Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review
I’ve been having the most awful reading streak in my favorite genre—adult fantasy—this month, The Gods of Men is a new adult fantasy that might have just saved me from an encroaching fantasy slump.
Thank you, Barbara Kloss, for offering your book to me. If you’ve been following my reading progress for this month of May, you’ll probably notice that I’ve been having one of the worst reading months of my life; only one book I finished—that isn’t a reread—this month was able to earn a 4 stars rating, and this was for a sci-fi novel; all my fantasy read ranged disappointingly between the rating of 1-3 stars. The Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss recently just won the runner-up spot in this year’s SPFBO (Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off) competition that’s held annually by Mark Lawrence. That being said, I didn’t actually expect to read The Gods of Men this soon, not when there’s already a stack of ARC/review requests I haven’t finished yet. However, finishing the prologue immediately made me want to continue reading and I ended up finishing the book within two days.
“I take people as they are,” Tolya had always said. “Not who they’ve been or who they want to be. The pat and future are for the Maker. The present is for us.”
The Gods of Men story revolves around two main characters, Imari (Sable) and Jeric (Jos). Magic is forbidden in the Five Provinces, Sable, horrified by the accidental crime she committed ten years ago is now living in hiding. Someone who knows about her ability hunts her now and Sable’s best chance of survival is another character who needs her help, Jos. This is a story that has faith and prejudice as its main theme. Exacting violence in the name of gods and religion was one of the main core of the storyline and I loved the way the author weaved her tale around the subject. However, the storyline wasn’t actually the strongest part of the book. It was characterizations, pacing, and well-polished prose.
“There always extremes, Sable. Since the beginning, mankind has put his own twist on the Maker’s will, as Ventus did and does still. It’s what men do. We are masters at manipulating truth to suit our desires. But don’t condemn the Maker for the sins of man.”
There might not be something revolutionary within this novel, except for the originality in the magic system, none of this felt new; I imagine if you’ve read a lot of fantasy you’ll find that you’ve read this kind of story before. However, just because there isn’t any groundbreaking concept, it doesn’t mean that you should disregard this book. The Gods of Men tells a familiar tale wonderfully by making sure that superb characterizations stay on tops of everything. This is a very character-driven novel. The prologue was done brilliantly; showing glimpses of story direction, settings, tone, magic system, and well-polished prose.
I’ve said this countless times before, but characterizations have the power to make any kind of story compelling to read. Sable and Jeric’s chemistry was believable and felt realistic. The characterizations and their development—both personality and relationship—was so damn good that I found myself having a hard time to put the book down. Heck, I didn’t have any problem with the romance in this book. Yes, you heard that right. See? I can appreciate romance in fantasy as long that they’re done right, and this is one of that super rare moment where I feel that it was done properly. The two main characters have such different personality and background that their interaction became captivating to read. The protagonists were easy to root for, the villains were easy to hate (in a good way), and the side characters complement the main characters wonderfully.
“There are always two sides, Sable,” the Wolf said lowly. “Don’t dismiss mine simply because it complicates yours.”
I also enjoyed reading Kloss’s prose; her prose felt clean, vivid, and the formatting in the book helped in creating an addictive nature to the pacing. Music is quite integral to the plot, and I loved the way Kloss integrate music the prose. For example, “A beat” was used often in a well-placed location to elaborate moment of silence and tension only by using two simple words. Plus, the action scenes were exciting and the world-building was efficiently told to create vivid imagery without ever
As for what could’ve worked better for me, I’d prefer the magic systems to be utilized and explained more. The prologue shows the magic system—I don’t think I’ve ever read any novels that have music as its magic system—being used brilliantly, but it made an appearance only in the prologue and the last section of the book. Kloss might be leaving more usage of magic for the sequels, and I really hope I’ll read more of them. It was so original and refreshing to read a magic system that revolves around music; I honestly felt like I was playing Final Fantasy and Sable is a bard that’s still learning how to master her craft.
Overall, The Gods of Men provides an utterly entertaining reading experience for both teenagers and adult. For the past four weeks, it seems like I’ve been reading out of obligation rather than my own desire. The Gods of Men changed that, it shifted me back to having the excitement to keep on reading. This was a critical strike that inflicts destruction to the Goliath that is my fantasy slump. The Gods of Men is undoubtedly an indie fantasy gem, and now that I’ve read it, I have to concur that the runner-up spot in SPFBO #4 is totally well-deserved.