Saturday, August 27, 2011

Review: Tears of Requiem (Song of Dragons Book II) by Daniel Arenson

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Look out, everyone! Big scaly beasts are on the loose!

Daniel Arenson returns with the second book in his Song of Dragons series, Tears of Requiem. We pick up the story right where Blood of Requiem leaves off, with the surviving Vir Requis – King Benedictus, his wife Lacrimosa, their daughter Agnus Dei, and Kyrie – fresh off their defeat and (near) fatal wounding of Benedictus’s brother and ruler of the land, Dies Irae. The griffins have been released, and hopefully life may come just a tad easier for these poor, harrowed folks.

No such luck, because Gloriae, the stolen daughter of Benedictus, has released the Nightshades, a race of strange shadow-creatures that swallow the souls of the living, leaving a hollowed (yet still living) husk behind. I can’t tell you how horrible this concept sounds, on theory and on paper. To have your soul sucked away and splintered into a million tiny pieces, while your consciousness is still aware, feeling every morsel of fear, longing, and pain it endures? It really is one of the more frightening concepts I’ve seen in a book.

Anyhow, I’m getting off track here. So Gloriae releases the nightshades, and then Dies Irae, who’s apparently indestructible – a dagger in the eye won’t kill this bastard? What’ll it take! – kicks his adopted (stolen) daughter out of his kingdom, for all intents and purposes disowning her. She eventually runs into the remaining Vir Requis she is intent on killing, to prove her loyalty to her “father”. Angst, fighting, seduction, and all sorts of other wackiness ensue.

From there, the book becomes a mad dash against time, with the survivors trying to figure out a way to defeat the ostensibly undefeatable nightshades and save what’s left of this new kingdom of the living dead. Blood is spilled, love is made, unexpected allies are brought together, and we all know that though there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for these tormented characters, they’re going to experience a good amount of tragedy first.

This is a more than worthy successor to the first book. It moves along very quickly, and it really boils down to a mad – though exceedingly violent – survival romp. The characters stay true to themselves, some make grand discoveries about themselves, and through it all an almost horror-novel sensation of isolation and fear washes over near every word.

And yet, unlike the first installment, there is an underlying sense of lightness. Strange as that is to say about a book as dark as this, there is actual levity in certain parts – particularly in the repartee between Agnus Dei and her father. These scenes worked very well to split up the doom and gloom that encompasses the rest of the story.

As for characters, Benedictus remains the stalwart old king, firm in his beliefs and yet nearly overwhelmed with guilt. Kyrie grows immensely, though he is still somewhat trapped in the timidity of being a very young man, especially when it comes to women. (As the father of two teenage boys, I can relate.) Agnus Dei demonstrates perhaps the most growth, as the angst that consumed her in the first book slowly wanes, revealing a strong and yet still sensitive woman underneath. About the only character that seemed a little off was Lacrimosa, as she sometimes acted a bit out of character, almost as a convenience for the plot. And Dies Irae is evil incarnate yet again, a bundle of hatred and brutality so single-minded in his goals that he’ll even sacrifice his own humanity to reach them…though it could be argued that, because of his loathing, he ceased to be human long ago.

As I said, Tears of Requiem is a brisk novel. It punches you in the gut from the very first chapter and only lets you regain your breath for moments at a time. It brings you on a journey of darkness and love, and asks the question of how this struggling race of people will ever survive in a world where everyone hates them. Even with this, it’s an overly fun read, a tale of mythical adventure. And Tears of Requiem does something very important for any series; it builds the tension of a fantastic storyline, with the sorrow at its conclusion setting up what is surely to be an intense – and imminently heartbreaking – conclusion to the series.

Bring it on, Mr. Arenson. I’m waiting.

