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In the Shadow of the Gods: A Bound Gods Novel Paperback – June 21, 2016
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“Dunne’s debut novel is visceral grimdark fantasy with ruthless religions, deeply conflicted characters, and a bleak, hostile setting. This trilogy is off to a gritty, gutsy start.” (Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger, on IN THE SHADOW OF THE GODS)
“Brutal and cold, In the Shadow of the Gods is a stunning début. A must-have for fans of dark fantasy.” (Michael Fletcher, author of Beyond Redemption on IN THE SHADOW OF THE GODS)
“The gods have brought this group together - but which gods, and to what purpose? The interesting concept will keep readers involved as the story gradually unfolds. Dunne’s polished prose and well-rounded characters make it a strong start.” (Publishers Weekly on IN THE SHADOW OF THE GODS)
“The gritty mythos and conflicted characters are compelling enough to bring the reader along to the last page...and to the coming sequel. Antiheroes carry the day...in this dark tale of pragmatism and survival.” (Kirkus Reviews on IN THE SHADOW OF THE GODS)
“Joros is an interesting character, full of suprises to both readers and to those around him, and able to draw others to himself while maintaining some mystery. This novel is full of battles and blood, but never loses the heart of the story amidst the chaos.” (RT Magazine (4 stars) on IN THE SHADOW OF THE GODS)
From the Back Cover
Eons ago, a pair of gods known as the Twins grew powerful in the world of Fiatera, until the Divine Mother and Almighty Father exiled them, binding them deep in the earth. But the price of keeping the fire lands safe is steep. To prevent these young gods from rising again, all twins in the land must be killed at birth, a safeguard that has worked until now.
Trapped for centuries, the Twins are gathering their latent powers to break free and destroy the Parents for their tyranny—to set off a fight between two generations of gods for control of the world and the mortals who dwell in it.
When the gods make war, only one side can be victorious. Joros, a mysterious and cunning priest, has devised a dangerous plan to win. Over eight years, he gathers a team of disparate fighters—Scal, a lost and damaged swordsman from the North; Vatri, a scarred priestess who claims to see the future in her fires; Anddyr, a drug-addled mage wandering between sanity and madness; and Rora and Aro, twins who have secretly survived beyond the reach of the law.
These warriors must learn to stand together against the unfathomable power of vengeful gods, to stop them from tearing down the sun . . . and plunging their world into darkness.
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As the first book in a new series it pulls you into the world of Fiatera and sets it's hooks deep inside, then ends as our morally grey, would be heroes (or villains) grow and start new paths. Leaving you eagerly awaiting the next book and whats sure to leave the their world changed forever. But will it be for better or for worse? Will there even be a winner in this fight?
If you want gritty, dark fantasy the likes of Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, or Steven Erikson then pick up the first book in this news series by debut author Rachel Dunne.
The hook here is that some 800 years ago (a far cry from the "eons" described on the book cover) the two gods who created the world (the Parents) cast down their children, the Twins, for overstepping their bounds, although we're never quite sure which pair was in the right (the one bit of subtlety about the book). Worship of the Parents is still the dominant religion, which entails drowning human twins at birth, while the cult of the Twins is tolerated, if not politely accepted. This divine casting-out isn't a bad place to start, but it appears to be the only thing that has ever happened in this world, which is otherwise entirely lacking in a sense of history or place or culture or politics, aside from general unrelenting misery. It's a vaguely generic European setting, with Viking analogues to the north and some "plains tribes" to the south, and warring gangs of wretched orphans in the canals under the capital city (only city?), but that's about it in terms of the sense of the world that we get. The mountain stronghold of the Twins cult, shrouded in darkness and lit only by blue flames, is an interesting creation, but it never really came to life for me. At any rate, our motley crew of POV characters (an apostate priest, a barbarian, a pair of twins, and another fallen priest whose story never intersects with the others) will play a central role in the struggle between the two religions (vis a vis unbinding the bound Twins), but not in this book.
As is so often the case in epic fantasies, this is essentially a prologue for the actual story that will unfold in the later volumes, but what's particularly strange about this one is that it's structured as a series of prologues spaced years apart, and each one spends so much time referencing what has already happened that there was no real reason for the reader to be present for the actual unfolding of the earlier ones. This is particularly galling because once these endless origin stories are out of the way, the story picks up steam rapidly and becomes much more compelling in the final 50 pages or so... and then it ends, hooks (theoretically) set deep enough that you won't be able to resist the next volume.
I would say this is YA-ish, except for the consistent and excessive violence present throughout (someone literally explodes on the 3rd page). The author never tells you anything that she doesn't tell you half a dozen times, characters can tell if someone is good or evil based on the way they smile, half of the POV characters are children, everything is very on the nose, etc etc. Prose-wise we're in pretty average territory for an epic fantasy, I guess, although we veer into outright clunkiness from time to time, as with the first sentence of the novel: "Mount Raturo lurched above the forest like an ugly thumb, throwing its broad-shouldered shadow over the trees." I know I'm being overly nit-picky here, but most thumbs don't have shoulders, nor would I say they ever really lurch.
Some of the clunkiness is structural: I did not at all understand the scene where a man kind of laughingly invites one of the main characters to murder him, which she then does. Said character's twin brother is an inexplicable void, present but never present, and I wasn't sure if he was supposed to be developmentally disabled or not. An ideological shift on the part of another character, on which the entire series would appear to hinge, also left me scratching my head, and the climax of the novel brings back a character for no apparent reason aside from the fact that the author needed him to be there to resolve a subplot. This is, of course, in addition to the larger existential clunkiness of a book sold to sell future books.
All of that said, there was some promise here - the underlying conceit of missing gods still affecting the world is a good one (although, between this, Robert Jackson Bennett, and Ben Peek, it does appear to be the theme du jour), and I do appreciate that Dunne set out to make as dark a world as possible without ever relying on sexual violence (in fact, as far as I can recall, gender inequality isn't an issue here, which is refreshing). She also does a good job of making magic an otherworldly and inexplicable force, although I think not having it tied to twins at all was a missed opportunity.
Anyway, like I said, I'm not really the target audience for this. Interested in pretty clear-cut fantasy narratives about kids growing up so that they can go on adventures in other books? Have at it.