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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
"The Black God's War" is the opening to Moses Siregar III's upcoming novel, and though it only comprises the first 15 chapters, it is an engaging introduction to the world and its story.

The story is most certainly an entry in the grand old tradition of Epic fantasy. Two nations, with distinct cultures and histories, locked in a years-long war to determine the fate of their people and their faith...big stakes, and a big story.

This novella focuses on the Rezzia, the people of a large empire with an (apparent) theocracy--the gods of Rezzia, known collectively as Lux Lucis, are present and active in the lives of their worshipers, and their powers are channeled by the spiritual and martial leader known as the "Haissem".

(Here's a little linguistic tip: When you read this book, try reading backwards.)

As the book opens, the latest Haissem is born, and his older sister witnesses his mother's death--and the titulary Black God taking a hand in it. From here, we move forward to the ascension of the baby Haissem, Caio, to his role as a leader and wielder of holy power, the Dux Spiritus. And then, war comes, and drags on for years.

This novella is small in scope, giving readers a sense of the lead characters and their roles in the story--not a complete novel, no, but still a page turner (screen scroller?) and well worth the purchase. It engages both action and character to make a readable, enjoyable, and worthy story.

Siregar is a fresh writer, and there are times when that comes out in the story; the language use can, at times, betray a certain amount of inexperience, but the story gets by on its characters and world and I don't hesitate to recommend it.

Jim Rion
'[...]
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
I picked up this novella during a free promotion. I was curious to see how the novella was presented because it is being advertised as an introduction to the novel that will be published in the Spring of 2011.

The story opens up with a powerful scene seen through 10-year-old Lucia's eyes. Her mother has just given birth to a son, but the child is no ordinary child. This child, Caio, is the long-awaited savior, "Haissem," for the people of Rezzia. While her father presents the child to the faithful, Lucia is first overjoyed, but when she tries to join them on the balcony, her father pushes her aside and the cold reality of his rejection hits her hard. Compounding the sting of rejection, Lucia witnesses a terrifying event involving her mother. When she calls out to her father for help, he continues to ignore her and an event that will change Lucia forever plays out. In this short scene, the author paints a vivid picture of the turmoil and suffering that Lucia endures - her conflicting feelings for her brother and her heartache over her father's rejection - and I was a little disappointed when the next chapter unfolded 19 years later.

The rest of the novella is Caio's story from his ascension to the "Dux Spiritus" to his taking over as commander of the Rezzia army in their battle against their mortal enemies, the Pawelons. We are introduced to his personal guard, Ilario, who secretly loves Lucia, but their difference in class makes a union between them impossible. This surprised me because there is no back-story to let the reader know this fact so the full impact of their forbidden love is lost. However, the author unfolds a masterful story of Caio's hopes, dreams and his own inner demons about living up to his own legend and doing the right thing.

Mr. Siregar has given us a taste of the epic novel to come with this novella. If you want to read a talented new author with a flair for storytelling, you should definitely pick up this story. I for one am looking forward to reading the full story when it's published next year.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Plot/Storyline: 4 3/4 Stars

I enjoyed this novella from its opening chapter to its gripping end, which left me wanting more, as all good stories do. As just a fantasy tale, it provided plenty of entertainment. However, I found further enjoyment on another level.

I found this novella to be an interesting metaphor for religion in the `real world', both historical and present. One faction is fighting for the right to worship and follow their own gods, while the other faction is fighting to spread their "religion" (although it's never called that in the book) and force the first faction into submission. The biggest difference was that in the book, the gods' existences are undisputed. By that, I mean that no one is saying they don't exist. They do. They are evident and visit certain people. Therefore, it was more of a war between the gods than a war between people; although it was the people who suffered.

However, it did appear that the people had some free choice. They chose which gods to worship, how to wage war, or even whether to not wage war. The gods didn't force them, just nudged them a little.

The novella is mainly about Lucia, the main character, her interactions with the black god and her country at war. Upon reading the first chapters with this information, I developed a real empathy for her and her people. Amazingly, the author managed to turn that completely around with just a short section told from the viewpoint of the other faction. I went from empathising with the first faction to being horrified at their actions. What a difference viewpoint can make!

My only criticism stems from the dreams that Lucia experiences. Afterward, she has trouble telling reality from the dreams, but she eventually is able to divine truth. Unfortunately, one dream toward the end is so vivid that I got a bit confused for awhile, making me stumble a bit in the reading process.

Although this is a "prelude" for a future series, I found it to be complete with a satisfying ending. There is even a little romance thrown in for good measure.

Character Development: 5 Stars

For the format, the characters were sufficiently well developed. I assume the author will be developing them further in his first book of the series, but this was a great introduction to them.

I enjoyed Lucia very much. I hope that in the full book more is disclosed regarding her childhood.

Lucia's brother is the "messiah" of his country. I was treated to a small taste of what he felt about his "calling." This is another character that would be fun to see developed further.

Writing Style: 5 Stars

The writing style of this novella immediately put me at ease in the setting. The opening chapter is told from the viewpoint of a child, and the voice was perfect. The descriptions were rich and vibrant.

