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Jacqueline Carey – Godslayer

May 9, 2012

47. Godslayer by Jacqueline Carey (2005)
The Sundering, Book 2

Read my review of book:
1. Banewreaker

Length: 404 pages
Genre: Epic Fantasy

Started: 20 April 2012
Finished: 23 April 2012

Where did it come from? Bookmooch.
Why do I have it? Clare’s fault.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 11 June 2011.

Evil’s downfall is
not much fun when you’re on the
side of the bad guys.

Summary: In the second half of the Sundering duology, Sartoris’s forces have suffered a great many defeats. Their ruse at Beshtanag has failed, leading to the capture of Lilias the Sorceress and the gem of power she holds. Malthus has closed the Ways, and the young boy who bears the Water of Life, the only thing that has the power to quench the marrow-fire at the heart of Darkhaven, cannot be found. Even the foundations of Darkhaven itself seem to be crumbling, as the fortress above prepares for war. But Sartoris holds the Lady Cerelinde, and refuses to kill her, even though doing so may prevent the prophecy that predicts his downfall from coming true. And in the face of all that is arrayed against them, it falls to Tanaros Blacksword, a once-mortal man, to fight for his lord’s survival – and his own – until the bitter end.

Review: Heartbreaking. Absolutely, beautifully, darkly, compellingly heartbreaking.

Godslayer is a direct continuation of Banewreaker, rather than a complete novel with a plot that stand on its own. All of the set-up and much of the worldbuilding has been done in the first novel. In Godslayer, however, we get to see the world that Carey built up so carefully in Banewreaker falling apart, piece by piece at first, and then faster and faster.

This series is a retelling, or a take on, or a deconstruction of Tolkien, and there are plenty of parallels to be drawn. (Plenty of places where the parallels fail, too, which is why it was easier reading once I stopped looking for them on every page.) But I think that Carey’s world draws on a lot of the structures of epic fantasy more generally, and that a large part of why her story works so well is that her readers are readers of epic fantasy, and we know how things are going to go. In the big, epic battle, the forces of Good and Light will ultimately defeat those of Dark and Evil. What Carey’s done is to question who decides which side is the side of Good, and what makes the Evil side evil, and by placing her protagonists on the “Evil” side of the coin, she turns the inevitable outcome of the final battle from a triumph into a tragedy.

That feeling of tragedy is one of the things that impressed me most about the book. We know going in what’s most likely going to happen – a running refrain throughout the book is that “all things must be as they must” – but every time there’s a chance to avert disaster, I couldn’t help but hope… and every time that chance slips through the fingers, every time the tiniest coincidence of timing further seals the protagonists’ fate, my heart broke a little bit further. Carey’s prose is not particularly easy, but it certainly is powerful, and her story provides ample opportunity for her to demonstrate that power over the emotions of her readers. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Fans of Tolkien, and of epic fantasy more generally, should definitely check the duology out; it’s a fascinating perspective and a compelling story. I’d suggest having both books on hand at once, though, since it really is one story split into two volumes.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Ela’s Book Blog, The Literary Omnivore, The Wertzone.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: All things converge.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 23: “It was like a living thing, foam-crested and green-thewed, boiling around the boulders that dared disrupt its course.” – muscled.
  • p. 282: “Speros of Haimhault carried the parley-banner; a pale blue oriflamme, unadorned.” – any ensign, banner, or standard, especially one that serves as a rallying point or symbol.
  • p. 305: “Glossy plate at the horse’s chest, flanks, and neck, covering its crupper, a demi-chanfron for the head.” – a piece of plate armor for defending a horse’s head.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2012 1:32 pm

    I agree that the whole thing is heartbreaking – Carey really makes you care for these guys – and the chain of inevitability is nonetheless really well done. I did like the way that she didn’t portray Haomane’s Allies as the bad guys, even though they’re the antagonists, but with their own loyalties and priorities, even if the reader doesn’t get to see inside their heads or understand their motivations as much as Satoris’ forces.

    • May 14, 2012 9:43 am

      Ela – Agreed, I actually liked most of Haomane’s Allies, although Haomane himself always struck me as kind of a dick, even when he’s being talked about by those that love him.

  2. May 9, 2012 6:35 pm

    I’m glad you loved it! I’m just always blown away by the sheer audacity of Carey standing up and deconstructing The Lord of the Rings and other epic fantasies, and doing it so brilliantly and heart-breakingly. It really is a tragedy.

    • May 14, 2012 9:44 am

      Omni – Major points to you for recommending it! I’m looking forward to starting the Kushiel series sometime soonish (although I only have the 1st one on my shelves, so I imagine that starting it is going to do bad things to my TBR pile…)

  3. June 8, 2017 7:37 am

    Another great review; I want to read The Sundering even more, now. I just hope that if the duology is out of print (as it appears to be) someone reprints it soon; I’ve been deprived for too long, and I’d rather not resort to getting the ebook versions.

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