The Eternal Kingdom
I received this as a review copy from the author, at no cost.
This is the third and last book in the Children trilogy (see here and here) by Ben Peek. It does not stand on its own because it is building on, drawing together, exploding, and generally messing with ideas and characters from the previous two books. If you enjoy epic fantasy with rather grim repercussions for its characters, detailed world building and surprising twists, then just stop reading now and go grab the earlier books. Seriously, it’s worth it; this is the sort of trilogy to read when you really want to get your teeth into a set of characters and be thrown completely into their lives. And look – the series is finished! So you don’t have to worry about being left in the lurch!
So, when we left the series last time the new god had just broken through properly and was causing some havoc. Where ‘some’ is ‘a significant amount’. And following through with our newly-named god, as she tries to claim paramount status in a world that’s not really sure if it wants her and what that would actually mean for the world, is the focus of the whole book. The looks different for different characters of course: Bueralan has his very personal struggles as well as being caught up in the politics of a new god, while Ayae isn’t particularly happy about being an intermediary between different groups and the other immortals are largely unknowable and definitely have their own agenda. And then there’s Heast, and the other characters we’ve come to appreciate over the earlier two books… the ones who aren’t dead yet, anyway. Well, mostly the ones who aren’t dead. Death has a somewhat… permeable… nature here.
I’m not going to lie, there are some unpleasant things that happen to characters throughout this book, and I was never sure who was going to survive and who wasn’t. It’s a measure of the books, though, that I cared about that fact. And I did. I really did. When the Innocent, murdering sunuva that he is, appeared on any page I was worried (and he appears quite a lot in this book, so I spent a lot of time chewing my [metaphorical] nails). And the new god, who has definitely shown herself to be largely reprehensible… well, continues on that track but of course maybe she’s not all that bad and ARGH how do I figure out what to actually think? Curse you Peek and your morally grey characters and novels!
You will probably find that this series plays on your emotions. You may find yourself yelling at Peek (I’m sure he can handle it) and various characters (most of them deserve it). If you buy just the first one… well, I am not to blame if you have to go and buy the next two in short order.
Galactic Suburbia 149!
In which we compete for gold, silver and bronze medals in chatting.
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WSFA Small Press Award shortlist released.
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Alisa: Star Trek Beyond, Olympics
Alex: Deadpool and Batman v Superman; Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, Seanan McGuire (out next January from Tor.com); Strange Matings, ed Rebecca J Holden and Nisi Shawl; The Godless, Ben Peek
Tansy: Shadowhunters (Netflix), Masks & Shadows by Stephanie Burgis; Damaged Goods by Russell T Davies adapted by Big Finish Audio
Independent Olympians at the Olympics
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This is the sequel to The Godless, and will therefore have some spoilers for that first book. Like that one, this was sent to me by the author at no cost.
Aaaaarrrrrgggghhh. The third book isn’t out until 2017.
The Godless basically ends with the siege of Mireea ending badly for our friends there, with additional problems like having killed a couple of very powerful men, while Buerelan’s friends are dead and the child-god is being distinctly creepy. So you just know that this second book is going to be completely full of happy, cheery adventures. Or not.
Peek’s pre-prologue is from a historian writing fifty years after the siege of Mireea, which I quite like as a conceit since it allows him to remind the audience of some of the major events with a bit of chronological distance that provides for the introspection and reflection of good historical writing. The prologue itself is deeply unsettling, since we’re introduced to someone who, sadly, doesn’t survive (sorry, but it is kind of obvious). And that’s because he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time: on the coast, when Aela Ren – the Innocent, who was pretty much a myth and a rumour in the first book – comes to shore. Which bodes for the entire novel.
