slower journey, and who want to explore more of Irish history and folklore (as from the writer's note, it is meant to be fairly historically accurate).
Thank you so much Head of Zeus and NetGalley for the arc of The Children of Gods and Fighting Men by Shauna Lawless in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.
What can I say, I was unsure about a book that merges history with magic, I’ve read a few previously that didn’t gel, but this book achieves the perfect merger between the two. Combining the ferocious and thrilling history of Ireland during the 10th century with elements of magic, myth and viking lore, it delivers an engaging and intriguing story from the perspective of two female protagonists who are mythical enemies from distinct magical lines, the Fomorians, and the Tuatha Dé Danann.
Fódla of the Tuatha Dé Danann and Gormflaith of the Fomorians are on opposing sides at a time in Irish history where conflict was rife as battles are fought to regain control of Ireland from the Vikings. Both have magic, and their stories are woven so beautifully into the narrative that there’s no questioning the existence of myth, and magic during these times.
The storyline is blended into key historical events and times, and the author has endeavoured to be as true to history as possible, which only serves to reinforce the world she has created and illustrate a genuine desire to be as real as fantasy can be.
I was truly engaged in this story from the first page, please don’t be daunted by the reams of characters and pronouncing names. (There are some great sites to help you get those names right when you are reading, and honestly they don’t detract from this story. The names are actually amazing,
I absolutely loved how this book brought history to life, displaying the politics, scheming and betrayals that went behind the battles and wars, which were also described with an excellent touch, displaying the rawness and pave of events.
This was a great read and I’m definitely picking a copy up, and can’t wait to see what happens in the next book, as there is so much more to come for Fódla, Gormflaith, and for this author.
First off, this is probably the best historical fantasy debut I have ever read. Lawless had me in their palm of their hand from the first chapter.
Set in Ireland in the late 900s, we follow Gormflaith and Fódla. Gormflaith's husband, the Viking King of Dublin, has just died and she wants to get her son on the throne and fast. Amongst all her courtly secrets, she also has a secret of her own, she's a Fomorian. Fomorians are an immortal being that can perform fire magic and she has had to keep this secret to stay alive and stay safe from the other immortals of this world, the Tuatha Dé Danann.
Fódla is one such Tuatha Dé Danann who sets out on an undercover mission to spy on the battling kings of Ireland and send word back to her people. Along the way Fódla must fight against what she has been told and what she believes to be true.
This is a truly glorious piece of fiction with a lot of well research Irish history mixed in, Lawless' masterpiece shows how historical fantasy can and should be done. I cannot wait for the next installment.
The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is a heady mix of real medieval Irish mythology and magical fantasy. I have spent a great deal of time recently immersed in ancient history of this period so this novel slotted in well with my current reading trends. I enjoyed the complexity of the story as the reader bounces back and forth between two warring factions each with their own magical ability and the need to safeguard that knowledge from the other and mankind. Men, Vikings especially, pose quite a risk to each and though they sometimes live among them, it can come at a high price.
This novel is so easy to sink into. The world building and character development brings the age to life. I am always pleased to enjoy the first of a trilogy and this is no exception. There is much more story left for the follow on books.
The Children of Gods and Fighting Men, by Shauna Lawless. See link below for my booktube style review.
A spellbinding novel steeped in heart and vengeance that blends myth and history whilst being led by ferocious heroines!
Shauna Lawless arrives in the fantasy world with a magical explosion! Fans of Game of Thrones, Sarah J. Maas and Bernard Cornwell get ready to read your new favourite author! Shauna Lawless weaves Irish myth with history like a master at the loom! I knew nothing of Irish history or myth and thanks to Shauna, I am fully invested. The series ‘Gael Song’, which ‘The Children of Gods and Fighting Men’ kicks off, is already one of my favourite current series and I’m already counting down the days to the next release. At the time of writing this, the first one hasn’t seven released yet!!
The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is a tale of generational rivalry, magical gifts and centred at its heart…humanities bonds. Within these covers is the start of what promises to be a magnificent series. Masterfully depicted battle scenes and treacherous tales of deceit keep the story alive and kicking. Never, at any point, did I feel that the pace slowed or was starting to burn out. From chapter to chapter there is so much to intake but not so much that the story becomes convoluted. There is the perfect amount of storytelling.
Gormflaith and Fódla are powerful female leads with sometimes literal fire flowing through their veins. Their individual journeys throughout the novel are riveting. The growth and development of all of the characters, not just the leads, is superb. Each has a well thought out and described backstory and all of them have a unique part to play in the novel. Shauna created beautiful character based imagery in my mind that stayed with me through each chapter.
A fast-paced blending of myth and history awaits you in this book. Let Shauna Lawless take you on a magical trip through ancient Ireland and fill your mind with beautiful stories and a diverse set of captivating characters. The Gael Song series promises to be a new fantasy classic so jump on board right at the start! Thank you Head of Zeus and Ad Astra for the ARC.
The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is out September 1st!
The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is the most promising debut I've read all year.