Plot - 9

Characters - 9

Voice - 10

Execution - 8

Personal Enjoyment – 9

Overall – 45/50 (4.5/5)

Purchase Tears of Requiem in ebook format:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Review: Clash of Faiths by David Dalglish

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

David Dalglish writes what I want to read. He’s listed as a fantasy author, and his books take place in a world that includes magic, orcs, wolf-men, paladins, knights, and ancient gods, but that’s only the surface of what’s happening. I look at Dalglish’s work like this – whimsical explorations of modern-day themes and issues that both entertain and force the reader to examine what goes on in the real world around them.

Clash of Faiths, the second book in his Paladins series, is no different. It continues the story of Jerico and Darius, the paladins of Ashhur and Karak, respectively, and their struggles in the time after the attempted wolf-man invasion of Durham. Jerico finds himself up north, prisoner of a man named Kaide, who is heading up a people’s rebellion against the brutal Lord Hemman. It might not be the best of situations to be in, but at least he’s hidden from the legions of Karak who are hunting him, those who’ve recently destroyed the Citadel, leaving Jerico as possibly the last of his kind. All the while Darius is stumbling about all by his lonesome, getting into trouble and being an overall grouchypants after his run-in with Velixar, Karak’s prophet. And Velixar isn’t done with him…not in the slightest. It is the Big V’s principal goal to lead Darius back to his faith – or the Dark Side, if you will.

The story plays out in equally distributed parts, flipping from Jerico to Darius and back again, paralleling their respective struggles and demonstrating just the types of people these two faithful men are. Jerico joins forces with Kaide (who is actually one of my favorite characters Dalglish has ever created; a living, breathing, gray area of a concept) against Lord Sebastian Hemman, while Darius ends up being thrown in prison by said Lord, for the sin of not being faithful enough to Karak’s cause, even though Darius is constantly professing his love of the deity…and believing every word of it. It is there, while in prison, that Velixar comes to him once again, therefore setting the stage for the rest of the tale to play out.

The story climaxes in a final battle between Hemman’s men and Kaide’s army of farmers and merchants. Unlike most episodes of warfare in Dalglish’s novels, this one is brisk, taking up only perhaps a tenth of the text. Why is that? Because the fighting, while intriguing, isn’t the point of the book. It only serves as a metaphor for the war raging inside Darius’s head – can he love his friend even after all he’s been through, what constitutes righteousness in a faith that preaches order and conquest above adoration, and which system of belief is right, which is wrong, and does it even matter if he chooses one over the other?

This is what makes Dalglish’s books so special to me – those posed questions. And finally, we have the order of Karak shown to be what I’ve long suspected it is – a religious cult that uses suppression and mind control to grow its following. One might ask, but why would someone willingly join a cult like that? The answer is quite simple, given the context of the world it exists in: there is safety in power, in influence, and Karak offers that. The deity promises protection (and a lack of decapitation) to those who follow, while those who don’t are doomed to a lifetime of pain and flight from an aggressive enemy. Add to that the fact that the concepts of order and self-control are the tenets of the faith, and one could understand how an individual who feels unstable could look at the order as a way to heal the fractured parts within them. There are many similar cults, such as Scientology, in the world today that do much of the same. They rely on coercion and peoples’ inherent insecurities to draw them in, promising solutions to the ills of their lives, and then instill the members with an us-against-the-world mentality. If you’re not for us, you’re against us, to the extreme. It is these elements that make Dalglish’s books that much more important, not to mention insightful, than many other works of fiction.

To counterbalance Karak’s aggressive, neo-fascist nature, we have followers of Ashhur, the passive, loving god. When I first started reading these novels, I always took Ashhur to be a representation of Christianity – which I’m sure the author intended. However, the more I read, the more I realize that this is not entirely the case. In fact, you can look at it like this: Ashhur’s teachings are the manifestation of all that is good in spiritual belief; the care for others, the virtue of forgiveness, the living of life with the sole aim of being the best individual you can be. It’s an inclusive system of belief, one in which all people, even those who don’t believe, are treated as equals. Unlike the history of Christianity, Ashhur’s followers don’t actively seek to convert the people, only to show how much they care, saying that if you ever need a place to stay, a steadying hand to lead the way, someone to heal your sore and tired bones, we’ll be here with no strings attached. In other words, everyone has a chance at salvation, whether they buy into the dogma or not. And Jerico embodies this. He treats every person he meets with the same amount of respect until they prove a danger. This is also the reason why Darius has a very difficult time understanding his friend’s actions: to the dark paladin, existence is a series of trials, of sacrifices, both mentally and physically, to a demanding god. The mere concept of something like forgiveness, or even pity, are lost on him, at least on the surface. But once he dives a little deeper, he has the potential to learn that not only is he capable of changing, of becoming something other than the stormtrooper of death he is, but all people are. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