*This review is from a Review Copy provided by the author.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
You will want to read more after finishing this wonderful, well-crafted novella. The Black God's War by Moses Siregar, a brilliant new author, is a treasure chest for those of us looking for new and exciting epic fantasy fiction. This is a spiritual trip painted in gloriously descriptive terms of good and black gods, fascinating characters, and a panorama of mystical places. I found myself wanting to get to the next page before finishing the one I was on to see what was going to happen next to the warring factions of Pawelon and Rezzia and our heroes Caio and his sister Lucia. Fortunately for those of us who have instantly become fans, the complete story will be published in May of 2010, but don't wait, there is much enjoyment and many revelations of renewal and rebirth to be had right now by reading the novella.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2010
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
"The Black God's War" is one well constructed and tightly edited novella. With this book the author may very well be picked up by a large publishing house soon and become a mega-star in the world of books if the final version continues with the tight editing and character development shown in the short novella here. I was pulled into the story right at the start, the characters made you feel their pains as well as their hopes. I am really looking forward to the complete work promised to us by this new author.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
It's something of a rarity to find a fantasy book set within the context of a religious war these days - particularly a war in which a whole pantheon of gods partakes, albeit mostly through the intercessory prayers of their devotees.

The Black God's War has more than a feel of The Iliad about it: an interminable battle, a large dramatis personae (there are even ten gods here), philosophical depth and capricious deities who don't always have their subjects' best interests at heart.

There's also a majestic backcloth layered with theology and psychological motivation. Whilst we are only given a narrow view of the world reduced to the factions in the conflict, there is a sense of something truly epic unfurling. The author knows his characters, his gods and his intentions.
The prologue fulfils its task masterfully: there's a wealth of information conveyed through tight POV and we are given an immediate emotional way in to the character of Lucia, a young girl present at the birth of her brother, Caio.

Caio is the long-awaited Haissem (Messiah) of his people, the expected turning point in the war. A powerful dynamic between Lucia and her father is established in this scene and we get a feel for the almost symbiotic link between these people and their gods.

The gods drift about the characters invisible to most. Very little is revealed of their nature but I assumed they were something akin to the Homeric/Hesiodic super-beings who toy with the affairs of mortals. They struck me as utterly whimsical and unworthy of worship, but I guess that remains to be seen as the full novel develops.
I was a little disappointed that, after peeking my interest, the author then propels us 19 years into the future and the labour of induction into the characters' world view commences again. Indeed, at this stage of the novella, there was a deluge of exposition that was overwhelming. The effect was to disengage rather than enlighten. The characters became somewhat flat and contrived, their dialogue often thinly veiled exposition (Caio and Ilario talking about the old days). Point of view italicised thoughts appeared redundant a lot of the time, repeating what we already knew from context and speech. I would have said action, but there was so little in the early chapters. Even the battle was commented upon and observed by the characters as if they were viewing it on TV.

Many of the principles are spiritual types whose interiority may have been part of the problem. They withdraw into the inner-depths with the effect that we are given a somewhat detached view of what is happening outside their personal bubbles. Many of the events that are unfolding are told from the outside. It was a little like watching Aeschylus and, to a lesser extent, Sophocles. Atrocities are reported off-stage and details are conveyed through messengers and letters. Sometimes this is extremely effective, but in this novella I felt it went on too long.

Another issue I had was that the great depth of spirituality the author had painstakingly developed was too much in the foreground. I was reminded of an interview with Ridley Scott regarding the incredible detail of the set for Alien. Scott said he needed the world to be as gritty and realistic as possible but - and this is the point with The Black God's War - it needed to be kept in the background without drawing undue attention. It's characters that draw us in: their relationships and behaviour, not all the intricate details of the cosmos they inhabit.

I hate the cliché "show don't tell" but in this case it holds. Way too much telling and hardly any real action or engagement with the characters. Yes, there is a lot of psychological depth, but we are told far too much about that through contrived POV thoughts and dialogue, or the commentary of other characters. Rarely do we see anything conveyed through action.

The finest scene, besides the prologue, for me was an intimate moment between Lucia and Ilario, when they start to broach the subject of their hitherto unspoken love. The use of body language, tension and (yes!) internal thoughts worked beautifully.

It also left me wondering what went wrong (for this reader) with the rest of the book. Towards the end there were some action scenes involving the main characters. They were well conceived but didn't pull me in. I suspect this was because the descriptions were, at the same time, too detailed and too vague. Lots of clauses, slowing the action, and yet I still couldn't picture what was going on. There were some very bizarre (jarring) similes and some over-flowery language that didn't help this. Much of the action lacked immediacy as a result.

There were a few key moments that stood out - particularly Caio's use of his one-time power to resurrect a boy. However, even here I was left wondering if the author hadn't dramatically shot his load. Such a power, if it can only be used once in a story, has huge dramatic potential. I would have liked Caio to be faced with a greater dilemma (deciding amongst loved ones who is to live and who's to die). Lucia seems to feel the same way, but for another reason. It remains to be seen in the full novel how this plays out.
On another note, I couldn't see the point of reversing the spellings of Karma and Messiah: maybe that will come clear too. Haissem was certainly a pleasing title, but Amrak...