The Godless followed a few different perspectives; Leviathan’s Blood steps it up a notch by adding more perspectives as the web of the story becomes increasingly complex. A lot of the story occurs in Yeflam, whence the survivors of Mireea have decamped as refugees – and I can’t help but think that Peek’s presentation of their situation, being stuck on an island with little provision and viewed with deep suspicion by the people of Yeflam – reflects current experiences of refugees, especially in relation to Australia. Ayae is having to deal with being a refugee again but also being in a unique position as someone cursed, or blessed, with a god’s power – and therefore viewed very differently by the people of Yeflam, whose state is largely ruled by such people (the Keepers). She, however, largely feels loyalty to the Mireeans and their ruler – as well as to Zaifyr, who is also in a difficult position, since he’s arrived in Yeflam as a prisoner for the murder of two Keepers. Which he knew would land him in hot water, to say the least. Then you’ve got Captain Heast, who may be my very, very favourite character since he’s so much the put-upon, battle-scarred, trying-to-be-moral, old soldier (huh… so I have a type then: Sparrowhawk; Mal Reynolds; Han Solo). And then there’s Buerelan, who probably has the most difficult narrative throughout this book, since it begins in such a hard place – blood-brother dead and cursed by the child-god – and it just gets worse as he goes to Ooila, the home from which he has been exiled for a very long time and where he knows he won’t get a great reception.
This series is definitely one of those thats fits into the Rather Gloomy side of epic fantasy. That’s not a negative, but I probably wouldn’t be giving it to someone who hasn’t read any since they enjoyed David and Leigh Eddings as a teen! There’s a lot of difficulty for our heroes, and often our heroes aren’t actually very heroic. Instead, they’re fallible and frustrated and human; not always likeable but almost always compelling.
There were points at which I felt like the narrative dragged a little, when it feels like we’re getting a bit bogged down in the details of how the Mireeans will get out of their difficult situation with Yeflam or the internal politicking of Zaifyr and his completely dysfunctional family. Having said that, all of those details add up to a very rich world – one where life isn’t all adventures and near-misses, but where understanding realpolitik is genuinely life and death, and buying farms can be a risky manoeuvre, and who you spend time with might actually change your life.
And thus, dammit, begins the long wait for the final book.
You can get it from Fishpond.
Godless, by Ben Peek
This book was sent to me by the author, at no cost.
It was fascinating, when I started this, to realise just how long it’s been since I read some epic fantasy.
Quite a while.
This is definitely epic fantasy. You can tell because the blurb begins by telling you it’s fifteen thousand years since something happened, and that something is the War of the Gods rather than a generation ship leaving Earth.
So the gods are dead (or dying), and most humans have just been getting on with their lives: knowing that there used to be gods, and that the consequences of their war and deaths are all around – in the mountains called the Spine of Ger, in the ocean called Leviathan’s Blood – but really, just living. There are a few exceptions, though: those who seem to have some of the gods’ power in them. For most humans, those people are cursed and to be avoided – not least because some of them used their powers to rule parts of the world, with varying levels of success or violence.
The narrative is told through three different characters. Ayae is young, a cartographer’s apprentice, a refugee in Mireea, and about to discover that she is cursed. The middle-aged Bueralan is a mercenary captain employed by Mireea who finds himself going surprising places. And Zaifyr… well, he’s completely unexpected. Old, troubled, complex, selfish, blunt, powerful. Much as I think he would hate it, he really binds everything in the narrative together because of his history, and because of his actions throughout the story.
Godless has action and betrayal, sieges and death and confusion and loss. So, epic. And it’s the first of a trilogy, so nothing is resolved – well, there are deaths, but given this situation that may actually not be as final as in other stories. This book definitely doesn’t stand by itself because the last couple of pages are evil, evil cliffhangers.
My one real problem with this book had more to do with the presentation than the narrative. There are numerous points at which characters are reminiscing about the past, but the text’s appearance doesn’t make it clear what’s happening in the past or in the present. In some books that’s because the characters themselves are confused, but that’s not the case here. It would have been good, therefore, to have the font make the time differences obvious – or even just a break in the text itself would have helped. It meant that I had to work harder than was necessary. There were also a number of typos and odd sentence structures, which frustrated me.
I am definitely looking forward to the second book in the series.