Wow, such a breath of fresh air into the fantasy world. Beautifully written and so confident for a debut. Just wonderful. Hannah Kaner has created a masterful world that is full of life and cold cruelty. An absolute must-read, whether or not you are a newcomer to the fantasy genre or a veteran.
I will be going into spoilers and will try to keep them as light as possible.
First off, this world is queer-normative, and I am here for it. It's beautiful and there are no harmful stereotypes the best part for me was that the character could exist outside of their queerness. No character was there for brownie points, the characters could be queer, cool and literally anything they wanted to be! Such a concept for some books. It honestly just made me so happy, and it flowed so well in the story, never stuck out or had to take a breath to explain the queerness in the world, it just rolled.
The disability rep was also nothing to sneeze at. Kissen, one of our characters, is missing her lower leg and having a prosthetic really shows in the way she fights and guards herself. Then one of her friends and one of Inara’s maids use sign language and because the two know the language they use it to communicate which confuses Elogast and it's just great.
Let's start with the worldbuilding before I most into the lovely characters.
This world has a few smaller kingdoms, but this story takes place in Middren under the rule of King Arren the Second. Before the story started the kingdom Middren went to war with their gods and now the worship of gods is prohibited. This leads us to the state the kingdom is in, the threat of rebellion and godkillers working for the small towns to kill the gods that are created by their wishes.
Oh yeah gods can be killed, and their shrines can be destroyed but gods are born of humans' wishes so they never stay dead for long. Which is why the kingdom employs godkillers to fix that little problem.
I won't go into much detail because the world unfolds as you read and it's such a breath of fresh air. Let's just move to characters because I love each of them
We have Kissen, the titular godkiller or Veiga, and she is fantastic. A warrior with a heart of stone but is just super guarded and hurt because of the life she's had to live. She is kind, strong, stubborn to the point it nearly killed her, and companionate, even though her way of showing love is to tell you to go F yourself. Now while Kissen shows the trope of an orphan at a young age with a burning desire for revenge, I found the concept refreshing. Also, she is queer as HEELLLL. Love her to bits. She is also disabled, but it is not a disability that Hannah hides or forgets about, Kissen is missing her lower leg and because she's on the road fighting monsters all the time, she has a cane and the tools to fix her leg or at least adjust it when she's climbing different elevations. It’s a big part of her character and is represented well.
The next we meet is Inara, a little noble girl with a god problem she's hoping Kissen can help her with. Inara is sweet and smart, she's not very strong but she is a kid like I think she's twelve. She's smart enough and desperate enough to go out and find Kissen so that she can be separated from her god and have a normal life. Slowly we learn that there is some secret to Inara, one that even she’s not aware of. It's not until we meet Elogast and they have a heart-to-heart at about the 60% mark. It makes you rethink what's happened to her, and why she has this god problem in the first place. It's amazing and honestly left me so excited for the second book.
Elogast is a baker, well he was once a knight in King Arren's war against the gods, till something happened between them and he leaves the knights, retreating to a small mining town to make bread and live a simple life. That’s where we meet him, a meticulous man happily making bread till the king shows up. Arren asks his old friend to go on a quest to save him, to save the kingdom, because if Arren falls then so shall the kingdom of Middren as it will no doubt descend into rebellion and endless war. Elo embarks on this noble quest for his king and his kingdom. He is a man of love and people, but he is suffering on the inside from PTSD. Still, he marches forward and puts the king's needs above his own, right up until the end. Only wavering slightly when a romantic side plot rouses and breaks his fragile loaf of a heart more as he has to choose between what he wants and what his king wants.
Elo meets Kissen and Inara as they each set out for the god city of Blenraden where the war started, and it ended. They join the road with other pilgrims making the illegal journey to the city, each with their own reasons and their own secrets. I don’t want to say too much because once our trio leaves the pilgrims the story holds you in a chock hold. It's full pedal to the end but it leaves you with the right questions that make you excited for the second part of this story and not just annoyed with the number of unanswered questions. We have theories as to why Inara has a god problem, we have set up for the second book, and we have characters broken and separated. People who opened their hearts and people who closed them. It's fantastic and I cannot say more because this book must be on your must-read list before the year ends.
I will be picking up Sunbringer when it hits shelves next year. Solid 4 stars for me.