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“When faith becomes religion, and worship is enforced with threat and fear, morality actual suffers in the shadow of morality actual.”

DeathlessHoly smokes, Rob J. Hayes has done it again! Brimming with cutthroat political intrigue, complex family dynamics, twisted truths, and morally questionable actions, Deathless is a deliciously diabolical take on a dark political fantasy.

Set 2000 years after the events of Demon, but 1000 years before the events of Herald, this book kicks off the middle trilogy in the epic God Eater Saga. Through the eyes of the ailing King Ertide, we get an intimate glimpse into the Hostain dynasty, the family that has ruled over the Sant Dien Empire for millennia. And for those who have read Demon, yes, those names should indeed ring a bell.

The main focus of the narrative is the succession crisis that King Ertide finds himself embroiled in. The angels have demanded that he abdicates his throne, yet for a variety of reasons, none of his five children seem suitable to be named heir. Add to that the fact that Ertide’s faith has been waning over the years, and the tension and stakes soon rise to ungodly heights.

While I can see how some people might find the pacing of Deathless to be a bit too slow, I personally really enjoyed the intimate and introspective nature of this narrative. We really get to dive deep into Ertide’s troubled psyche, offering riveting inner turmoil that both fascinated and frightened me in equal measure. Plus, I was honestly eating up all the tumultuous familial drama between the multiple generations of Hostains, especially because the characterisation for each individual family member was so ridiculously strong.

Moreover, there’s a truly riveting air of mystery and intrigue woven into the narrative, and I truly could not stop turning the pages to uncover more hidden truths. Themes of religion, faith, ambition, corruption, and the twisting of history are explored in a way I have never seen before, bringing a level of depth and nuance to this novel that is honestly astounding for its shorter pagecount.

I was also absolutely glued to the page by the presence and role of the angels in this story, and I loved that these children of God are not presented as a monolithic community. Especially the eccentric angel Moon really captured my heart, and I loved the complex dynamic between him and King Ertide. All of these characters are constantly tiptoeing the dangerously thin line between good and evil, making Deathless a masterclass in how to explore moral ambiguity in a morbidly fascinating way!

Now, much as I loved the slow build-up of tension and tantalising unveiling of ancient hidden truths, I do think the resolution was a bit rushed compared to the slow set-up. Don’t get me wrong, the actual climax itself was bloody shocking in the best way possible, but I feel like some of the emotional impact was lost in how quickly everything escalated and then exploded.

Fortunately, this is only the first instalment in the Annals of the God Eater trilogy (and one of the nine instalments in the wider God Eater Saga), so there is tons of potential to explore the true horrors and world-shattering implications of the brutal actions at the end in much more depth in the rest of the series. And you better bet I am counting down the days until we get the continuation of this story, because this ending left me hungering for more in the best way possible.

With Deathless, Hayes once again proves that he is a masterful storyteller and a straight-up genius bastard. The God Eater Saga is already shaping up to be one of the most epic and visionary fantasy series I have ever read, and I truly cannot recommend it highly enough.

This review is based on the Kickstarter edition. Deathless will be available for general sale on July 9, 2024. 

Deathless

Deathless

Deathless

Deathless

Deathless

Deathless

Deathless

Deathless

Esmay Rosalyne

Esmay is a self-proclaimed professional book devourer from The Netherlands. While (dark) fantasy will always have her heart, she is also a big indie/self-pub enthusiast and will probably read anything if the premise sounds intriguing enough. Or, you know, if it promises complete emotional destruction. When not reading books, she is probably reviewing books, talking about books, or watching videos of fellow bookworms talking about books.

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