The Sleeping God is the story of Dhulyn Wolfshead and Parno Lionsmane, Mercenary Brothers who share a Partnership that cannot be broken, even in death. This first novel in the Dhulyn and Parno series focuses on the Marked, people born with special powers to Find, or Heal, or Mend. Dhulyn is one of the rarest of the Marked, a Seer. However, her gift is sporadic and can be as much a curse as a blessing. When a vision sends her and her partner into a burning building to rescue children trapped on the second floor, they are drawn inexorably into a battle for the future of Imrion between the New Jaldeans, a fanatic religious group, and the Marked they are targeting, claiming that the Marked are trying to awake the Sleeping God and destroy the world.
The Sleeping God is an interesting mix of story types. It starts out feeling like a classic sword & sorcery novel, but morphs into a character-driven tale of political intrigue. For a book in which the two main characters are mercenaries, there is little actual fighting, but there is lots of adventure. Violette Malan has created a very interesting cultural background for all of the action. The extensive knowledge of the Brotherhood, the academic training of the Scholars, and the roles of Keys and Walls in the noble houses all combine to create a rich setting that feels simultaneously realistic and fantastical. The realism is also enhanced by the actions having consequences that actually matter for story development. I appreciated that killing has consequences — even if you are the hero and the person you killed deserved it.
In a book that is this character-driven, the author can make or break the story with her characterization, and Violette Malan shines with a rich pairing of characters in Dhulyn and Parno. Both of them have a lot of baggage which is revealed delicately and logically. Malan avoids the flaw of telling us all about the characters, instead showing us their true natures through their attitudes and behaviors. The relationship between Dhulyn and Parno is especially well done, with a depth and realism that is frequently lacking in the depiction of long-term relationships in fantasy.
All that said, there were a few flaws with The Sleeping God. The beginning is fairly clunky. I felt like I was watching someone set up a chess board as Malan laid out all the characters, down to the horses. The action did pick up, and by about 100 pages into the book, she had hit her stride. My other criticism is that the ending was a little obvious. There’s a fine line between foreshadowing and giving away the ending, and Malan showed her cards a little too much, diminishing the impact of the climax. And one completely inconsequential quibble: the series title for these books is “A Novel of Dhulyn and Parno.” They couldn’t have come up with something more interesting than that?
Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed The Sleeping God. By the end, I was bringing the book to work with me so I could sneak in a few more pages on my lunch break. The maturity of the storytelling allows what could have been a standard sword & sorcery tale to become something much richer and fulfilling. I have the next book in the series sitting on my bedside table already, so I can continue to follow the adventures of Dhulyn and Parno. I would recommend The Sleeping God for adult or YA readers with sufficient attention spans who enjoy good characters and intrigue along with their fantasy action.
Dhulyn and Parno — (2007-2010) Publisher: Masters of weapons and martial arts, Mercenaries Dhulyn Wolfshead and Parno Lionsmane have just saved one of the Marked, those gifted with special powers, from a mob that appears to be under the influence of a priest of the Sleeping God. Learning that this is not an isolated incident and realizing that Dhulyn’s own unique gift will make them a target, the two take ship for safer climes. Once ashore the partners take on a seemingly simple mission of escorting a young woman to distant relatives. But not even Dhulyn’s talent can warn them of the threat that awaits at the far end of their journey.