October 30, 2023

Review: Godkiller

Godkiller Godkiller by Hannah Kaner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This epic fantasy tackles the subject of gods in an unusual and interesting manner: the gods in this world are generated by human desires and failings. As people set up their shrines and bring offerings to those shrines, or pray to a specific god, they attract formless spirits who begin to take on the characteristics of the imagined deity until they manifest to life as the god humans first dreamed up. Of course, after their "birth" they usually become independent beings who then go on to wreak havoc, manipulating people to continue the worship that sustains them. This is the endless tail-swallowing cycle one of the characters in the book, King Arren, wishes to end (at least until the climax when he falls prey to wanting a god's power for himself).

We have four viewpoint characters: Kissen, the titular "godkiller" whose family was sacrificed to a fire god and who grows up to kill so-called "wild gods" who harm people in their quest for worshipers; Inara, a young girl who has somehow become bonded to Skediceth, a small "god of white lies"; Elogast, the best friend of the aforementioned King Arren who fought at his side three years earlier during the battle with the wild gods at the city of Blenraden; and the god Skedi, who manifests as a small shapeshifting flying animal, bound to Inara but trying to gain his freedom. All these characters come together in the midst of a burgeoning civil war and King Arren's running out of the time given him by the sacrifice of one of the very gods he claims to despise. Inara's entire household was massacred while she was away trying to convince Kissen to take her to Blenraden so Skedi can gain his freedom, and Elogast is also on a secret mission there to save his king.

This is the story of their journey to the dead city, the gods they meet and battle with, and what they discover about themselves along the way. All four characters undergo nice character arcs, but I think my favorite is the small god Skediceth, who wished to go to Blenraden to gain a shrine for himself and be free, but learns Inara and her love is enough for him after all. Kissen lets go of some of her hatred for the gods, and at the book's climax confronts the fire god who killed her family years before. Elogast, on the other hand, finds out his king is not at all the person he thought, and ends up throwing his hand in with the rebels.

The world is also well thought out and satisfying, with interesting questions about the nature of worship and the gods (since humans literally create their own gods). Every facet of this society is permeated with this reality, and the author has obviously thought through the ramifications of her concept. The only plot point that rang a little hollow to me is King Arren's sudden turn towards villainy at the end--that didn't feel quite earned. But otherwise, this book is well worth reading.

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