#SPFBO Aching God (Iconoclasts #1) by Mike Shel

Posted On 20 April 2019

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Aching GodAching God is the fifth finalist I’ve read as part of the SPFBO.  Aching God brings to us a retired adventurer who receives a summons from the Order he once served and as a result is forced out of retirement to take up a mission that might save his daughter’s life.  I enjoyed this, it’s well written, perhaps a little drawn out in places but overall an entertaining story.

Auric Manteo is the retired adventurer.  He put his relic hunting days behind him and tried to live out a peaceful life although his past still haunts him, particularly of late when his sleeping hours are plagued with nightmares from previous adventures.  The last thing Auric desires is a return to ancient ruins but a strange plague has swept through the City and his daughter now lies in the grips of the disease.  It appears that an ancient artifact maybe at the root of the problem and so the Syraeic Order have deemed that it must be returned to the temple from which it was taken.  This is a more difficult task than at first appears, all records of the mission have mysteriously been destroyed and the original team seem to have been scattered and lost.  Auric and his companions need to hunt down what clues they can and return the relic before more lives are lost.  And so begins this quest.

There were a number of things that stood out for me with Aching God.  The writing is very good and there is plenty of imagination exercised during the course of the journey.  I think Shel has done a great job in creating the world whilst at the same time leaving plenty of issues yet to be explored, the Queen being a really good example of one such mystery.  There were a good number of twists in the tale, particularly during the last quarter and I can genuinely say they came as a surprise to me which I think is a real credit to the writing.

I particularly liked the main protagonist.  He’s an older man, experienced but also a little bit haunted and suffering from self doubt over past decisions that didn’t end well.  I liked that he didn’t overnight become the ‘best thing since sliced bread’.  He struggled and his struggles made him realistic.  He’s also basically a decent character at heart.  Of course he’s made mistakes in the past, his relationship with his daughter has been fractured and he now regrets some of the paths he has chosen.  I would also say that it was so wonderfully refreshing to read a bunch of characters, struggling on a quest, who don’t immediately succumb to each other’s charms.  Just saying.

The story here is a swords and sorcery style quest that follows a linear route.  We move from one adventure to the next along the way and the tension is really ramped up as we approach the concluding chapters.  Shel manages to inject enough horror into the story through the use of flashbacks and dreams that give you a real sense of impending dread about what these adventures are working towards.

In terms of criticisms.  The characters who join Auric feel very flat.  I didn’t really feel enough attachment to them which led to a general ambivalence about their overall survival.  I also think that there were a couple of episodes along the way, well, one in particular, that felt very contrived and felt like it was written into the story just to bring a certain object to bear in future chapters.  I think perhaps my main problem with Aching God was the length.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a lengthy book, in fact I particularly enjoy detail, however, I have to say that it felt like it took a long time to reach the real drama.  Without doubt, the last 25-30% was very gripping indeed and I thoroughly enjoyed it but I think some of the earlier chapters could have maybe been tightened.

Overall, I have to say that this is a really good start to series and I enjoyed the read, even if it felt a little weighty at times.

I would rate this 7.5 out of 10 for the purposes of the competition which would equate to 3.5 of 5 stars on Goodreads.

My thanks to the author for a review copy.  The above is my own opinion.




12 Responses to “#SPFBO Aching God (Iconoclasts #1) by Mike Shel”

  1. Tammy

    This does sound good. I love quest/adventure stories and that cover is pretty!

    • @lynnsbooks

      A lot of the covers have been really impressive tbh. And yes, this was good. I found it a little slow in the first half but it’s well written and I like that it didn’t fall into too many traps.
      Lynn 😀

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    What an intriguing premise! And I like very much the idea of an older, flawed main character plagued by doubts and uncertainties: it makes indeed for a more relatable figure to care for 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I liked the main character, a bit of a step away from the norm which was a nice change.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Too bad about the flat supporting cast, but at least Auric stands out – that’s definitely better than the other way around, which I’ve already found in a lot of my fantasy reads this year so far.

  4. waytoofantasy

    Great review! I’m glad you mentioned about the people thrown together not all immediately falling in with one another, I’ve never thought much about it but it’s true, that happens all the time!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yep, and it just becomes so annoyingly familiar. I mean, do you fall in love with everyone you spend time with!! It’s to be hope not.
      Lynn 😀

  5. #SPFBO – Finalists No.8 and No.9 | Books and travelling with Lynn

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