In the Shadow of the Gods by Rachel Dunne (Bound Gods #1)
In the Shadow of the Gods is the debut novel by Rachel Dunne that brings to us a world of divided religion and bound Gods.
Many years ago the land of Fiatera was created by Gods now known as the Parents. In later years their children, The Twins, added their own creations to this world and as a result were cast out of Heaven and bound to earth. Since The Fall (as it became known) the people of Fiatera predominantly worship The Parents however there is a small, cult like faction who still worship The Twins and believe that they can be restored to their former glory. This first instalment takes a look at a number of characters that will eventually either cross paths or will play a role in finding these bound Gods.
I think this was a very entertaining read with solid writing and a cast of characters that are interesting to read about. It is an ambitious story and, without wanting to sound critical, is clearly a book that plays the role of ‘set up’ for the rest of the series.
The story is told from a number of POVs which is a great way to bring to light different aspects of the world. We visit the cold North where the climate is so harsh that only the Northmen seem able to survive there. They’re a hard race of warriors with their own brand of honour – reminiscent of Vikings – they have no qualms about raiding other villages and killing and pillaging. The capital city of Fiatera is virtually split into two with those unfortunate enough to have fallen on hard times seeking refuge below the streets in the Canals. The Canals are rife with crime and run by gangs, all warring with each other for supremacy. Away from the Capital is Mount Raturo, home to those who follow The Twins. These followers, priests and seekers literally live in the darkness beneath the mountain.
So, to the characters. We are introduced to Aro and Rora. Being twins they are lucky to have survived as followers of The Parents drown all twins at birth to prevent the Bound Gods being resurrected. They have spent the majority of their young lives barely staying alive, one step ahead of discovery and eventually seeking refuge in the Canals. Aro is an odd character, quite a weak boy who needs the protection of his sister Rora – although to be honest I have my own suspicions about Aro that I won’t elaborate on for fear of spoilers (plus, lets face it, I could be massively wrong :D). Rora is fiercely protective of Aro and puts herself into any number of difficult and dangerous situations to prevent him from being harmed. Scal is a young boy – either abandoned or orphaned – and found near a prison camp on the edges of the Northern territories. Clearly of the Northmen race nobody is keen to take him in until a Priest in the camp takes pity and provides Scal with a safe home. We have a former seeker now turned priest – Joros. Joros lives beneath the mountain and has ambitions. He plans to rise to the top and his ambitions leave him with a morale compass that lacks a few of the nicer character traits. Joros is reluctantly accompanied by a Mage called Anddyr. I say reluctantly because Anddyr seems to have been captured by one of the priests and reduced to a shadow of his former self by being forced into a drug dependent state that leaves him desperate for more of the foul paste that binds him to Joros. Along the way we make the acquaintance of a priestess (Vatri) who, badly disfigured by fire, claims to be God chosen and sent to follow Scal on his travels. Finally we have Keiro. Also a former follower of the Fallen Keiro has been cast out of Mount Raturo. He now wanders the land, still preaching to those who will listen and relentlessly searching.
The story arcs for most of these characters, barring one, eventually come together and an unlikely alliance is formed.
Whilst I do have some niggles with this book I think that Dunne has successfully written a story that will hook most readers and make them keen to continue the journey. She has created a world of ambiguity really. We’re not really totally sure about who are the good guys here. Were The Parents very harsh for throwing their children out of heaven and binding them so cruelly – or were their actions justified and necessary in order to protect the world. Are the followers of the Twins right to seek their resurrection? There are certainly elements to their form of worship that give me pause for doubt – not only about their methods but also maybe their sanity! What about the characters. I’m not overly fond of most of them. I liked Scal and could definitely read much more about his life but he still needs to be injected with a little more ‘something’ that I can’t quite put my finger on. The Twins – well, again, they’re just lacking a little bit of spark that would take them from being good to read about to a winning combination. Joros and Vatri are definitely not my favourite characters at the moment – they’re both quite obsessive characters who don’t have many redeeming streaks. Keira, I like the journey that he takes us on and found his travels really interesting. I’m a bit puzzled about what he’s got himself into though – time will tell.
I think the world building could do with adding to. At the moment it all feels fairly generic and the only thing that comes across is the religious aspects. That being said there’s plenty of time for this to be developed and I suppose it stands to reason that the religious aspects would be primarily focused on for this type of story. I would like a bit more background both for the places and the characters but again, I think it would have been easy to make this into a very wieldy book. As it is I think this works very well as a set up book. There’s plenty going on and no lack of pace and it will give readers a perfect platform to move onto the next instalment.
On the whole I think this is a promising start to a series I’m keen to find out more about.
I received a copy courtesy of the publisher for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.