I’ve gone on a bit of a tangent here, and I’m sure this sounds more like a term paper than a review, but I felt this book deserved to be broken down in this way. Every word written down means something ­– each line of dialogue, each description, each instance of cruelty or kindness. That being said, the only thing I didn’t like about Clash of Faiths was the very end of the book. After so much flowing prose and inner turmoil, it seemed that suddenly everything happens too quickly, especially Darius’s character development. I would’ve liked some more exposition, more scenes of him questioning his faith and coming to grips with the possibility that what he’s always believed may be a lie. But that didn’t happen, and in a way that’s a shame. Darius and Jerico, and their relationship as brothers-in-spirit, deserved it.

That being said, this is still a wonderful book. It more than adds to the canon of David Dalglish’s work – it creates a template for the beliefs of the world that I’m sure will be carried on in volumes to come. The scenes that built upon what we already know about the characters were wonderful. And Velixar? Let’s just say he’s deliciously evil, and whenever he appears on the page, that scene becomes his. Also, one thing the ending did get right was introduce us to a new, potentially lethal villain, one that I’m sure will appear in the next book and wreck all sorts of ungodly havoc. Just that has me excited to continue.

In closing, Clash of Faiths is well worth a read, for both fans of Dalglish and those new to his work. It’s filled with important questions and shrewd observations of the world at large, and it is an improvement on the previous book in the series. I seriously can’t give the author any more props than to say I’m a fan for life, that everything he does strikes me where it counts, and it is always a joy to read what he puts on paper. To me he is the best fantasy author of his generation, the Stephen King of the sword-and-sorcery genre who transcends the normal tropes, and even when there are things I think can be improved, what he puts out there is second to absolutely no one.


Plot – 10

Characters - 10

Voice - 10

Execution - 7

Personal Enjoyment – 9

Overall – 46/50 (4.6/5)

Purchase Clash of Faiths: The Paladins 2 in Ebook format:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

BOOK RELEASE - Tears of Requiem (Song of Dragons Book II) by Daniel Arenson

by Daniel Arenson

$2.99 on



Song of Dragons -- the fantasy series beginning with Blood of Requiem -- continues with a new tale of blood, steel, and dragonfire.


The nightshades cover the land. Demons of smoke and shadow, they fear no sword or arrow. They suck the souls from all who live, like a glutton sucking marrow from bones. The world falls under their darkness.

But the nightshades crave more than random ruin. The souls of mere humans will not sate them. They seek dragons.

Requiem's last dragons, a mere scattering of survivors, have fought off men and griffins. But how can they fight the nightshades, creatures they cannot cut or burn?


On Monday, Daniel Arenson released this second book in his series. This book has already been read by myself, and let me tell you--it is a more than worthy followup to the gripping Blood of Requiem. The review will be published right here on the Journal this coming Saturday, August 27th. I hope to see you all here!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: Draculas by Jack Kilborn, Blake Crouch, Jeff Strand, & F. Paul Wilson

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

A few weeks ago I suffered a serious case of fantasy over-exposure. After opening the next novel on my list, I found myself dreading yet another exploration into world-building and magical powers. So, to relieve my readerly doldrums, I put it down and picked up another book, one that’s been hiding in my Kindle since I bought it the day it came out. That book…Draculas, by the combo of Jack Kilborn (aka J.A. Konrath), Blake Crouch, Jeff Strand, and F. Paul Wilson.

I'm glad I saved it, for it was the cure for what ailed me.

