I am not lost…

September 2, 2015

BOOK REVIEW – Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful by Justin D. Herd

I had originally been a portion of a blog tour for this book (as you saw my promo post for it a post or so back) and was scheduled to give a review on that day. However, there was a stipulation in the tour (understandably) that if you could not give the book a 3-star or higher review, that you wait until after the tour finished to post your review.

…Well, the tour’s over now.

I’d like to start off by saying that I truly do feel bad that I can’t give a better review than this. From what I’ve seen on social media, Herd seems like an interesting and intelligent fellow and very dedicated to his cause. Unfortunately, I don’t see that carry over into the actual writing of this book.

Raine Morgan is our protagonist, a (young?) man working as what seems to be a hitman of sorts for the local mob(?) who gets himself wrapped up in a world far beyond anything he’s ever expected. The gods have returned to his city, and they’re interested in him–because he might become one of them. And flying in the face in all godly logic he’s ever had before, one thing remains clear: even gods can die.

The primary issue I had with this book is simply the writing itself. Herd’s imagery is stretched and forced, action words looking out of place and confusing what I’m meant to draw from it. (If I never see an expression described as an “elastic smile” again, it’ll be too soon. There’s a lot of Jokers wandering around this city.) Before I reached the 80 page mark, I had at least 60-70 notes in my Nook which all read something along the lines of “…what?” I was constantly being knocked out of the setting because I had no idea what he was attempting to evoke. By page 100, I’d stopped making notes because I was tired of repeating myself.

Second, the book employs one of my least favorite techniques–and shows exactly why I hate it so much. We are dropped into the middle of this world and promptly told nothing about it. One of the very first notes I ever received in regards to my writing was that the more your world differs from the world of the reader, the more you need to establish at the beginning. Where are we? Are these real cities, or are we in an alternate world? Is this based in real mythology, or is this the construct of the author? Who is Oki and why did she think that glass(?) tubes in the middle of a city, filled with water, was a good symbol of her presence? What is an Officer and why is it capitalized? Is it different from an average law enforcement person? Who is the Stalker? What in God’s name is Na Crem…Cr… Na Creidmhigh (had to look that up), what does it mean, and HOW am I supposed to say that?

No clue. (Well no, at least one of those questions I figured out. Oki’s a goddess, and the Long Irish Place is …kind explained.)

Third, the gods all seem very important to the mob’s(?) leader, and there’s a good number of them…and we’re given very little about any of them, unless they’re directly acting for/against Raine. (And then we meet the outcast gods! And the one no one talks about!) When one of the major plot points is that we’ve determined that gods can be killed, you better make me care about the gods who are doing the dying. Telling me that “well maybe the protagonist is going to be a god???” doesn’t cut it. Before that, he’s a human, and humans die just as well as the gods do. (There’s something that utilizes this very notion later in the book, but that’s a bit of a spoiler, so I’ll just say it was weakly executed and made me sigh.) Also, the one god we’re beaten over the head with from the very beginning–Oki–is a complete non-entity. Quite literally, every other god in the book is more interesting than her. (Also, her storyline completes in a way that makes absolutely no sense to me, given her connection to the city. But spoilers.)

Fourth, the inclusion of the woman, Marise. (Who was so memorable, I had to go find my Nook to remind me what her name was.) She’s introduced very early on, given a few viewpoint chapters…and then vanishes for half the book, only to show up later as a Major Plot Point. I was given exceptionally little to make me care about her, and more often felt like she was distracting me from what was actually happening in the story. Given that there were already quite a few characters to be keeping track of, she muddled what I was trying to remember and gave me one more name to keep track of. So when it’s revealed that she’s Important, it explained why she was there, but I still didn’t care about her. Now she’s yet another name to remember, and she does The Thing! Fantastic.

This all being said, there is one fantastically executed Chekhov’s Gun-style character, and I absolutely adore the character and how they’re written. (Trying to not spoil.) I didn’t see it coming until it was right in front of me, and loved it once I knew. It was a relief to have one character I genuinely connected with floating around.

I read to the end, hoping that the ending would wow me into bumping this up a star, and unfortunately the ending falls flat and anti-climactic. I’m left with only a few of the initial characters, still at a lost as to what the city is doing or how it’s reacting, and not sure who I should care about and what they’re doing. And if I’m completely honest, I was hoping to not see the words I did at the end, saying that Raine was coming back. It’s hard, in my opinion, to see where one can go with a sequel, and what kind of world is truly left for that sequel to take place in.

I wanted so very much to like this book. The concept is fascinating, and I’m a sucker for anything to do with gods or the like. And this sadly fell short of what I’d hoped for. I do hope that for Herd’s next project, he invests in a strong editor–because I think hidden in here is a very talented author, and I’d like to see his work.

Rating: ** – Not Impressed

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