I have received this book in exchange of an honest review, thank you to Head of Zues and Netgalley for the opportunity.
Historical fantasy is one of my favourite sub genres, and to me personally, it doesn't really matter which side of the spectrum does a series fall as long as I'm having fun. For a first book, I'll classify The Children of Gods and Fighting Men to be closer to historical fiction, than fantasy. Which in turn, makes me super glad that I didn't come into the book expecting the opposite.
Don't let the above imply in any shape or form that the book wasn't good, because that's simply not true. It's just that, The Children of Gods and Fighting Men can be considered a setup book for the conflicts to come and it's mostly done in a battle of politics and alliances more so than anything else. And even then, there is nothing to worry about because this is going to be a staple recommendation from my side when it comes to books with amazing politicking henceforth.
The nations in question, the different entities involved, the religious side, misconceptions, challenged ideas, the double standards, survival, alliances and betrayals to name a few are what the book revolves around for the bigger part of its plotline. The author wastes no time in establishing the sides of the conflict and letting me see their lives in this very horrible world.
What made it even more interesting for me personally, is that it seemingly handles a side of real history that I haven't been exposed to much just yet. I really enjoyed the brief lessons of Irish / viking history, religions, lore, and legends. There was one mentioned possible plotline that I really hope comes back later on, in much bigger details with the same set of point of views.
Speaking of which, the choice of point of view characters in The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is incredibly smart and is also unique.
There are only two of them in the book, and they are both women. But, the sides they discuss and/or focus on, are similar in one area and different in almost everything else. Though they are the main point of views, the role of men in this very patriarchal society is in the spotlight just as much as Gormflaith and Fódla, not diminished or ignored in any way.
The role of women in general in a historical setting is usually very clear, and this time was no different. I'll argue that it's the ONLY book I've read so far where the argument of "things like this happen because it's realistic" is actually applicable. If I separate the book into quarters, then the third quarter was the hardest one to read for me in this book because of how much of it I could actually see as a reality and there was one side about it that I didn't enjoy as much.
Despite that however, both of them tried their best to survive and make the best of the cards they were dealt. Intelligence, compassion, grief, thoughtfulness, scorn, hate, cunning and ruthlessness were some of the traits I saw in both of them and they were truly fantastic to follow. And that's why I call it unique.
It's easier to create a point of view character who is in the middle of the action at all times, it's much much harder to create an engaging character who is theoretically on the side with a very rigid designation. But Shauna Lawless did. Gormflaith is easily one of the best characters I've come across this year/ever and depending on what happens later on for Fódla, I'm certain she'll end up joining the favourites list as well.
I look forward to the continuation of their stories so much (hopefully it won't be too heavy with a certain something I 99.99% hate), and I'm almost certain that it's going to be just as good as this one was, if not more.
"Hate was what consumed me now. And I had so much of it."
It was a very fun and addicting book, I enjoyed my time a lot and I can't wait to continue whenever I get the chance to do so! Incredible debut!
Final rating: 4.5/5
Already, I am looking forward to the sequels for this book! This novel quickly sucked me in to its magical, history- and mythology-inspired world. Much like Madeline Miller's mythology retellings, this story could be mistaken for historical fiction were it not for the occasional burst of magic, the latter blending in to this world seamlessly despite its fantastical nature.
Full of political intrigue, magic, Vikings, and family feuds, this is a retelling of Ireland's history and mythology that made me eager to learn more about Ireland's cultural history. In short, this is a quick and engaging read and the start of what looks set to be a very strong series.
(Thank-you very much to the publishers and Netgalley for sending me an advance copy of the book!)
THE CHILDREN OF GODS AND FIGHTING MEN is a stunner of a historical fantasy novel, weaving magic into the real event of late 10th century Ireland as kings vie for power, and two magical groups of people play long games of power.
I love historical fantasy, particularly one that takes real events and adds magic - which this does. The book probably veers more on the historical side than the fantastical, but I really enjoyed that. I love history and the 10th century in Northern Europe as a whole is one of shifting powers and cultural clashes between the Vikings and the people they settle with finding ways to live together or resist. Against this constantly shifting (in terms of dominance) cultural background is set a story of women trying to survive the upheavals of power struggles - and shape it for their own ends.
The book is told from the perspective of two women, Fódla and Gormflaith, both of whom have power they keep hidden. Gormflaith is the one really getting her hands stuck in to the politics, manoeuvring the men around her. I loved how unashamedly she pursued her goals and used everyone to make her (and her son's) position secure. She knew what she wanted and was ruthless in pursuit of it.
Fódla by contrast observes. She's there to spy but has preconceived notions instilled by her magical community that are broken down as she starts to question some of their rules. Through her we get this hope for peace and stability as she's so full of compassion but also instilled fear.
They don't really cross paths in the book, mostly leading very separate lives, only touching each other thanks to the politics they observe (or in Gormflaith's case, participate in.) Usually, unlinked POVs are something I don't particularly enjoy (one POV is my favourite and any not linked to them I don't care about) but their voices and struggles were so richly drawn that I wanted to see more of both of them - and how they'd eventually meet up. And it looks like they'll be interacting a lot more in the next book.
