When Shadow Moon is released from prison early after the death of his wife, he meets Mr. Wednesday and is recruited as his bodyguard. Shadow discovers that this may be more than he bargained for.
As Mr. Wednesday beings recruitment for the coming battle, Shadow Moon travels with him to Chicago and agrees to a very high stakes game of checkers with the old Slavic god, Czernobog.
Shadow questions the terms of his employment when Mr. Wednesday informs him of his plan to rob a bank (because, naturally, every army needs a source of funding). And just when Shadow thought his life couldn’t get any more complicated, he returns to his motel room to a surprising discovery.
Alternating between the past and the present, Laura’s life and death are explored—how she met Shadow, how she died, and how exactly she came to be sitting on the edge of his motel room bed.
Trying to work things out with his dead and unfaithful wife, Shadow's emotional reunion is interrupted when he and Mr. Wednesday are kidnapped by the New Gods.
On the run after the New Gods' show of force, Shadow and Mr. Wednesday seek safe haven with one of Mr. Wednesday's oldest friends, Vulcan, God of the Fire and the Forge.
Her brief reunion with Shadow over far too quickly, Laura turns to an unlikely travel companion to find her way back to life, and back to Shadow. Mad Sweeney's long, winding, and often tragic past is explored.
On the eve of war, Mr. Wednesday must recruit one more Old God: Ostara, ne Easter, Goddess of the Dawn, but winning her over will require making a good impression, and that is where Mr. Nancy comes in.