Draculas is a wham-bang, smack-em-around, eviscerate-the-enemy, action-packed adventure. It takes place in the boondocks town of Durango, Colorado, where the staple eccentric old rich guy, Mortimer Moorecock, has been delivered a very special package – the skull of an unknown, ancient being; a slice of archeology (complete with a mouthful of dagger teeth) that could possibly, if it proves real, be the missing link between the myth and reality of vampires.

Due to a self-imposed wound involving said artifact, Mortimer is rushed to the hospital. It is there, in Blessed Crucifixion, that the rest of the story unfolds. Regular, everyday people undergo startling changes, becoming blood-driven maniacs, their physical forms changing in virtually a blink of an eye. Bedlam ensues, as those poor survivors are forced to fend for themselves in this incongruously-named, backwoods medical center while murdering, scissor-mouthed freaks – the draculas from the title, though they’re nothing like traditional vampires except for the bloodlust – run amok.

Taken at face value, the rest of the book is standard hack-and-slash fare. The text is filled with gore, with people tossed into unbelievable circumstances and responding in some pretty outlandish ways. The body count becomes too high to count by the time the fifth chapter rolls around. In a way, the violence on the page is almost mind-numbing. And I mean this in a good way. A very good way.

The thing is, Draculas is the furthest thing from a serious book. Is it horror? Yes. But more than anything else, this is satire to the extreme. (The authors tell you this right from the dedication: For Bram Stoker, with deepest apologies, it reads.) Every character is a cliché – the skeptical researcher; the lawman obsessed with ultra-powerful weapons; the egotistical small-town doctor; the brave nurse who’s been shortchanged; the idiot lumberjack with a heart of gold; the clown with depression issues; the spoiled little girl. However, these clichés are exaggerated to the point of absurdity, which demonstrates a group of authors that 1) don’t take themselves too seriously, and 2) are just having fun with the typical horror tropes – making the characters special by amplifying personality traits, in effect flipping truism on its head. In fact, if this book has any fault at all, it’s that there are a couple characters that aren’t absurd enough. The scenes involving these particulars are the only ones that seem a bit slower than the others – as contradictory as it is to say, in the scope of the story involved they become less real.

But these scenes are few. For the most part, we have page after page of action, of wisecracking dialogue and dismemberment gone awry. And, oddly enough, there’s some actual emotion here, as well. Toward the latter stages of the novel, when the poop really starts hitting the fan, there are a couple extremely well-written and affecting scenes. It was strange to find, especially in a work of fiction this ridiculous and over-the-top, but it was most certainly appreciated. It takes a ton of talent to do this, talent these four writers obviously possess.

The writing is very smooth and virtually seamless, to the point that the only way you’d know this was written by more than a single author is by reading the multiple names in the title. Though I’m sure each of them have a style all their own (this is the first work I’ve read by any of them), here they’ve managed to meld their different approaches to the craft into a cohesive whole. Again, that takes talent.

Draculas is an exceedingly fun read. It might not be for everyone, what with the amount of blood spilled within its pages, but for those who want to laugh, cringe, and even feel their heart skip a beat more than once, this is the book for you. It’s a grindhouse adventure that doesn’t take its foot off the pedal until the end, which in itself is hilarious in its irony and rewriting of myth. But more than anything it’s a good time, no matter how irreverent to the source material the authors may be – in an affectionate way, of course.

I had a blast reading it. You will, too.

Plot - 10

Characters - 8

Voice - 10

Execution - 9

Personal Enjoyment – 10

Overall – 47/50 (4.7/5)

Purchase Draculas in ebook format:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: The Miracle Inspector by Helen Smith

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

The most wonderful thing about being a reviewer is the opportunity to uncover little gems that I might have otherwise overlooked. For example, I don’t usually read literary fiction…not because I have anything against it, but simply for the reason that I enjoy reading other things so I don’t usually seek it out. Luckily though, authors and publishers send me books to review, which eliminates that particular variable from the equation.

