When Shadow Moon is released from prison a few days early, following the death of his wife, he meets the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday and is conscripted into his employ as bodyguard. Attacked his first day on the job, Shadow quickly discovers that this role may be more than he bargained for.
As Mr. Wednesday begins 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 his decision to work for Mr. Wednesday after learning of his plan to rob a bank; Shadow makes a surprising discovery when he returns to his motel room.
The story of Laura's life and death is explored, including her first encounter with Shadow and how exactly she came to be sitting on the edge of his motel room bed.
Shadow's emotional reunion with his dead and unfaithful wife 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.
Following her brief reunion with Shadow, Laura turns to an unlikely travel companion to find her way back to life; Mad Sweeney's long, winding, and often-tragic past is explored.
On the eve of war, Mr. Wednesday attempts to recruit the Old God Ostara, but needs Mr. Nancy's help in making a good impression and winning her over.