“‘Are you broken, Sable?’
She smiled back, all teeth. ‘Aren’t we all broken just a little?'”
Another world where magic is seen as evil is a world we don’t want to live in. But when you get a well-written plot and characters like you do here, I think we can make an exception.
100 years ago, some magic users known as Liage from the nation of Sol Vallerren attacked, making an attempt to take over the other kingdoms and nearly destroyed the world in the process. Sol Vallerrens and their leader Azir, being the only people able to use magic, were defeated and Azir killed. Due to his immense power, his soul remained which was then locked away, never to been seen again. The Sol Vallerrens left were enslaved and anyone with magic killed on site.
A hundred years later, nine-year old Sable is the daughter of a Noble in Istraa. One day, while playing her flute for a large gathering at her home, she discovered that she has magical abilities that caused everyone to fall asleep. Unfortunately, this spell stopped the heart if her younger sister, killing her. Sable is sent away to hide her from being persecuted for her magic. Our story truly begins ten years later, when a man named Jos shows up to Sable’s hut. They start a journey to heal his father and avoid the forces that seek Sable and her power.
The setting of the Five Provinces is one that feels like a lot of love and care went into making it. There are well defined political feelings between the provinces. This one obviously isn’t a fan of that one and everyone rags on The Wilds (kind of outsiders area where people go who want to get away from the provinces).
Sable is a well-written character that at times leans heavy on the strong female lead trope. The “I am so strong that I don’t need some man to help me” complex. While this is better than the damsel-in-distress trope, the trope can get old when a situation could be easily solved by asking for help, but you won’t because you won’t accept help from a male character simply because he is a male. Sable does not do this often but that attitude comes across from her many times. The rest of her character development is done so well. She does not trust easily and many times is ready to bolt from Jos thinking it will be easier. The revelation that letting someone know who you are does not always lead to being hurt by them.
While on her own, just listing off her character traits, she sounds like a heroine in fifty other fantasy stories, the difference is that her character relationship with those around her (for better or for worse) are well developed and always feel full. Her relationships with other characters feel just as developed as her character itself.
Jos has probably the most interesting and intriguing arc of this book. In his past, he has killed over twelve hundred Sol Vallerrens. Some were from fighting in his home of Corinth, but some were innocent people whose only crime was being Sol Valeron. Throughout their journey, Jos begins reflecting on his past and the wrongs he has committed. While searching for his redemption, this brings up a great question, should he be forgiven? It is difficult to say when you get to see his regret and nightmares he has over his past.
The Gods of Men has a fantastic plot with pacing that keeps you engaged during the whole ride. The possible uprising in Corinth, the past of both our main characters and evil that for some reason just won’t stay dead.
I had so much fun with this book that it and a few others have convinced me to look for more self-published authors. One thing I really enjoyed is that the relationship between Jos and Sable is not forced at all. They feel genuine and developed the way a real relationship should. I am looking forward to learning more about Sable’s powers and what is in store next for them.
Yet another book amazing self-pub book that I have read solely because of Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO competition. The characters all jumped off the page, the pacing was perfect. I can see this book going far in the competition and would not be surprised if it won.