#SPFBO 8 Finalist Friday: Review for The Thirteenth Hour by Trudie Skies #1 The Cruel Gods


What is SPFBO 8 Check out Mark Lawrence’s post here to look at this year’s entrants, judges and allocations list.

This year I am teaming up again with the ladies from The Critiquing Chemist.  We recently announced our finalist. To check out all the Finalists simply follow this link.

Our finalist this year was Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson – if you haven’t read it – I highly recommend it – seriously, grab yourself a copy and tuck in. It’s positively delightful.

Today is my second finalist review for #SPFBO 8.  My review for Scales and Sensibility can be found here.  Myself and the Critiquing Chemist will be posting a finalist review every Friday for the remainder of the competition.

So, to my second review, this week for Trudie Skies The Thirteenth Hour, #1 The Cruel Gods series.  If you fancy a unique fantasy combining steampunk and gaslight fantasy with phenomenal world building then you should really check out this series.  This first instalment gets off to an impressive start.

Cruel Gods

My initial first impressions. Well written, thought provoking in terms of a social commentary on the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ plus a cool look at the lottery of life that can see you born and living sometimes in a paradise or a personal hell.  This is a story with a murder mystery as it’s catalyst with two great characters, both with rather fixed outlooks, at least until they meet each other.

The Thirteenth Hour brings to us a unique world that I’ll have a quick attempt at describing (with the proviso that there are probably much clearer explanations already in existence).  The story is set in Chime which acts almost as a platform between 12 cities.  Think of a clock, around the face are the twelve cities, each ruled by an individual God, the inhabitants created in that God’s image.  At the centre of the clock is Chime, within Chime is a Gate, for each individual hour the gate opens for one city – it’s like the hand of a clock points in that direction for an hour giving each city its own time in the limelight, if you will.  Chime acts as a portal to each of the cities, when that city is enjoying it’s ‘hour’ the portal is open.  Chime itself is divided with an upper and lower world.  The lower world is rife with poverty and refugees trying to escape unfortunate circumstances.   Anyway, I’ll leave the rest of the world building for you to discover for yourself.  I would just say this is a fascinating world with so much scope for other stories and characters.

The story revolves around a murder mystery which is where our two central characters meet.  Well, meet is a very polite way of saying that one is hunting for the killer and the other is a suspect.  Of course, nothing is quite as clear cut as that and the interactions between the two central characters teases out the arguments from both sides.  Both are extreme to begin with but familiarity starts to blur the edges a little.  Kayl is ‘godless’ she wants to live independently and without the rules of her ‘God’.  She strives to help others in desperate need.  Quen is a Warden of Chime.  An enforcer of the laws and agreements that exist between the worlds and that keep things ticking along.  Quen has his own strange abilities that play well into the story.  He’s a quirky character and works well in contrast to Kayl.  He works strictly within the laws but he isn’t unaware of the inequalities and strives to be fair.  I have to admit that Kayl was my favourite of the story but the interactions between her and Quen were well drawn with excellent dialogue and helped to provide a more balanced view of where these two opposing trains of thought could potentially meet.

In terms of criticisms. Well, the uniqueness and in depth world building come with a price.  There is quite a lot of set up with this one, although, as far as I can see it was all necessary.  Perhaps a little fine tuning could increase the pacing a little.  As it is there is a weightiness to the read, which meant that I took more time reading this than I would spend on some reads.  Is that a bad thing per se?  No, not really, this is more an observation.  For me, this is a book that you need to take a little time over, savour it, enjoy the writing and absorb the detail – but, be aware that this isn’t a book that you’re going to race through.  Personally, as mentioned, this isn’t really a criticism as far as I’m concerned.  On top of the slight pacing issue, books with strong world building do sometimes have something of a power struggle between the characters and the plot and these elements did suffer from fluctuations in temperature.  I did experience a few niggling moments where the plot seemed to go back and forth and slight feelings of repetition crept in.

However, those issues aside this was an enjoyable and well executed read with some great possibilities and scope for future instalments.  This can be a harsh world, there is grimness here but that is tempered with witty dialogue and moments of humour and emotion.  This is a series that I would definitely recommend readers to get on board with early.  Such a lot of potential in the making with the Cruel Gods – which I’ve also failed to mention I just realise – this is a very well named series indeed because these Gods are definitely not soft and fluffy.

My rating 8 out of 10

Don’t forget to check out the Critiquing Chemist’s review which can be found here.