Blurb from GoodReads: A group of three young thieves are pulled into a centuries old magical war between ancient beings, mages, and humanity in this wildly original debut epic fantasy. (The rest of the blurb can be read here.)
I think this will be one of the books that ended up disappointing me the most this year. I was so ready for a grimdark Six of Crows, grittier, bloodier, more desperate. As you can see my expectation of the book didn’t really line up with the blurb. I add stuff to my TBR and pick it up weeks later without ever reading the blurb, which is why it wasn’t what I was expecting.
This was mildly disappointing, but I could have adjusted easily enough if I had been told a good story. At the end of the day, that’s all I really care about, that I’m being entertained.
Well no, Maximus. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t entertained.
I have so many issues I don’t even really know where to begin. I’m baffled this went to print this way. It feels unfinished- like a second draft with most of the proofreading errors taken out. I found multiple typos, inconsistencies in the way words were spelled, characters popping into scenes where they shouldn’t be. One time I think Rat was called Spar and then went right back to being Rat, and another one Miren popped up when he should have been Haden (even better Miren was all the way across town, and the scene he wasn’t supposed to be in was sandwiched between two other Miren scenes. Imagine my confusion at him being in two places at once). This is not confusing because it’s complex, it’s confusing because it’s poorly edited. I actually had to stop at one point and double check that it wasn’t self published. I’ve read self-published books with fewer errors. Not sure what Orbit was thinking.
The plot was a cool concept poorly executed. For centuries across this steampunkish land, the gods have been battling each other- dragging Mortals down into their fights. Not sure why gods need mortals to fight for them, or even why they are fighting, but Guerdon’s gods are kept in check. Now someone wants to free them.
My issue with the execution is two fold. The first issue I have is that no one’s motivations make any sense. **SPOILERS** The alchemists want to melt down the Black Iron Gods (imprisoned in bells) and use them to make “god bombs” to stop the war and prevent them from coming back. Everyone agrees the Black Iron Gods are bad, yet everyone is also fighting the alchemists… why? I understand it will also kill the kept gods but as far as I can tell they aren’t doing a whole lot for anyone, and the kept gods end up dying anyway… wouldn’t it have been easier just to let the alchemists do it? Or to help them? **END SPOILERS**
The second part of my upset with the execution comes from the fact that this is largely a metaphysical tale. I say Godswar and you’re thinking a war of titanic proportions right? Buildings crumbling, swords flying, heroes and villains.
Wrong. Mostly it’s someone having an out of body experience and observing everything from a distance. It was incredibly boring. This is largely personal preference but I like the up close and personal battle scenes. There were none to be had. Aleena comes close with her more physical abilities and her sainthood and flaming sword, but a lot of the action scenes fade to black in some misguided attempt to build suspense into the plot. There isn’t any.
The book is so hung up in its own world building, in its pages upon pages of raptequine horses and Tallowmen and alchemical weapons that it forgot to describe the action. Don’t get me wrong- the world building was very cool. It had lots of fun elements that felt unique. But it wasn’t enough to keep me engaged and wanting more.
There are some really odd sex scenes thrown in that one of the MCs constantly thinks about afterwards, that destroyed her character in its entirety. They were bizarre and so out of left field any mention of them immediately withdrew me from the story. They detracted from the MCs character and took her from feeling whole to feeling flimsy. Especially when the partner is described as inexperienced and clumsy in the very first line of their hookup. It was very painfully obvious at that point, that she had been written by a man. If the two characters had been in love, it might have been acceptable. If there had even been a few lines introducing their attraction for each other, it might have been acceptable. The way it’s told here, I suspect will ring incredibly false to most women.
Rat’s character and Jere’s character largely feel useless. Characters were killed that pop backup in the epilogue, apparently alive and well. In the beginning there are references to ongoing riots that are never witnessed.
I thought it was supposed to be grimdark but it felt more like New Adult to me. Cari carries around a “knife” she barely uses. When she does use it, it feels pretty lame. Cari slashed at the grotesque monster tentacles with her knife. What exactly were you expecting to come of that Cari? You don’t kill god-monsters with a knife. I just wanted it to be more. If you’re going to write a sex scene- really write a sex scene. If you’re going to make it bloody, make it gory. I know I probably have unreasonable expectations when it comes to this, Constant Reader that I am, but when you sell me something as grimdark those are the expectations that come with it.
I feel bad writing this because I wanted to love it. If it had been edited properly and dropped 200 pages of world building and description and a couple POVs I might have… but for now I just don’t have many nice things to say about it and I can’t recommend it. Maybe an update from Orbit can fix the kindle version, but unfortunately for the hardback I guess it’s too late.