Because of this, into my life steps The Miracle Inspector by Helen Smith, a generous morsel of science fiction/dystopian/literary goodness.

The “Miracle Inspector” of the title is a young man named Lucas, who lives in London with his wife, Angela. He’s called a miracle inspector because he, well, inspects miracles. You see, all of Britain has been segmented in this fascinating world Smith has created, with London being the apex of underhanded, dastardly government practices. Women aren’t allowed to leave the home exposed, men are considered pedophiles until proven…well, okay, they’re just all considered pedophiles, and naysayers who speak out against the ruling party – whether they realize they’ve done so or not – are quickly imprisoned and left to rot. With this knowledge, it comes as no surprise that there is a need of a miracle inspector. When everyone’s life sucks, there has to be an urge to do something – anything – to make it better, even if it’s only pretend.

Lucas is a complicated man. He loves his wife dearly and is overly protective of her, yet constantly pines for that which he can’t have. He’s immature and a bit bratty at times, utterly paranoid, and taken to bouts of underhandedness, himself. Thoughts of sex constantly invade his thoughts, and he knowingly plays his fellow government employees against one another, all the while promising his wife that he’ll do something that is nearly impossible – move with her to Cornwall, where supposedly people are free to live life as they choose. Does this sound like the thought pattern of a sound adult to you? If it doesn’t, that’s because Lucas isn’t a sound adult. He’s twenty-five, and yet he’s stuck in a state of arrested development. In fact, almost all the characters living in London are – mainly because with the threat of terrorism, after the borders were walled off, the older generation was henceforth eliminated, either stolen away in the night or killed outright. So what we have here is the majority of the populace being children who’ve raised themselves, and are therefore not completely evolved emotionally. It’s really quite sad.

This goes the same for Angela, of course. She’s a generally unhappy person, lonely, and a dreamer. When Lucas’s renegade uncle Jesmond – a beat poet bringing a message of revolution and freedom to the people and is therefore an outlaw – drops off a packet of letters at the house, Angela hides them and reads them, letting the words take her far away from the disappointment, solitude, and boredom that fills her every day. Her relationship with Lucas is a bit odd – they really only communicate through sex, like a couple of horny high-schoolers – and these letters only drive home the fact that she’s missing out on something huge in her life.

When Lucas meets an older woman named Maureen, whose daughter Christina suffers from some sort of mental disorder, his life is thrown into a tailspin. He develops feelings he doesn’t understand about both mother (who called up requesting a miracle inspection) and child, and he goes against the rules and brings Angela to meet with her. (Women gathering together is illegal unless they are family, which creates a lot of rather humorous discussions about falsified “familial” bonds.) Suddenly, Lucas decides to stop playing at promises and begins to formulate a plan, and it is this childish belief that “no one can hear me!” that gets him tossed in a prison cell while Angela, Maureen, and Christina flee London, finding adventure and horror (and still more depressing societal amalgamations) in the provinces outside the city walls while they attempt to reach Cornwall.

I’d be lying if I said this book was a bundle of happiness and joy. It’s rather the opposite – dark, depressing, and seemingly hopeless. But that’s all right, because Smith has her story to tell, her point to make, and it really is a doozy.

This is a tale of bleakness, of what would happen if the child within us never grew up. It focuses on the shadowy aspects of society and ponders a world where these low ideals are presented with a cheery demeanor. It examines the bonds between women, between mother and child, between husband and wife, and tosses gasoline on the simple fact that many take the lives they’ve been so fortunate to have for granted. It examines the role of women in society – any society – and dares to ask whether the right sex holds the power and questions if a driving force behind the subjugation of women is fear that they might actually make sense. And it is also a text that takes responsibility for its actions – there are no “convenient” plot contrivances here. Each and every word means something, must be read once and then again, mulled over, and then discussed.

In other words, this is an absolutely exceptional piece of fiction, a work of art befitting the best in socially-conscious literature.

