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Aching God (Iconoclasts Book 1) Kindle Edition
|Length: 604 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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|Book 1 of 2 in Iconoclasts|
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Customers who bought this item also bought
"Well-crafted fantasy for adults...This is the novel that kids who played D&D 20 years ago deserve." - Alec Hutson, author of The Crimson Queen and The Silver Sorceress
"Bloody brilliant!" - Laura M. Hughes, author of Danse Macabre & co-founder of The Fantasy Hive
"On the face of it this is a classic D&D-styled quest but really it's so much more. It's a wise, thoughtful exploration of what such experiences do to people, the prices they pay, how it breaks them down and then leaves them to decide whether they stay broken or somehow stand back up." - Phil Tucker, author of Chronicles of the Black Gate
"I plan to devour the next volume as soon as it's released. Shel has created an intriguing world of high, epic fantasy that delivers on all fronts." - Adam Weller, Fantasy Book Review
"A thoroughly engrossing debut novel that I enjoyed immensely...it's certainly one of my favorite books of 2018. It feels like sword & sorcery Indiana Jones." - Spike Gelato, The Speculative Shelf
"This is the best quest-fantasy book I've read in a long time." - Songwind @ r/fantasy
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 604 pages
- Publication Date : April 9, 2018
- File Size : 1853 KB
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B07C9DBKB6
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #62,026 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The characters are well developed, realistic, and easy to relate to. They are conflicted, flawed, and have their own individual needs, wants, and goals. There are turns and twists that will catch you off guard and horrify and delight you. There is corruption and danger galore, and it is an uphill battle from the start; a battle of will, strength of heart, and the ability to not only personally persevere but to persevere as a group together. Old scars will break open, the old woulds will be fresh and bleed again, and resolves will be tested.
Aching God is well paced, well written, and highly immersive. It reminds me of campaigns that I've played in where different characters and personalities are shoved together, volunteered for a crazy and what seems like a near impossible job, only to find out that instead of jumping into a raging river they have hopped into a hurricane.
I'm looking forward for the next book! It needs to come out sooner rather than later.
However, Aching God, by virtue of Shel's ability with the written word and his talent for diving deep into a character’s psyche, is so much more than a game set to the page. This is a horror novel, a story about post-traumatic stress, a character study, and a world-building opener that screams at more secrets and things to come. Aching God does what some of the best fantasy in the history of the genre does in its ability to flesh out a map and trickle in enough information to keep a reader wondering with every flip of the page. Aching God is really, really good.
The story finds an aging Auric Manteo, retired from the Syraeic League where he drew his fame and fortune, once more thrust into the life of an adventurer when his daughter and her fellow compatriots in the League, are stricken with a mysterious plague. The source of this plague is an idol taken from an ancient tomb, the kind of thing Auric himself might have plundered in his younger days, and the scholars within the League (those yet alive) predict that the only thing to stop this plague is to restore the idol to its place of origin. Auric must, with a cadre of capable companions, journey to the Barrowlands, spelunk back into the horrifying crypt, and place the idol back into the statue from whence it was wrested.
Sound familiar? The concept here is nothing new, but we don’t always need something new in our fantasy - Nicholas Eames proved that with his genre-shaking debut Kings Of The Wyld. Sometimes the oldest stories, if told with a twist and told well, can be fantastic.
What is Shel’s twist? He has a few. First, and most memorable, is the way in which he narrates Auric’s adventurous past. Auric did not retire because he had a nice long life and wanted to reap the rewards. Auric retired because his last foray into one of the Barrowlands’ dungeons saw his entire party slain and devoured before his very eyes. Shel does a masterful job of relaying Auric’s last journey, mostly through flashbacks or dreams, and the more we learn about that last fated adventure, the more we understand Auric’s motivations and his fears. Shel borrows notes from Lovecraft in his depictions of the Djao gods, deities once worshipped by an ancient race but that were cast down by the realm’s current pantheon. These are grotesque beings of indeterminable size or form. They toy with their victims in an eldritch manner, worming into the mind in order to use madness as a weapon. Shel shrouds all of this in that signature mystery often reserved for ruined ancient races.
Shel also does a lovely job in his characterizations of the party. Of particular note is Auric’s companion Belech, an ex-soldier who accompanies the retired adventurer at the behest of the noble lady in whose realm Auric has retired. Belech is a complex mixture of simple man and unassuming scholar. He has faith, but is not preachy about it and seems to truly believe in the benevolence of his god. He’s also handy with a mace. Auric’s other companions are ones furnished him by the League, but they leave nearly as much of an impact. Sira is a priest whom Auric and Belech meet even before coming to the Syraeic League’s headquarters, and she becomes one of the most sympathetic and authentic characters in the novel. It is a testament to Shel’s character work that he is able to write characters with a spectrum of cynicism and optimism. Gnaeus, a young swordsman, is the consummate cynic and polar opposite of Sira, in much the same way that Auric and Belech lean towards opposite ends. Del Ogara, a happy sorceress, and Lumari, a cold alchemist, round out the balanced pairs in a way that is only noticeable upon later scrutiny. There are times when the characterization does not completely hold up, and a scene near the end in particular that tries to impart an emotional bombshell that is unearned, but for the most part I cared about these characters and wanted to see them succeed.
