Sable hated the gods
the gods of men
by Barbara Kloss
Top 10 Finalist in Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO 2018
Sable hated the gods. She hated what men did in their name.
Magic is forbidden throughout the Five Provinces; those born with it are hunted and killed. Sable doesn’t know her music holds power over souls—not until, at age nine, she plays her flute before the desert court and accidentally stops her baby sister’s heart, killing her. Horrified by what she’s done and fearing for her life, she flees north, out of Provincial jurisdiction and into the frigid land of exiles and thieves, known as The Wilds. There, Sable lives in hiding, burdened by guilt, and survives as a healer. But now, ten years later, someone—or something—is hunting her.
On the run again, Sable’s best chance for survival is Jos, a lethal man from the Five Provinces, who claims to need her skills as a healer to save his dying father, and she needs the large sum of money he’s offered. There’s something about him Sable doesn’t trust, but she doesn’t have many options. A spirit of the dead is hunting her, summoned by a mysterious necromancer, and it’s getting closer.
Sable soon discovers she’s just the start of the necromancer’s plan to take over the Five Provinces, and she’s the only one with the power to stop it. But harnessing her forbidden power means revealing it to the world, and the dangerous Provincial, Jos, she’s beginning to fall for.
Fans of Brandon Sanderson, Naomi Novik, and Victoria Schwab will love this dark and epic fantasy adventure.
The Gods of Men has a story to tell, and the final half of the book does so at a breathtaking pace. This book is in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off and it’s the finalist put forward by the team at the Weatherwax Report. If you love character driven fantasy then Barbara Kloss’s debut should definitely be on your radar.
Our two protagonists, Sable and Jeric, are wonderfully realized. It’s proper to say that this is really Sable’s story, with Jeric playing an important but ultimately supporting role. Even so, both of these characters are very well drawn. They have reasons for the decisions they make, they have complicated pasts, and those pasts play a role in the story. These characters feel very real and I love when I can say that about characters in a story I enjoyed. The ambiance of the book also deserves praise. There were scenes that were quite creepy—not scary per se, but definitely a creep factor—and Kloss did a good job setting the stage in these scenes, from descriptions of fog shrouded woods to the putrescence that accompanies a particularly malevolent spirit.
I don’t often have a scent that I associate with particular scenes in books, but I definitely do with some scenes in The Gods of Men. In addition to two very well drawn protagonists and a knack for setting the stage, Kloss also manages to craft an antagonist that you hate. We don’t get many viewpoints for the antagonist, and so we don’t have much of his backstory explained, but I had a visceral hatred as my reaction to him basically anytime he showed up.
So, if I’m so enamored with the characters and atmosphere that Kloss has given us, why only four stars? For me, this basically boils down to depth. In a book titled The Gods of Men I finished with a number of questions about the religious system(s) the various cultures had.
I would have liked to have felt a little more familiarity with the pantheon of the Corinthians, as well as known a little more about what the Sol Velorians actually believed concerning the Maker. For me, this was a bit of a missed opportunity to flesh out the world—though perhaps we’ll see more in subsequent novels. A second area I felt was a little underexplained was how the magic system actually worked. It’s no secret that I enjoy hard magic systems, and so others will probably disagree with my assessment here.
Nevertheless, because I didn’t have a working knowledge of how the magic worked, the ending felt a little like a Deus Ex Machina. In the end, the rest of the book is so good that these weaknesses weren’t a huge negative for me. They did, however, keep me from giving it a full five stars.
The Gods of Men, after an initial time spent setting up the story, doesn’t slow down. I had a very hard time getting tasks done once I hit the 50% mark. The main characters are wonderful and the ambiance of the book—especially the setup for certain scenes—is masterful. If you want a character-driven fantasy, give this one a shot. 4.2/5 stars.
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Review Never Die by Rob J. Hayes
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Book reviewer at Fantasy Book Review. Host of the UNDER A PILE OF BOOKS podcast. Geek into fantasy, fountain pens, Dungeons & Dragons, and dead languages.
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Great to see a post from Calvin! Live that you’re doing this whole review series.