The only real problem I had with the book is that the exact reasons for society’s collapse are never fully explained. In and of itself, that isn’t such a bad thing, but I did find myself being slightly disappointed come the end, when I’m still left in the dark. There were occasions where I kept asking, “Please tell me HOW!” This is the one and only reason I docked points, and to be honest it may have more to do with myself thinking of how I would write the book. But still, I couldn’t help but think that Smith could have made her many points even more affecting if she gone into more detail.

Overall, though, this is a great, great read. Helen Smith crafts a story like she’s the British lovechild of Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick, only with a feminist slant. And The Miracle Inspector is a powerful, insightful, darkly funny, and principled conception. It’s short on page length yet long in ideas, and each and every one of them will spit you out with your head spinning as you keep asking, “Why?” while making you come up with your own answer.

Trust me, that’s not a bad thing.

Plot - 9

Characters - 10

Voice - 10

Execution - 8

Personal Enjoyment – 10

Overall – 47/50 (4.7/5)

Purchase The Miracle Inspector in Ebook format from:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: The Black God's War: Splendor and Ruin Book I by Moses Siregar

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

(Reviewer’s note: I received this book as an ARC from the author)

Spirituality and religion. These words have been the salvation and bane of human existence since we first formed coherent thought. From the tribal convictions of the earliest African nations to the ancient Greeks to the world as we know it today, we have celebrated them together, found solace through their teachings, fought and killed each other over their differences.

What Moses Siregar has sought to do in The Black God’s War: Splendor and Ruin Book I is show the dangers of intransigent religious belief, to do for literature what Aqualung by Jethro Tull did for music: demonstrate how spirituality and religion are projections of our own thoughts, fears, adorations, and prejudices, that desires propel our convictions rather than the other way around.

The Black God’s War tell the story of two warring peoples – the Rezzians, modeled after early European culture (Celtic in particular) who believe in a covenant of ten gods, and the Pawelons, whose principles and appearances mirror a more eastern, Buddhist/Indian ideal. We are first introduced to Lucia, the daughter of the Rezzian king Vieri, at the birth of her brother Caio, who, by the way of markings on his hands, is proclaimed the people’s Haizzem, or savior. It is here that Lucia is first haunted by Lord Danato, the god of the underworld according to Rezzian myth. He kills her mother and sets in motion a series of nightmare experiences that will forever alter the makeup of this innocent young girl.

By the time Caio is nineteen, the war that has begun (for nefarious reasons disguised as virtue) between the Rezzians and Pawelons has been raging for ten years. Lucia does all she can to fulfill her father’s wishes for victory, though she sometimes has a hard time telling what is real and what is a dream because of Lord Danato’s nightly visits. Caio, on the other hand, is gentle in nature. He wants peace, to use his uncanny abilities to heal people, not fight a war he doesn’t believe in. But being the Haizzem, it is his sacred duty to lead Rezzia’s army, so he does so…reluctantly at first.

On the other end of the spectrum we have Rao, the only remaining prince of Pawelon. He has become a sage, the most powerful sage in the history of Pawelon, and he takes it upon himself, along with his best friend Aayu, to travel from his homeland and assist his father, the Rajah Devak, in defense of their country against the invading Rezzian army. Like Caio, he wants peace – but unlike the Haizzem, his father, though brutal, is a generally fair man, and is allowed the courtesy of his own convictions. In almost every way this makes him the better of the Haizzem, one whose ability to love and forgive is below no other.

As the story progresses, we are thrown into multiple “coincidental” scenarios that are seemingly set up by the Rezzian gods. At least, this is the way things are presented on the surface. If one looks a little deeper, they will see that all the gods did was point the way. Every decision made, though sometimes predictable, was solely the result of the free thoughts and actions of the characters. They are all bound by their upbringing and nature, and it isn’t until they realize this that all the major players begin to actually change. And the nature of the gods, themselves, are brought into question as well. Are they timeless deities or a result of the combined subconscious power of the people? It’s a question the story asks often in the latter stages, and it’s one that really makes one think.

I won’t go any further on the plot other than to say the battle rages on, the gods get involved in some rather surprising ways, and eventually there is a rather brilliant climax that left me grinning from ear to ear.

