The Godless is not Ben Peek’s first published work but, as his fantasy debut, it is a new step in the Australian author’s career. The Godless is set in a fantasy world where a calamitous war between the gods has left them for dead, or dying. In the aftermath of that world-changing event, the gods’ bodies have begun leaking remnants of their powers into the world, creating new Immortals — humans with powers, feared by many.
It is on the literal back of one of these gods that the city of Mireaa, a huge trade city, was built. Much like a cairn, Mireea finds itself in the midst of a siege by a warring neighboring nation which the city may not be able to stop. It is in this setup that The Godless introduces us to its three main characters. Ayae, a cartographer’s apprentice, discovers early on in the book that she cannot be hurt by fire. Buelaran, saboteur, leader of the mercenary company Dark, has been hired to infiltrate the besieging army and cause as much harm as he can. Zaifyr, a man covered in charms, both feared and detested by Fo and Bau, two powerful Immortals living in Mireea, knows more about the world’s history that his apparent young age lets on.
The Godless is nothing but epic, and as the first book in the CHILDREN series, with a world and history much larger than can be put into 400 pages, it feels like a book whose purpose is to set up the events that are to come in the sequels. It could be said that more important than the besieging army story are the characters that Peek introduces here, as more words are spent establishing each character’s backstory than on advancing the main story forward. However, the strategy’s purpose is made clear as you progress through the story, and it is sure to pay dividends in the proceeding installments when all the threads are knitted back together.
That is not to say that The Godless does not have its issues. The sudden changes in time, without warning or notice, more often than not broke my reading flow and forced me to backtrack several paragraphs because I couldn’t mentally place the action in its correct time and place. This isn’t much of a problem later on in the story because you learn to expect these changes, but in the beginning it can become quite tiring. It also doesn’t help that the book is divided into short chapters, each with a different character viewpoint, which makes it hard to settle into each character’s mindset, especially at the beginning when the characters are new and you have nothing with which to anchor their viewpoints.
In all, The Godless succeeds in what it sets out to do: it establishes the world, its characters, and the context with which the later books will work. While it may have some problems, it is interesting and compelling enough to keep on reading and, by the end, you cannot wait to find out what happens next.
Children — (2014- ) Publisher: The Gods are dying. Fifteen thousand years after the end of their war, their bodies can still be found across the world. They kneel in forests, lie beneath mountains, and rest at the bottom of the world’s ocean. For thousands of years, men and women have awoken with strange powers that are derived from their bodies. The city Mireea is built against a huge stone wall that stretches across a vast mountain range, following the massive fallen body of the god, Ger. Ayae, a young cartographer’s apprentice, is attacked and discovers she cannot be harmed by fire. Her new power makes her a target for an army that is marching on Mireea. With the help of Zaifyr, a strange man adorned with charms, she is taught the awful history of ‘cursed’ men and women, coming to grips with her new powers and the enemies they make. Meanwhile, the saboteur Bueralan infiltrates the army that is approaching her home to learn its terrible secret. Split between the three points of view, the narrative of Godless reaches its conclusion during an epic siege, where Ayae, Zaifyr and Bueralan are forced not just into conflict with those invading, but with those inside the city who wish to do them harm. The first installment in Ben Peek’s exciting new epic fantasy series, Godless is a fast-paced page turner set in an enthralling new world.