The one issue I had with the first novel was my struggle to connect with the two main characters, Fiona and Zeke. I felt their relationship and personal growth were overshadowed by the fantastic cast of mythological characters that surrounded them and what development they did experience, while interesting, came a little late in the story. I had no such qualms here as Ashton puts both centre stage and delves deep into their characters. Whereas, they are both just reacting to events in the first novel, here they play significant roles to the plot while going through 'training' to master their newly discovered abilities. Fiona's true heritage was a big revelation in the first book while Zeke remained a mystery. While Wrath of Gods does explore his heritage, there are still some things left unanswered. I really enjoyed both characters' arcs and look forward to where they go in the third book.
Wrath of Gods boasts an even bigger cast of mythological characters than Rise of Gods, which Ashton continues to cleverly explore and make his own, giving each significant page time to make them memorable and easy to distinguish. New standouts include: a sleepy snake, a chicken with a Scottish accent, a telepathic rat and a lion that is fond of the drink. As before, I do not want to give away who they are as part of the series' appeal is meeting and exploring these figures from myth. Ashton also builds on the first books' mythological cast, with a bigger emphasis on the likes of Edgar, Cú Sith and Pratha. I also loved the focus on African and Asian mythologies and the significance of Hinduism to the greater plot, giving this book an altogether familiar yet different taste to the first. There is no doubt that Ashton is a master of myth and the way in which he explores and weaves them into the threads of his story feels natural.
Like Rise of Gods, Ashton takes us to many places across earth, from the dank alleys and wet rooftops of New York to the deep glens and highlands of Scotland to the hidden realms of Norway, each vividly explored and used to great effect during the novel's many set pieces. There are other exciting places we get to visit, but I do not want to give away too much. Just make sure you wrap up warm and keep an eye on the moon.
Finally, I want to bring attention to Ashton's unorthodox writing style which he weaves with much more confidence and experience in this book. There is a lot less head-hopping during scenes than in the first book which demonstrates his stronger control of the third person omniscient. The use of present tense continues to work well, particularly during the action-packed and tenser moments. I like to use the term 'set piece' when describing Ashton's cinematic approach to action sequences, which there are plenty of here, the reason being that they are reminisce of what you would find in only the best big screen blockbusters. I also found the contrast between the first and second books' plot structure worked very well. Both consist of three acts, but the pacing is quite different. Where Rise of Gods slowly builds for the first half before picking up pace, Wrath of Gods does the opposite with its third act mostly serving as a period of respite, though still filled with revelations and key moments between characters. It felt like the calm before the storm that will be the great war in the final book of the trilogy, War of Gods.
Overall, this is a fantastic sequel that addresses the issues of the first while building on its strengths. I am very much looking forward to reading the final book. The gods have gathered. The board has been set. Now comes war.
5 / 5