Thursday, February 23, 2012

The God King, by James A. West

Okay, for my loyal readers who read Kalpar's stuff over here at the Arsenal, this is kind of a sneak preview for both of you. Mr. West or his publisher or possibly his dog (Katie didn't give me the details) has organized an online book tour to promote his first book, The God King. As a semi-famous blog that reviews fantasy books I Smell Sheep was included in this blog tour. As a dangerously loose cannon with his own agenda, I decided to post my review of the book about fifteen hours earlier than it'd appear on I Smell Sheep over here at the arsenal. Just don't tell Katie. If you want to participate in the contest and win a free copy of The God King then make sure to comment on the post over at I Smell Sheep.

The plot of The God King is told from the perspective of three characters: Prince Varis Kilvar of Aradan, an Izutarian mercenary named Kian Valara, and a member of the Sisters of Najihar named Ellonlef. Prince Varis has discovered the Well of Creation, the stored power long-dead gods, and seeks to take it for himself and become immortal god-king of all creation. In the process of taking such godly powers Varis has unleashed the demons trapped in the Thousand Hells and caused massive global climate and geological changes, but that's really a minor inconvenience to his overall plan of world domination. Opposing Varis is the mercenary Kian, who happened to be in Varis's employ when Varis destroyed the Well and some of the godly power spilled into him, which means Kian is very literally the only man who can stop Varis. There's also Sister Ellonlef who serves mainly as Kian's conscience during this journey, reminding him why he must stop Varis and can't just run away to his homeland and hide.

Before I talk about what I like about the book I want to mention a few issues I had because I feel like they're important. The first thing I want to mention, and as editor-in-chief of I Smell Sheep it's kind of a big deal for me, but I feel like the book could have used an editor, or if West used an editor, maybe have that editor run through it again. It may have been because I got a .pdf to read of this book, but there were a handful of grammatical issues and a couple of rough passages. To be fair this was nowhere as bad as Antiquitas Lost, and I still feel Robert Louis Smith should be talking with his editor, but I felt that The God King could have benefited from a little editorial polishing.

Another initial concern I had going into the book was what we like to call "Purple Prose" where there are a lot of adjectives and descriptions that add to the length of the book but not so much as substance. Fortunately this was only in the first couple of chapters and the writing becomes more economic as the book progresses, which I appreciated. I was also worried as I was entering the third act of the book that the plot seemed to be fizzling out and couldn't meet the build-up of the first two acts, however it managed to pick up again and bring the plot to a satisfying conclusion.

Those minor issues aside, I felt the book was overall rather well-written. West creates a unique world mostly from scratch, populated largely by humans, and which we can believe as a sort of low-magic fantasy setting such as A Song of Ice and Fire. (Initially, anyway.) However, West introduces magic in what I consider to be a reasonable manner and I feel like the characters' reactions are appropriate. Furthermore he does a good job of explaining the world that he has created and while it is nowhere as extensive in its world building as other series such as Lord of the Rings or A Song of Ice and Fire, I felt that West adequately explained enough of the elements he introduced for a reader to understand the world in which his story is set.

I have mixed feelings about the ending of the book because it's set up as the beginning of a new era and I can see it going two ways. On the one hand, enough of the plot is resolved that this could be a stand-alone book without further exploration of the setting. On the other hand, there is sufficient curiosity stimulated by the implications of the ending for me to wonder what happens to the world in the future and the implications of the conflict in The God King. I suppose we'll find out if more books come along from West, but I cannot say for certain at this time.

If you're looking for a High Fantasy novel without having to get into a long and complicated universe like some other series, The God King is a pretty good choice. There are a few teething issues, but since this is West's first book I can definitely see his writing developing for the better in the future. The God King is available wherever fine e-books are sold.

- Kalpar