To some, the Tuatha Dé Danann and their foes the Fomorians are the stuff of legend, but their descendants are very much alive in 10th century Ireland. The descendants of both the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomorians use their magic to interfere in dynastic struggles: the Tuatha Dé Danann to keep the peace, and the Fomorians to seize power.
When the king of Dublin dies, his death sets off a chain of events that will cause the descendants of the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomorians to become involved in a mortal war that may have supernatural consequences.
The Children of Gods and Fighting Men by Shauna Lawless is a historical fantasy that is steeped in history and legend much like Lucy Holland’s Sistersong but also steeped in magic and dynastic battles much like George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. An epic and compelling read I couldn’t put down!
The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is a lovely blend of history, fantasy, and mythology. The story is told in alternating perspectives of two magical women whose ancestors and peers are mortal enemies. The two women never interact, but their stories are very much intertwined, I really appreciated the cast of characters and pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book. There were a lot of traditional Irish names used. A nicely paced story, it left me wanting to know more since it ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. Hopefully there's more to come!
First, I wanted to say that I really enjoyed this book. Books about Irish history and mythology are not extremely common, so I was pleased to discover this one.
The story is good and it kept me interested through the whole book, which is why I rated it highly.
Character wise, I found the book lacked a single truly likable or sympathetic character. Out of the two main characters I believe you were supposed to like Fodla, but I found her to be somewhat boring and uninteresting. The second main character, Gormflaith, was morally corrupt and obviously the "villain" of the two, but her chapters were more interesting even when I hated what she was doing.
The writing is good, but I found it to be a bit out of place for a historical fiction/fantasy novel that takes place in the 10th century. Characters would use very modern words and it would jar me out of my immersion in the world.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone with a interest in Irish history and mythology. Or just to anyone who likes a good fantasy story.
4.5/5 stars: THE CHILDREN OF GODS AND FIGHTING MEN is a superb novel that weaves history and Irish mythology into a cunning game of political maneuvering. Told from two points of view, the reader follows the immortals Gormflaith and Fódla over a span of nearly 20 years in 10th century Ireland. Gormflaith, one of the last of the Fomorians, will do anything to ensure her mortal son stays king. Fódla, one of the Tuatha Dé Danann who hunt and kill Fomorians, will do anything to protect her sister's son. Set in a time period of political uncertainty as Irish and Viking cultures slowly amalgamate, the Fomorians seek to integrate and rule the land while the Tuatha Dé Danann continue to distance themselves from the violence of men.
I loved the assemblage of true historical events with fantasy elements. At the end of the book the author explains that a lot of the names and events actually happened. She took some liberties with the timeline and names to push events closer together and avoid name repetition. But I found this created a believable and atmospheric vibe true to the time because of the historical records available for incorporation. Though I don't know much about Irish mythology or medieval Irish history, this book made me inspired to learn more.
The political chess game also really drew me in. It's been quite a while since I read a book that included this much foresight by characters playing the long game of king of the castle. Though these characters are based off of real people, records can only tell us so much and cannot fully portray their personalities. I felt that the author really put a lot of thought into how to depict Gormflaith and Fódla in their respective situations.
Because the Tuatha Dé Danann have sworn to kill all Fomorians, the Fomorians do what they can to survive. This means no magic, integrate with the mortals, and breed. As a result Gormflaith's early life is as a pawn in her mother's machinations to keep the Fomorian race alive. But once her mother dies, Gormflaith puts all of her energy into ensuring her mortal son won't have to bend to another's whim by planning his ascendance as king.
The Tuatha Dé Danann, however, want nothing to do with the mortals, for they seem them as a violent race hellbent on war and death. They believe this so strongly that they implemented laws forbidding living among mortals and interfering with their squabbles. But when the Tuatha Dé Danann cast out Fódla's sister, Ronnan, for lying with a mortal, Fódla begins to question whether their laws are fair. Fódla's task to spy on King Brian introduces her to a side of humanity not frequently described by her kin. That is, not all men are cruel and not all men want war. Some men are honorable and brutally passionate about bringing peace to their land, which makes Fódla reevaluate what she knows and was taught about humankind.
Though I would have appreciated more descriptions of the magic system, there's enough history and displays of magic to get the gist. Since this is the first book in a series, I have no doubt we'll learn more as the story progresses. Perhaps if you're familiar with Irish mythology you may have a more informed idea of the history of these magical races. I, however, shall be pleasantly surprised as it unfolds.
I don't feel my review does this book justice even though I enjoyed it (and read it fairly quickly relative to recent reads). But at its heart THE CHILDREN OF GOD AND FIGHTING MEN is about making the world a better place for the survival of one's family. Not everyone agrees on the right way to accomplish this, whether it's by raiding and conquering, brokering peace treaties, retreating to prejudice and isolationism, or integrating with other races and cultures.