August 29, 2011

Review: The Black God's War - a Novel, by Moses Siregar

Author: Moses Siregar III
Title: The Black God's War: A Stand-Alone Novel
Series: Splendor and Ruin, book 1
Publisher: Cup of Gold (2011)

Go to Amazon page

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Against the backdrop of epic warfare and the powers of ten mysterious gods, Lucia struggles to understand The Black One.

Her father-king wants war.

Her messianic brother wants peace.

The black god wants his due.

She suffers all the consequences.

King Vieri is losing his war against the lands of Pawelon. Feeling abandoned by his god, he forces his son Caio, the kingdom’s holy savior, to lead his army. Victory ought to come soon.

To counter Caio’s powers, Pawelon’s prince enters the conflict. Rao is a gifted sage, a master of spiritual laws. He joins the rajah to defend their citadel against the invaders. But Rao’s ideals soon clash with his army’s general.

The Black One tortures Lucia nightly with visions promising another ten years of bloodshed. She can no longer tell the difference between the waking world and her nightmares. Lucia knows the black god too well. He entered her bed and dreams when she was ten.

The Black One watches, waiting to see Lucia confront an impossible decision over the fates of two men—and two lands
” GoodReads Blurb


Remember when I reviewed The Black God’s War – a novella, in this post? Remember how I said it was an elegant, great tale and I’d be looking forward to the whole novel? Well, finally, I got my hands on it.

And I couldn’t let it go.

Most of what I said about quality holds in this stand alone novel, but on a different level altogether. For example, characters were deep, well developed and had a purpose, a reason to act as they did beyond “fulfilling the plot”. But after reading the first instalment of Splendour and Ruin, I feel they are more than just three-dimensional characters. They are human. They change and evolve and mature in reaction to the plot, and they take believable action. Because of this, we have a hard time deciding who’s evil and who’s the good guy: in fact, by the time the book was done, I had switched sides about four times! Why? Because there’s no conflict for conflict’s sake: there’s people who is trying to do the best they can, and whose goals happen to collide. Fantasy is leaning towards this view as of late, perhaps, but it’s still rare to see an author who can make us feel for both sides with equal sympathy.

That is not to say I didn’t have a favorite character, or a character whose death I’d not regret (or, more accurately, would plot for) but I could understand them even when I screamed for them not to do something. And that’s another great point: when the plot took a nasty turn or my favourite character... didn’t have much going for him, I’d not wonder, “Why did you have to do this, Mr Siregar?” but “Damned, stupid war!”. It was that kind of real, if that’s the right word for an outstanding fantasy.

While characters are fundamental, the story was fast-paced and action-filled, with short respites and ever-building tension. As I commented before, Moses Siregar III is touching some very thought-provoking themes in his book but he’s not forceful about imparting a message: he allows the story to move forward, weaving it with threads of the reality of war, of fanatism, of what it takes to break one’s innocence, of how far one would go for revenge, or (my favorite) whether love comes before doing the right thing. And then, you can choose to see those threads and to follow them on your own, or to just admire the tapestry (which is one hell of a masterpiece, if I may say so). I particularly loved this aspect, and I’d probably enjoy just pointing out different thoughts and aspects I picked up or I ended up reflecting upon, but I think it’s better if you pick up the book yourself and let it talk to you. I’m sure it’ll tell you something different from what I learned.

Now, to indulge my inner geek, a side comment on references. Remember when I said that chapter titles and flow, as well as the gods, reminded me a bit of classic literature? Well, after writing that review I went and listened to this interview, and I learned that Moses Siregar loves the Illiad (almost as much as I do, apparently) and had actually planted small homage-like references in his book. If you don’t like Homer this won’t sway you one bit (though I don’t know why you’d not like him), but if you do, it was a pleasure to read and try to find those bits and pieces, and wonder whether this scene might refer to that other scene, and so on and so forth.

Okay, now that I said that and I’m happy, I can say in short that I, obviously, recommend reading this book. There’s not a single thing I’d change about it (except, perhaps, I’d have liked the part of Caio’s romance to take a bit longer). The editing is very good and you won’t find bothersome mistakes or typos. The style flows and is well paced, catering to action and development.

And it should make you grow as a person or, at least, think.

So, what are you waiting for?

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