Saturday, January 14, 2012

Indie Book Review: The Wars of Gods and Man

I'd like you to imagine for a moment Macbeth blended with an Old Testament, henotheistic, my God-is-better-than-yours battle. Cool, yes? I thought so.  And that's precisely what The Wars of Gods and Men delivers.

The Wars of Gods and Men follows three main characters, Eboric, Ayren, and Kolrig, through the creation of, destruction of, and re-creation of an empire, that mirrors a meta battle between warring Gods. If micro-scale political fantasy is your idea of "Oh yes! Give me more!" this is the book for you. If humans flailing about, unsure of their place in the winds of destiny makes you happy, pick this book up.

If you're familiar with Macbeth, you'll recognize one of the major plot threads, betrayal, destruction, and tragic endings for the traitors. But that's not all that's going on in here. The War of Men is but a micro version of the War of Gods, which we get hints and glimpses of, but never see in full. The tantalizing glimpses of what is going on beyond the human characters are well-rounded enough to keep the readers happy, but mysterious enough to maintain a nice tension to the tale.

Now, many of us are familiar with Christian fantasy, where the writer draws a made-up world with a Messianic figure and a message that looks awfully familiar to just about everyone raised in the West. The Wars of Gods and Men is a sort of twist on this. I'd call it Jewish fantasy, because the war of the Gods aspect looks a whole lot like the Old Testament. A Prophet foresees destruction of those who do not follow his God. He and those who believe with him are persecuted for their faith. Miracles abound as the Prophet puts those other godlings and their worshipers in their places. There's even a mist that kills everyone who happens to be outside of their tent when it creeps into camp. Cenred, the Prophet, might not be an exact match to any specific OT Prophet, but the parallels (down to his bald head) are certainly there.

I'll admit I was very pleased to see that. Pretty much, if there are five great influences on Western literature, the Bible and Shakespeare are, if not the top two, then definitely on the list. So, put them together, execute it with grace and dignity, and wrap it up with a spin on nation building, and well, I was a happy reader.

Speaking of grace and dignity, this was a tidy little book. Characters are rounded and three dimensional, their motivations clear, voices distinct, and actions true to their personalities. (I might have wanted just a tad more depth on Kolrig, but the somewhat brief moments of his inner life fit the character's lack of introspection nicely.) Though this is the first book in a series, it stands alone without any problems. The story arc is complete in and of itself, while still leaving room for continuing adventures. Description might be a little minimalist for some readers, but I'm not much of a visual processor, so the lack of intricately wrought description didn't bother me at all. I had a pretty good idea of what everything looked like, and I didn't need page upon page of description.

And, though it should go without saying, any book on the market should be competently proofread and formatted, but after reviewing so many in a row that weren't, I'd like to specifically mention that The Wars of Gods and Men is cleanly formatted, easy to read, and I didn't notice any major foul ups in the grammar or punctuation department. In a nutshell, it looks professional. And that was a very, very welcome change from some of my most recent reading experiences.

So, all in all, I was quite pleased with The Wars of Gods and Men. I'll happily recommend it to anyone who is looking for a twist on a familiar tale.

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