Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Aching God by Mike Shel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: Iconoclasts (Book #1 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 602 pages (Paperback edition)
Published: 9th April 2018 by Mike Shel (Self-published)
Aching God started off nicely and ended great, but I have issues with the overall pacing.
Aching God is the first book in the Iconoclasts trilogy by Mike Shel. This novel, and the entire trilogy, is a self-published series that has been lauded with praises for the past few years. And yes, I’ve been keeping my eye on this trilogy for years now. The author was kind enough to send me the entire trilogy, and now that the trilogy is indeed finished, I have no more excuse to postpone reading it. I definitely enjoyed reading Aching God, but admittedly, I also have mixed feelings about it that stopped me from giving it a higher rating.
The story in Aching God follows Auric Manteo, a 50 years old retired hunter who has stopped delving into forbidden ruins. But as old nightmares start plaguing his sleep, he receives an urgent summons to return to his old life. To save his only daughter, Auric—and a group of inexperienced companions—must return to the place of his greatest trauma: the haunted Barrowlands. I’m not sure why this occurred, but I seem to have approached Aching God with a completely false expectation. Based on the premise and what I’ve heard from many reviewers, I somehow seem to expect that the majority of the story in Aching God will take place in the Barrowlands. This isn’t the case at all; Aching God is a quest-based fantasy novel, and the parts at the Barrowland itself lasted for only about 100 pages long. This means that for the first 400 pages, the narrative is full of the characters stopping from one place to another. As Auric himself said, they’re constantly delayed by unnecessary side quests, and I do personally found the travel and the side quests to be a bit too long.
’“We all have our failings, Gnaeus,” answered Auric. “Understanding one’s own is the measure of wisdom.”’
The main reason why I didn’t feel engrossed in the travel section was that I couldn’t feel invested with the supporting characters. Auric is the only POV character, and I definitely don’t mind having an epic fantasy story with only one POV character to follow; I’ve read a lot that I absolutely loved. However, Aching God is a novel that, in my opinion, would benefit from having multi-POV narration to flesh out the supporting characters. Other than Belech and Sira, I feel that the side characters didn’t have enough characterizations for me to care. One of the side characters that I thought was super interesting was Geneviva, but she appeared too briefly in this book; Shel might be saving her story for the sequels. And info dump that doesn’t mean much to the story other than enriching the world-building felt done a bit too much.
It’s not all negative, of course. As I said, I have mixed feelings on Aching God. I loved reading Auric’s nightmare sections, Morz’s story, and the entire Barrowland parts. One of the other aspects that differed again from my expectation, I expected this to be a much darker and intense story. The darker tone of the story was delivered in these three sections I just mentioned, and honestly, Geneviva’s mysterious story. Other than that, Aching God is so far from being a dark story, in my opinion. The world-building was great, though. Shel included a lot of information, although some of them were done in an info-dump manner, they totally enriched the lore and history of the world.
I have to say, although Aching God didn’t live up to my high and false expectations, I’m still interested enough to read the sequel, Sin Eater, because I’ve heard that it will have another POV character to accompany Auric. This feels right as the direction that the series needs and the ending of Aching God did promise great things to come. I look forward to reading Sin Eater soon; hopefully within this year.
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