Last night I finished reading Servant of a Dark God, the debut novel by John Brown, which is also the first book in a new fantasy series. I received this new Tor book free as a review copy … but this review is totally my honest opinion.
What would you do if in the course of about 24 hours you discovered that your entire world view was based on lies within lies? That’s what the reluctant hero of Servant of a Dark God discovers in the first few chapters of John Brown’s debut novel.
Talen is a simple country boy … somewhat gangly, imaginative and firmly entrenched in the beliefs of the Clan Lands of Whitecliff. He is a Koramite, a vanquished people with not much clout in society. But he gets by … that is until stories of nest of soul-eaters in the next village start to bubble forth. And that’s where the adventure begins.
Talen finds himself reluctantly on the wrong side of the law, and desperately concocts ways to remedy that. The way Talen and his good friend and cousin, Nettle, behave through most of the book reminds me of the comic relief often found in Japanese film. They constantly find themselves in jams they didn’t expect. They set traps that go awry. They are inept but lovable.
But Talen is not all he seems to be … even to himself.
As Servant of a Dark God progresses, you are introduced to Talen’s extended family — his father, brother, sister and uncle — who are members of a secret Order of magic users — referred to a Sleth, or soul-eaters, by those who wish to keep magic in the hands of only a very few. But Sleth aren’t what Talen has been taught to believe.
You meet Hunger, a creature made of dirt and stone, who eats fire (one of the three vitalities) and soul to survive … created by a beautiful and horrible creature who hides in the caves of the stone-wights. Hunger is a stream of consciousnesses being, taking on the personalities and memories of the people who’s souls he eats. He wants to fight his creator — even attempts suicide — but can not resist her control.
The characters of this book are interesting, three-dimensional and you want to learn more about them. None of them are perfect … each fights their own personal demons, and yet they to come together to fight the first foe of this series. And, in the process uncover a dark and terrible truth about the very reason the clans exist and follow their societal structure. They all serve, in one way or another, a Dark God.
What was so refreshing about this novel, beyond the new and intriguing world that Brown has created, was how real the characters seemed. They had every-day wants and desires. If they didn’t live in this book, I could easily see them living next door. This ability to create obviously fictional characters with such realism is a special talent in a writer.
Brown’s debut novel sucked me and and took me for a refreshing and enjoyable ride, a ride I would highly recommend you take, as well. And I look forward to reading the rest of this series.
Caveats: There are a lot of typos in this printing, so I had to pause in reading to try to figure out what word was supposed to be there way more times than I usually do in novel. I mean all books usually have one or two mistakes, but this printing had way more than that.
If what you’ve liked about the popular fantasy series you’ve read before is that they take place on Earth in either the far and distant future or past, you may not appreciate that this story is set in a world completely of its own, with its own rules of magic and history.
SCORE: 4 out of 5 Palm Trees Possible