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The Left Hand of God Hardcover – June 15, 2010

3.5 out of 5 stars 117 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—This novel of speculative fiction, the first of a trilogy, will be hard for readers to put down. Fourteen-year-old Thomas Cale is an acolyte of the Redeemers, struggling, like other boys his age and younger, to live up to the harsh standards of the Sanctuary. When he is sent to the Lord of Discipline for a minor infraction, he stumbles on a scene of vivisection and kills the Redeemer in his effort to save the victims. He flees with two other boys, Vague Henri and Kleist, and the girl that he has rescued, Riba. The four make their way to Memphis, capital of the Materazzi empire, and their best hope of safety from the Redeemer's vengeance. Once there, chancellor Vipond finds a use for each of them while seeking to learn more of the mysterious Redeemers in order to prepare for the war with them that he fears is to come. Cale's martial prowess earns him both allies and enemies in the city, whose ways are entirely strange to the boys. Startling revelations and strange reversals continue until the final pages. Hoffman's story includes references to Norwegians, Jews, and Guelphs but without any obvious geographic parallels to Europe. He reinforces the late medieval feeling with the occasional archaic term that may send readers to their dictionaries without sacrificing any of the suspense, romance, or action. This compelling read will be popular with fans of fantasy, action, and military fiction, who will eagerly await the next installment.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
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From Booklist

The remote Sanctuary of the Redeemers is a huge, grim fortress. There boys younger than 10 are taken for intensive training in hand-to-hand combat in preparation for a forthcoming holy war that only the high priests know about. Sixteen-year-old Thomas Cale is one of the thousands of boys who endure unspeakable treatment at the hands of the warrior monks. Sensing something special about Cale, the Lord Militant takes charge of his training, making it extremely harsh and driving him to achieve more and more. When Cale comes across a Redeemer performing a vivisection on a girl, he slays the man, rescues another girl, and realizes that to live he must escape into the outside world. What ensues is a riveting tale of pursuit, derring-do, battles, and death. Unfortunately, some intrusive authorial explanatory asides interrupt the narrative flow. Enigmatic Cale is something of a berserker on his dark side, a protector on his good one. Other principals are credible, and the settings—the foul sanctuary, barren landscape, and aristocratic city to which Cale flees—vivid. A rousing trilogy-opener. --Sally Estes

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton; 1st edition (June 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525951318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525951315
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,236,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The first truly hyped release of 2010, The Left Hand of God has a lot going for it - at least, on the surface. Gritty, dark fantasy cover art, great word of mouth & a tantalizing plot all add up to a lot of sound and fury. And, to give it credit, Hoffman does write a very more-ish book, fast-paced from start to finish.

The book's protagonist is Thomas Cale, an orphan in the care of the Redeemers. The Redeemers are a sinister, reclusive religious order that stress penitence & punishment (also torture and the occasional bout of pedophilia). Although the orphans are cut off from the world, it doesn't take much for Thomas to figure out that the abandoned kids are being trained into an army of killers.

The first part of the book (and probably the best), takes place in the Sanctuary. Cale and his friends scuttle around like rats - survival is their only goal. Oddly, I've always enjoyed the opening "before the prophecy happens" sections of high fantasy epics, and this is a pretty good one. Compared to Garion's kitchen or Frodo's farm, Cale's miserable orphanage is quite a change.

Fortunately for them (and unfortunately for the reader), Cale and his friends manage to escape. The latter two-thirds of the book take place in the trading city of Memphis, the vague capital of an Venetian-like trading empire. Cale works his way up the ranks and somehow gets mixed up in the local politics. Eventually, predictably, we learn that everything revolves around him, and some prophecies come into play. Whew.

Unfortunately, the book relies too much on pace and energy, and not enough on plot, character development and good old-fashioned world-building.
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Format: Hardcover
The rise of fantasy has, in my opinion, produced two kinds of cliche-oriented reactions within the publishing spectrum: entertaining, inventive, and/or enjoyably derivative trilogies, and fascinating ideas and worlds mired by barely serviceable prose, lackluster plotting, and/or a general failure to maintain cohesion (in the plot, worldbuilding, character development, and/or the writing). Both groups aren't always separate, since sometimes a book with weak prose can still be a thrilling read, but usually they are. Unfortunately, I think The Left Hand of God fits into the latter of the two groups.

The novel sounds intriguing enough, and Hoffman's book does deliver on a number of the points described in the synopsis for the U.S. edition, but overall, The Left Hand of God falls desperately short in three key ways.

The first failure has to do with point of view. While the synopsis indicates that Cale is the main character, Hoffman's writing fails to adequately display that, almost as if Hoffman didn't seem to know who the book was supposed to be about either. The first quarter of the book does focus on Cale, but the rest of the novel switches randomly from POV to POV to give the reader the thoughts of basically anyone in the room at that moment, or even people who are completely insignificant to the actual plot. None of this is done between chapters, which might have been okay, but within chapters, sometimes between paragraphs, and sometimes between sentences. One second we're hearing Cale's inner thoughts, and the next it's someone else. And before you can grow used to the transition, Hoffman switches again.
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5 Comments 34 of 41 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
I have never written a one star review before. However, this book is the worst of some hundred fantasy novels I have read in the past two years. There are numerous reasons for why I felt this way.

1. The novel embraces numerous of fantasy's worst cliches. The main character is an orphan with amazing abilities and he falls in love with the most beautiful and famous girl in the world. Although they have only one or two short dailogues together, they are both so attractive that they have relations and fall in love. It doesnt matter that she is the daughter of the most powerful man in the world and he is a 14 year old orphan without a job, education, or interpersonal skills. Cale, the main character, is also the best fighter in the world. The explanation given is that he had a terrible skull fracture and when it healed he could tell how people were going to attack him before it happened. So the 14 year old boy beats the most famous and skilled adult warriors in the land in a series of duels. Not only is he the best warrior in the world, he is also a peerless military strategist. He devises the military strategy the main "bad" army uses by reading through decades of military history. When he is then on the side of the "good" army, they use him to devise a counter-stratgey to the one that he invented which the "bad" army is employing. Again, an amazing 14 year old. Twice in the novel when confronted with medical situations, the doctors in the book are baffled when it comes to healing. Once again, Cale steps in and also is more trained in the healing arts than the physicians. Finally, when the brother of the girl he loves is shunned as a simpleton because he is deaf, Cale again steps in. This time it is because he learned sign language in a previous flashback.
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