“The Black God’s War” – by Moses Siregar III

The Black God's War CoverAn epic war for the honour of the gods. A desperate but lasting defence from a peaceful people. Such is the stage on which The Black God’s War is set. The author originally published a story arc from the novel as a novella as a teaser. After greedily devouring it I hungered for the full novel. But did it satisfy?

The Rezzians were an honourable people, giving homage to their gods. Their war against Pawelon was a just one, enlightening who they thought were an oppressed people. After ten years of laying siege to the great Pawelon citadel, their Haizzem (prophesied messianic leader) has come of age and a foretold victory was near. I liked the Rezzians and even more I liked the fact that their new military messiah was a man of peace and healing, struggling with his destined part in a war he didn’t agree with. These kinds of frictions elevate a story and this is not the only one brought to the reader from the Rezzians.

Lucia was a fiery princess, imbued with the powers granted by her patron goddess Ysa, and a fiercely protective sister of Caio, the new Haizzem of the Rezzian people. However, more interesting is that she was plagued with visions and dreams of Lord Danato, the Black God of the Underworld ever since her mother died delivering Caio. Much of the Rezzian side of the story dealt with Lucia’s relationship with Lord Danato and his interference in her life and the ongoing war.

The novella exposes this and the novel really just develops these ideas further in more interesting and sometimes tragic ways. But the novel also exposes the other side of this war, the Pawelon’s.

Prince Rao is a prodigy sage and also heir prince of what is essentially a peaceful people who’s overriding spiritual concern is that of karma. Like Caio, he’s a man of peace and does not believe in aggression, something that almost immediately puts him at odds with his father’s general.

I enjoyed the opportunity to explore the Pawelons in the novel, but I found them rather problematic when added to what was a very promising novella. The relationship between Prince Rao and his father was quite well written and worthwhile, but neither his sidekick nor his woman provided much more than annoying dialogue. His woman, Narayani, was particularly whiny, selfish and participated in some groan-worthy conversations with both Rao and his sidekick Aayu. An eventual revelation of her back story did nothing to help me relate and I found myself hoping on several occasions that the author would finish her off. The fact that she became more and more important to the progress of the story was like adding salt to my wounds.

However, the characters themselves were not the only problem. The author chose to grant to the sages of Pawelon and particularly Rao and Aayu a bewildering array of powers that were just too much for the story to bear. Action scenes descended into stupidity with any horrible act returned to sender, swords slicing through people leaving them unharmed, people being transported here, there and everywhere as luminous spirit bodies and an awesome ability to render whole battalions unable to see the attackers decimating it at leisure. The Rezzians had the power of their gods, but it was quite clear that this war should not have endured ten years. Additionally, the fact that these powers seemed readily granted to non-sages as was demonstrated in this story had me completely stunned.

The gods themselves provided problems to the story, but I thought these problems were good ones leaving the Rezzians vaguely suspicious that their gods had abandoned them. The capriciousness with which they granted prayers in the form of grandiose bursts of power or withheld almost with a casual indifference made the relationship between the gods and their people an intriguing one. Eventually we come to understand why Lord Danato has invaded Lucia’s life and although it’s probably spelled out a little too carefully by the author, the revelation still provided a satisfying conclusion to a mystery that tantalises through most of the story.

The writing itself is good. However, I did notice a penchant for using the verb “slam”, sometimes used successfully but other times leaving me a little uncertain. If you slam your head against a wall, it’s likely to be with full force – not so here:

Aayu faced the curved outer wall and slammed his forehead against it—not with full force, but enough to be audible.

We also had eyes and mouths slamming shut and all manner of people and objects slamming into things. Maybe 24 uses of the word isn’t too much, but it just seemed too much for me.

So how can I summarise this novel? Most of the story surrounding the Rezzians was very satisfying for me. The relationships between the characters were well explored, the love scenes were tasteful although one pairing while oddly predictable to me seemed very unlikely. The interaction between the people and their gods was quite worthwhile and the mystery of Lord Danato’s involvement in Lucia’s life played out in a pleasing way. However, the Pawelons, while delivering reasonably interesting characters in Prince Rao and his father, also delivered influencial characters that were really not likable and stupendous powers that led to a general unravelling of internal logic within the story. For me, after the novella, the full length novel is a promise only partially fulfilled.

Rating: 3/5

Price at the time of review: $3.99 US

Available: Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble

Author site: http://sciencefictionfantasybooks.net/
GoodReads page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12361115-the-black-god-s-war

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3 Responses to “The Black God’s War” – by Moses Siregar III

  1. Cool review, Caleb. I haven’t read a thorough slightly-more-critical review of this book, so thanks for that. I won this book for free from Grace Krispy’s giveaway, so I might be reviewing it sometime.

    So in summary, your crits are: some characters are annoying with not believable dialogue, suspension of disbelief pushed a bit far with the magic system and action sequences, and overuse of the word slam. Yeah, slamming something without using full force is kind of funny. Using hit or knock in that sentence probably would be better.

    • Caleb says:

      I guess that covers it. I was torn between giving it 3 stars and 3.5 stars because I did really enjoy quite a bit of it.

      There was another word that was overused – “rustle”. These repetitions tend to stand out for me once I see what I think to be a misuse of the word. Take these sentences:

      The hard dirt and stones rustled beneath him.
      The metallic rustling of Sansone’s dragging chain…
      His own grunts became louder than the chaotic rustling of the desert floor.

      To me, “rustle” is a verb I associate with dry leaves and paper, not dirt, stones and metal. However, maybe this is just a personal prejudice.

      I don’t want to give the impression that the language used in this book is poor – it isn’t at all. I just encountered a few repetitions of words that I didn’t always think were used in an ideal way. Otherwise, the prose was a pleasure to read.

      Something else I should probably point out is that there is no real obligation for an author to paint characters that are likable to me and relationships that make sense to me. Even repetitive, circular arguments spanning pages is not necessarily unrealistic even if unpleasant to me. But I believe that the author wanted to elevate the plight of Rao’s “woman” in particularly in this novel and I just didn’t buy it.

      The magic system and how it played out in action sequences was a real problem for me though. It was a case of too much is too much. It just left me feeling completely confused as to how such a battle would have lasted 10 years in the first place. This is what really lost the stars for me. At least with gods you could play the “mysterious ways” card, but with the sages of Pawelon I really didn’t have any answer.

      I don’t want to diminish the strengths of the book though. There really was alot to enjoy and for many this might have been easily enough to counter the issues I had. I would not recommend against reading it and it’s quite possible that I’ll give the sequel a go when it comes out.

  2. I’m really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one these days..

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