I was fortunate to receive an early review copy of The Black God’s War, a very interesting fantasy debut from Moses Siregar III.
The Black God’s War is an interesting take on fantasy tropes in that there is not really a clear cut “evil” to overcome or a clearcut “good” to overcome it. Both sides in the battle have their own viewpoint and it’s never clear what would constitute a victory for either side.
The writing is consistently good and the characters feel real and interesting. The system of magic is certainly different, but ultimately not very well explained. One side in the conflict, the Rezzians, calls upon the powers of the gods, who are present if not often seen, or at least seen by many, yet whether or not they choose to manifest their powers as called upon is somewhat arbitrary. The other side in the conflict, the Pawelons, rely on powerful sages. These sages use a form of concentration and mantras to manifest their powers. