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Servant of a Dark God Hardcover – October 13, 2009

4 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Brown's engrossing debut, the first installment of the Dark Gods saga, one of the mysterious Divines, godlike rulers capable of harvesting a person's life force, has vanished. Young Talen's relatively idyllic life is turned upside down when his family is accused of being soul-eaters who worship a twisted god. Pursued by fearful clansmen and a nightmarish earthen monstrosity known only as Hunger, Talen begins to investigate his latent world-changing abilities. Soon he learns of his family's extensive role in the enigmatic Order, whose mission is to break the yoke of the Divines, and the nature of the dark power that hunts them. Brown's narrative takes a few hundred pages to get up to speed, but the latter parts are breakneck-paced and action-packed. Patient readers will be rewarded with a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy adventure. (Oct.)
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Review

Praise for Servant of a Dark God

“A great setting, a smart story.”
--Brandon Sanderson, author of Warbreaker

“In his debut novel, Servant of a Dark God, John Brown adds his voice to epic fantasy with a world I can see and smell and taste and believe in . . . and characters I can cheer for, travel with and want to see again.”
--Ken Scholes, author of Lamentation 

“A complex, powerful story.”
--David Drake

“[An] engrossing debut. . . .  breakneck-paced and action-packed.  Patient readers will be rewarded with a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy adventure.”
--Publishers Weekly 

“A classic heroic saga, dealing with the bedrock issues of good and evil and identity. These are classic themes because they matter; and Brown makes them matter both to his young protagonist and the reader. It promises to continue for quite a distance, and I hope it does.”
--Kage Baker 

“Brown’s first novel, the opener in a new fantasy series, creates an elaborate new world with a rich and deep spiritual and political background. . . .  Reminiscent of L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s ‘Recluce’ novels and David Drake’s ‘Lord of the Isles’ series and David Farland’s ‘Runelords’ books, this well-wrought tale of families in conflict against both politics and religion represents a welcome addition to large-scale fantasy.” 
--Library Journal (starred review) 

“Akin to Steven Erickson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen, or R. Scott Bakker’s The Prince of Nothing. . . .  There is the sense, right from the start, that Servant of a Dark God is a tale being told by a first-rate story-teller. It may be his first novel, but … John Brown knows how to grab a reader’s attention and hold it all the way through the book. That’s a talent that works well in any genre, and bodes especially well for the next two volumes in what promises to be an engrossing fantasy trilogy.”
--New York Review of Science Fiction 

“A complex and intricate world, filled with all the permutations of human good and evil, as well as evil that goes beyond the human.  Neither heroes nor villains are quite what they seem at first, and where the cost of virtue is high indeed, yet where, in the end, the tenacity of such virtue is what is required to triumph.”
--L. E. Modesitt, Jr author of Arms-Commander

“This intricate story buries the truth under layers of corrupted history, forgotten legends, and deliberate lies… A provocative, suspenseful beginning of a new series.”
--Booklist

"Thoroughly engrossing from the first page to the last!  John Brown shows himself to be a writer with remarkable depth and power.  I haven't seen a debut novel this good in years!"
--David Farland, author of Berserker Lord 

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765322358
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765322357
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,686,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bryce Dayton on October 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book struck me as falling into the mold of classic fantasy somewhat, while at the same time doing everything just different enough to be seen as original. Sure, there's a young boy with a destiny of sorts, but his interaction with his family and their involvement in that destiny are very different than other fantasy offerings. Yes, there's an evil power seeking dominion over the entire world, but it's basically already got it, and we're looking at the beginning of a rebellion. This, too, has been done, but I think it was just different enough with the political intrigue and terrible power of the evil forces to keep things fresh and new.

The story revolves around The Order, a group of people who want to give the power to the people. The magic power, that is. The Divines rule the land with an almost godlike status, hiding the reality that magic is for everyone in order to hold onto their power over the people. The story mainly revolves around two families who are caught up in the trouble brewing between the Order and the Divines.

I really enjoyed the emotional attachment that I developed to the characters, particularly to their interaction with one another. From the outset I was drawn in as Talen embarked upon the noble quest of finding his pants. It was a fun way to start a book, and a good way to see the humor in the characters before the try/fail cycles of the novel kicked in and we got to see the deeper side of each character. For me, the interaction in the emotional scene between Argoth and his son Nettle was particularly heart-wrenching, and signaled strong writing on the part of Mr. Brown. I also enjoyed the inner demons of Sugar, having to deal with the terrible things that she saw, particularly her reaction to them.
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The novel's events take place in a world where the use of magic is strictly controlled by powerful magic wielders know as Divines. A rebel group, the Order, is secretly growing their organization in the hope they will one day overthrow the Divines. When one of the rebels is exposed, Talen, a young farm boy, finds himself caught in the middle of the ensuing conflict.

Characters

The novel does not have a single protagonist, nor does it have a single point of view. The main character is Talen, the son of a prosperous farmer. He is a well-written, but sometimes irritating character who steadfastly stays true to his beliefs. I didn't always like his thoughts or actions, but they were realistic and believable actions for him to take. The reader also spends a good bit of the book in other characters' POV's--for most part those of Talen's friends and family. I will not go through all of them, but will simply say that they were distinct characters with their own interesting story lines. One of my favorite POV's was that of Hunger, a dreadful, powerful monster.

World Building

Good world building is extremely important for me as a reader. Without it I cannot build the willing suspension of disbelief required to become fully engaged in the novel. Having said that, John Brown has done an fabulous job at world building. The magic system is unique and interesting. There are no fireballs or spells of invisibility, instead magic-capable people steal Fire and Soul from others in an effort to multiply their own strength and longevity. The world building also includes a very realistic conflict between foreign overlords and the oppressed locals they have conquered. The cultures are creative and believable, with their own rules and rites.
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Right, so, there's a lot that's good about this book and we'll start with those things.

1) The poor peasant boy's family doesn't die immediately.
2) It isn't just Medieval Europe.
3) The magic is cool and original.
4) There are some ideas with real potential. The look we get at the Divines is very cool.
5) One of the coolest "secret conspiracy" revelations I've seen.
6) Argoth and Hogan were pretty good characters.

There's also a lot that's wrong with this book. I wish I'd liked it, but all in all I really can't recommend it.

1) Clunky prose. It's actively difficult to stay involved.
2) Poor exposition for the magic system. Also, loose rules. What exactly can and can't it do?
3) The character of Hunger was thin and flat for me.
4) A rather aimless, slow-moving plot.
5) Sloppy detail work. Lots of unnecessary little touches (the Mother changing appearance, etc, etc).
6) Female characters shunted out of the limelight in favor of the males, I felt.
7) No clear sense of what the two different cultures are like.
8) No clear etymology. Where the hell are peoples' names coming from? This may seem like a small gripe, but it matters.
9) The Mother was a pretty dull villain. If you want us to believe your antagonist is a human-herder, don't just make her talk and act like a creepy person. Give us something really alien. The failure to engage through prose shines particularly brightly during any scene involving the Mother.

It's not a terrible first effort, it's just not very good. Keep an eye on the guy and see if he gets any better. I wouldn't write him off yet.
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