The only part where Aching God falters is in its ending. Shel spends so much time working towards this confrontation with the unknown Aching God, and then when things finally reach that head, it turns out to be a disappointment. I both understand and lament this. This is the first novel in a series. Robert Jordan couldn’t end The Eye of the World with Rand confronting and defeating Shai’tan. Neither can Shel simply have his characters meet the world’s biggest bad and stick a sword in him. But where Jordan succeeds and Shel fails, to use the prior analogy, is that Jordan casts a wider net with his villains. Shel makes mention of something more out there, but not until the very end, and the entire novel is spent working solely towards this one unfathomable creature. The way in which this is told, it feels like Rand is making his way to the Dark One, to further push that comparison, and when he gets there he finds that the Dark One isn’t very dark at all. I feel that this will be fleshed out in the sequel, certainly, but it makes for a mostly unsatisfying conclusion to what is an incredible journey.
I don’t know if Mike Shel will win the SPFBO. This is my favorite book so far in the competition, but I suspect others might find less depth than I have and see it as more of a simple role-playing game-style adventure. I hope people take the time to read more into the story than what’s on the surface because I do think this is an excellent book, and I expect to stay with Mike Shel for a long while.
I love the Auric being an older protagonist than usual for these kinds of stories. This is balanced out with wide variety of characters of different ages that make the world more real and balanced. Its full of characters and personalities that all contribute something unique and he fleshes them out well and you really grow to care for the main characters. Some are fleshed out more than others, but I feel all of them are established well enough to add to the story. I know many see this book in the format of a dungeon crawl, but I don't fully agree. I certainly see the similarities, but I also see how Mike Shel used it as a point of departure for his own unique style of storytelling.
Mike Shel is now one of my favorite authors and I look forward to reading Sin Eater, the second book in this new series, when it comes out. I look forward to seeing how his second book builds off his experience of writing his first book and if he adds more information/background to some things hi introduced, but didn't follow up on too much. I'm sure his style of storytelling and character building will be even stronger from his debut book of Aching God.
Top reviews from other countries
It is most obvious at the end of the novel where the story continues for several chapters after the climax. There’s the risk of losing your readers in doing this. The Big Bad has been defeated and we’re satisfied that Right has defeated Evil. So why offer anything more? In this novel it’s because were being told we’ve only touched the surface, beneath this iceberg there’s a lot more going on and we need to be hooked in to the next part of the story. Well, consider me hooked!
There’s also been suggestions in some reviews that this is a LitRPG story but I disagree. This is a military mission we’re following. Of course, you select a team with the kind of skills you need to address the dangers you’re likely to face, to do otherwise would be foolhardy and risk the success of the mission. This may be fantasy but it’s also reality!
I’ve been trying to decide what I like best in this story. I’m always a fan of well-defined, interesting characters and this book is full of them. Auric Monteo is a wonderfully complex and damaged protagonist, not your typical hero nor a dark anti-hero either but a man driven to face his demons because he has no other choice. I’m a fan of Belech too, the sturdy, indomitable friend who helps Auric deal with those demons. Best of all, Sira. Belech says about her at one point that she is the strongest but it’s not in any conventional way. She is calm, her faith is her foundation and though her abilities give her enormous defensive powers, she is the one who sees them through the worst in many ways. I love female characters that are more than the “bad-ass” type, who retain such complexity that we see them as real women, not fantasy versions of male attraction.
But, in the end, it’s the world building that makes the story really hum. It is filled with malevolence, madness and magic. A place where religion has a very real power, where gods appear to exist. It’s also a place where the evil of the Djao, an evil race vanquished by these gods, still attracts the nefarious types who want to profit from this race’s artefacts. I’m intrigued by the way Mike Shel comments on us, as a race, how we would likely do the same thing. Plundering riches with blatant disregard for the consequences. Just like the stories of how Carter plundered the tomb of King Tutankhamen. We will do anything to make money, to gain power over others, even if the risks appear to be high. I’m hoping to see in the forthcoming stories how these consequences play out.
The syraeic league function a lot like magical archaeologists (though most of them aren't magic) and the world they inhabit and the dangers they face are almost as fascinating as the methods they utilise to deal with them.
The world never stops being believable which is in large part due to its solid characters, the main few being a step above side characters who are themselves on the same plane as main characters from other books.
The story is great and I couldn't predict it.
I expected very little from a self-published fantasy novel recommended on reddit, but this is head and shoulders above most traditionally published fantasy and is genuinely up there with the greats.
This is a character driven novel with tight storytelling that's not afraid to pull big, cosmic horror punches. I'm diving straight into the second one.
I loved the older protagonist with a traumatic past and PTSD coming out of retirement for one last mission into an ancient tomb complex constructed by a vanished people. Dread and Lovecraftian horror rubs shoulders with heroics, excitement and lighter moments.