As a novel, The Black God’s War works on many levels. For sheer entertainment value, we have many epic battle sequences. As a love story, we have Lucia and her brother’s protector, Ilario, as well as Rao and his lover, the young, beautiful, and precocious Narayani. As a spiritual tome we have many segments discussing the nature of spirituality and its effects on the people who practice it. And it’s also a tragedy, in by which only through sacrifice and understanding the nature of balance can the issues presented ever be truly resolved.

And that’s really what the book is about, when it all boils down to it. We have two differing opinions, western pre-Christian (that looks very much like early Christianity, despite the numerous deities), and the nature-loving eastern “godless” peoples. In some ways this book could be looked at as a fantasy retelling of the Crusades, as the lily-white forces descend on the dark-skinned masses, trying to “enlighten” them by basically killing off a whole gamut of folks. How one could ever read a spiritual text and think the murdering of a whole ethnic group because they don’t believe in your god is justified is beyond me. But it happens, and just as in this tale, the results are always disastrous.

Siregar does a fantastic job of painting both faiths in a kind light, though the Pawelon’s, by the nature of their not having started the war, obviously fares better in presentation. It allows for almost every character to come across as sympathetic – Lucia especially. Her tormented nature shines through in everything she does, from her conflictions to her anger to her confusion over the role she has to play in the grand scheme of things. She is the main character of this novel, and more than lives up to it.

That being said, if Lucia is the main character, Rao is the one who steals the show. With his compassion and understanding, his willingness to take risks and ability to see through the veil of righteous deceit, he comes across as an individual who could one day be a spiritual leader strong enough to lead his people to enlightenment. He is young in this book – about the same age as Caio – and yet we see a glimmer of the man he could be, the man he is well on his way to becoming. It really is quite beautiful.

And do you know why it’s beautiful? Because as a character, Rao is balanced. And as I said, this is the main point I think Siregar is trying to make. When his prose speaks of the nature of life and death, of the scales that must always be adjusted, he’s talking as much about the cosmos in general as he is any religious belief. The concept of Karma, after all, can be boiled down to a scientific principal – for every action there is an equal opposing reaction. We see it in nature, we see it in the universe, we see it in people. For every (perceived) evil in the world, there is an equal (perceived) good. I write “perceived” because, just as Siregar presents in The Black God’s War, evil is subjective, not quantifiable on any realistic scale. This book has no evil characters, even though the characters themselves often think their opposing party is such. And in order for their war to end, each individual must come to their own conclusions and make choices – yes, choices, free-thinking choices – about what is right, what is wrong, and what path will best lead to a sense of harmony, both between their respective peoples and within themselves. Some make this discovery, others don’t. You’ll have to read it to find out which is which and what happens when their choices are made.

For a first-time author, Siregar surprised me with the strength of his voice. It’s consistent, and he knows what he wants to say. However, it’s not perfect. He can be a bit wordy at times, and a couple of his major characters (a Pawelon sage and the Rezzian king) are a bit one-note. Normally I wouldn’t make a huge deal out of this, but with the other characters being so fleshed out, complex, and believable, the presence of these less-than-satisfactory entities was all the more obvious. Not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but something I feel I have to mention. As it stands, the author isn’t quite up to the level of Salvatore, Dalglish, or Pyle, but he’s not too far away. This book is proof of that.

In conclusion, The Black God’s War is a unique experience. The plot is intricate, the characters even more so, and the message is one of beauty. By the time you flip to the last few pages, I hope you have the shivers just as I did, which is how I know that Moses Siregar is going to be around a long time, and his voice, one of unity, passion, and loving sensibilities, is important – in the world at large as well as literature.

So bravo, Mr. Siregar. You wrote a damn good book. You should be very proud.

Plot - 9

Characters - 8

Voice - 9

Execution - 9

Personal Enjoyment – 10

Overall – 45/50 (4.5/5)

Purchase The Black God's War: Splendor and Ruin Book I in ebook for the Kindle at: