Monday, 2 January 2012

Book Review: The Black God's War by Moses Siregar III

Book ReviewThe Black God's War (Splendor and Ruin #1) by Moses Siregar III, Cup of Gold, 2011, 384 pages.

Source:  copy received from the author.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Against the backdrop of epic warfare and the powers of ten mysterious gods, Lucia struggles to understand The Black One.

Her father-king wants war.
Her messianic brother wants peace.
The black god wants his due.
She suffers all the consequences.

King Vieri is losing his war against the lands of Pawelon. Feeling abandoned by his god, he forces his son Caio, the kingdom’s holy savior, to lead his army. Victory ought to come soon.

To counter Caio’s powers, Pawelon’s prince enters the conflict. Rao is a gifted sage, a master of spiritual laws. He joins the rajah to defend their citadel against the invaders. But Rao’s ideals soon clash with his army’s general.

The Black One tortures Lucia nightly with visions promising another ten years of bloodshed. She can no longer tell the difference between the waking world and her nightmares. Lucia knows the black god too well. He entered her bed and dreams when she was ten.

The Black One watches, waiting to see Lucia confront an impossible decision over the fates of two men—and two lands.

My Thoughts:  
I love Greek mythology and especially Homer so I jumped at the chance to read this book when the author contacted me and said it was heavily influenced by The IliadThe Black God's War is epic the way that The Iliad is, telling a long story over the course of a few days.  Many of the chapter headings were even drawn from The Iliad as well; however, there were obviously other influences at work as well as well as lots of originality.

The story is truly epic, with intrigue, hubris, karma, devastating wars, romance and friendships all being explored with some beautiful and thoughtful writing.  For example:
"...At my age, the prospect of death is not feared.  It is a constant companion. I believe it is not important how long you live, but that you give yourself to living.  Live as only you can, with every part of you fully engaged.  Tell me something, how does this air taste to you?"
"How does it taste, Strategos?" Accori sniffed, looking around dutifully, licking his lips.  "Good, I suppose?"
"Try again, as if this breath might be your last."  (p. 110)
One of the things that was interesting was getting the story from both sides of the war.  We could see that each side believed that they were absolutely right and the other side were dogs or pigs for being obnoxious enough to oppose them.  I liked seeing each side as sympathetic in its own way, as well as wrong in their own way - there was nothing black and white.  It is interesting to feel conflicted when reading and I also enjoy the philosophical explorations.

The shifts in point of view, however, were sometimes difficult for me.  There are so many characters and we go between many of them.  Sometimes, I did find this confusing.

In among all of the battles and war is the very human story of Lucia.  This was done really well, watching her struggle to understand how the gods are using her, falling in love, her concern for her brother and having to make very human decisions in the midst of a long war. This is something that Siregar does well throughout the book - he is able to focus on several very human stories and concerns in the midst of a huge war.

I enjoyed reading this and identifying many of the characters with those in The Iliad.  This was interesting because it added another layer of meaning.  This was not a book to tear through for me, but more to savour. 

To find Moses Siregar III:
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