“Commanded by Johan Jokellsward, The Brotherhood of the Eagle has united the vying factions of the Reavesburg Clan as they struggle to defeat their enemies, led by the monstrous King Adalrikr Kinslayer”
Another fantastic prologue, more momentous action, additional fascinating intrigue and clan politics, and once again, superlative storytelling from Tim Hardie, as he heads into the home stretch of his epic “Brotherhood of the Eagle” series with the third installment, “Lost Gods”!
If you like Norse-inspired fantasy, and you haven’t yet dived into this incredible series, you are missing out! Now, to the review.
“Lost Gods” focuses on the aftermath of the climatic events of “Sundered Souls”, where both main opposing factions are licking their wounds, marshalling their forces, and preparing for a (potentially) decisive final confrontation. Those factions consist of 1) those following Johan Jokellsward, who has rallied what remains of the disparate Reavesburg Clan to confront 2) the treacherous, usurping King Adalrikr and his Vorund Clan supporters.
Adalrikr has withdrawn to his base of operations following a crushing defeat, however he is far from vanquished. Wielding dark sorcery, and convincing more prospective allies to come to his cause, Adalrikr is preparing his masterstroke to eradicate Johan’s forces once and for all.
Meanwhile, our main protagonist, the crippled former nobleman Rothgar, endowed with powerful magic of his own, persuades his lord Johan to allow him to set out on a dangerous journey to a fabled land far away, seeking additional power that could turn the tide permanently in favour of the Reavesburg side.
Finally, Rothgar’s sister, Lady Nuna, and her husband, are subjugated by warriors loyal to Adalrikr. But the clever and resourceful Nuna, is determined to free her people from the oppressive yolk of Adalrikr’s regime. She hatches a risky plan, using the Vorund opponents to achieve her ends. Will the daring plan backfire, and bring disaster?
Hardie continues his wondrous characterization, and the central figure continues to shine. Hardie’s protagonist, Rothgar, son of the former chief of Reavesburg, has truly come into his own as a magic-wielder, seer, and leader, by “Lost Gods”. But he’s still somewhat cantankerous, struggling with his infirmity, and testing the limits of his powers.
Moreover, one one hand, he’s partly hailed as a hero due to his actions in the climactic battle of “Sundered Souls”. While on the other hand, he’s partly regarded with mistrust and suspicion regarding his use of magic by his associates. It seems things will never be easy for Rotghar, including amongst the people he is supposed to be allied with.
Hardie continually puts Rothgar through seemingly insurmountable challenges, and they take their toll on our hero, both emotionally and physically. But he doggedly perseveres, making this one of his most admirable traits.
We also get to see the prospect of some long-term happiness, as we see Rothgar in love, and that love returned, in “Lost Gods”. But in the volatile world of Laskar, considering both Rothgar and his love interest will be in constant danger, I fear that their ending may not be as blissful as hoped.
Perhaps Hardie’s greatest strength is the power of his secondary characters, and his ability to present the reader multiple perspectives (of different sides of his central conflict) all the while still making the story seem like it’s tightly wound around Rothgar.
Things have an intimate feel, despite the sprawling cast of players spread over a large geographical area, and the dizzying character list. Somehow, this series, now in its third book, still feels very much like Rothgar’s, first person narrated story, regardless of how many characters increasingly get a POV voice in the narrative. This takes considerable skill, and Hardie is to be commended for it.
Additionally, Hardie’s secondary characters are, for the most part, deliciously morally grey, outright evil, or ambiguous. This leads to a real sense of tension, as true motivations are seldom revealed, and the potential for switching allegiances and betrayal abounds. We feel empathy for the “villains”, hoping they can be salvaged, perhaps they may change sides, or at least find a redemptive arc, and a noble end.
Just be warned, in GRRM-esque fashion, as I noted above, and in previous reviews, the sheer volume of characters (and some similarities in the sounding of names) in the book, and Hardie’s massive glossary are not for the faint-of-heart. To keep track of all the auxiliary, and tertiary characters, tribe affiliations, etc., one will surely need to refer to the handy, and formidable appendices provided. That said, my aforementioned comment also attests to the depth, breadth, and skill of Hardie’s spectacular worldbuilding.
Three things we are essentially guaranteed in a “Brotherhood of the Eagle Book”, which we are treated to once more in “Lost Gods”, are 1) a mind-blowing prologue 2) intense and high-stakes political jockeying, ties of family, friendship, and loyalty, history of the clans, the various gods, the famed conflicts, dynastic lineages, and how magic is used, interspersed with compelling family drama 3) stunning battlefield action.
A sinuous plot, with lots of surprises, some tear-jerking moments, and battles that will momentarily stop your heart, adds up to a fascinating, compelling read. There was one reveal that completely threw me for a loop. I really wasn’t expecting that one!
And one minor spoiler I will drop, if you’ll forgive me, that delighted me: ware dragons!
I feel the need to emphasize, AGAIN, Hardie’s prologues are among the BEST I’ve read so far in fantasy if not THE best. I do not say that lightly. For me, there’s Tim Hardie and Daniel T. Jackson (Illborn) who has written the best prologues. No one else has come close yet, in my opinion. Reading a Hardie prologue will make one compulsively proceed with the rest of the book.
Hardie’s prose is highly effective. It’s perfect for the type of heroic fantasy he writes: smooth, clear, straightforward, intermingled with poetic and impactful verse. While not perhaps as flowery as I personally adore, it’s still amazing, and very accessible, without being bland at all.
In terms of pacing, this book, for me, was slower paced than previous novels in the series. I was quite alright with that, as I love my slow burns. There’s plenty of action, so that it never feels like anything is dragging on. Though “Lost Gods” is the longest of the three books thus far in the series, for me it felt like the shortest. Perhaps that was because I continue to yearn for more of the story of Rothgar and his compatriots!
I commented in my review of “Sundered Souls” that Tim Hardie was affirmed, for me, as a fantasy star on the rise. “Lost Gods” does nothing but solidify my thoughts on this exceptional author. He’s a must-buy author for me.
My love and admiration for how well-written the “Brotherhood of the Eagle” series is, has propelled Hardie into the ranks of my top 50 favourite authors of all-time. Yes, Hardie is THAT good.
I am very excited to see how Hardie wraps up this series in the next book, and will be waiting with considerable anticipation for book four.