I also missed the relevance of the Homeric chapter titles - besides the obvious nod to The Iliad. They looked great but added nothing. If anything they jarred with the content of some of the chapters.

There is some good writing here and a concept of enormous scope. Where the novella fails, for me, is in the balance of exposition and action. There are also moments when it becomes preachy and when the reader's thinking is done for him. I didn't feel free to engage creatively with the writing, I felt I was repeatedly being told "this is what you must understand".

It's okay to have messages in fantasy stories but they need to be implied by the action. Who was it that said they should be sent by UPS? (or was it Royal Mail?)

Story first, story, last, story always.

There is a good story here but it's smothered by info dumps and exposition, and the author seems to lack trust in his ability to "show" and his readers' ability to "get it".

Siregar certainly possesses good language skills. If anything he needs to rein them in a bit. Often he chooses an unusual word where a simple one would have been more powerful. Some of the language bordered on pretentious at times and it further removed me from the immediacy of the action.

There were a couple of uses of imagery that were spot on. The one that springs to mind is:

...the sky literally fell down like a sagging belly...

I was a little confused by the blending of Greek and Latin. There's a very Hellenistic feel to the world and one of the generals is referred to as Strategos ('''''''''); however, Caio becomes Dux Spiritus (Latin for leader of the spirit, approximately). Again, it remains to be seen if this is intentional and will be made clear later on. If not perhaps a Greek title for Caio could be found or Strategos could become Strategus.

There is a fair bit of word repetition but it is mostly minor. Generally the copy-editing is good. There were only two (that I noticed) glaring errors, and that's good for a book this length.

There is so much that is good in this story - concept, history, psychological motivation and the author's expansive language skills. I felt that it was lacking in dramatic structure and in involving the reader emotionally through tight POV and revealing characters through their actions.

It's a difficult balance to strike: Siregar does his best to explain the world and the situation of the war with the intention of giving the reader a firm ground to stand upon. He achieves this in the prologue but then fusses about the details too much at the expense of the story.

There is a lot to like, however but I think we've yet to see the best of this emerging talent. I got the impression that this work had been critiqued to death and worked over and over with half a mind on what a critique group would think. I may be miles off the mark, but if this was the case I think the remedy is to write fearlessly, with trust in the author's abilities. Tell the story and let the characters speak for themselves. Everything else will follow.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2010
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The biggest assets in "The Black God's War" are the characters, such as the princess with daddy issues, the delicate self-pitying messiah, and the ambitious but inadequate king.

The world they inhabit is unforgiving; ruled by remote gods who mete out their own incomprehensible justice.

For fans of fantasy fiction, this story is unlikely to disappoint.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2010
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I finished Moses Siregar's novella tonight. The novella forms the background and introduction to a much longer work which shares the same name.

I enjoyed reading The Black God's War. I was fascinated by the setting and the characters. Here the gods take an active role in matters, they interact with the world and work on behalf of the Rezzians. In contrast, the Pawelons rely on their sages who employ magic. Both sides are well thought out and distinct. You get a feel for each culture even though the novella focuses more on the Rezzians. Moses avoids labeling one side as "evil". Both sides in the conflict believe the other side to be the bad guys. He also illustrates how little the two sides understand one another.

Like the setting, the main characters are interesting. Their personalities and motivations are believable. That said, some characters stand out more than others. I wanted to learn more about the Pawelon characters such as Rao. Moses left out several early chapters that dealt with the Pawelon side of the war. The novella would have benefited from their inclusion.

There was only one instance early on in the novella where I needed to reread a sentence to grasp its meaning. Other than that, the writing is solid. All in all, I enjoyed the novella. When the rest of The Black God's War is released, I will pick up a copy.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
As a long time fantasy buff it's pretty easy for me to get excited when I find a new work that is both fresh and has a good story. This novella by Moses Siregar III is both. The author has created a world which includes a pantheon of gods that interact with a select few characters in the story. A war has been ongoing for many years and in order to end the stalemate one king is turning over leadership to his son who is the spiritual leader of the people, the Hasseim, anointed by the gods, though reluctant to bring more death into the world. It is an easy read yet the characters are complex. This novella is serving as an introduction to the novel which will be released at a later date and the scope of the wider story is suggested while also allowing the novella to stand alone as a good read. One caveat: when you read the novella you will be impatient for more! Ah, isn't that the way with good fantasy? We are always waiting for the next part of the story to be released. It's worth it to read this novella intro though, to get a sense of this new author who hopefully has a long career as a writer ahead of him.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
A good taste of a bigger tale for all epic fantasy lovers out there. Don't miss the complete novel next year if you like this genre.
Please note that I'm not an epic fantasy frequent reader, so I might not be aware of genre cliches!
Still the novella was well written, and I assume the complete novel will be even better.
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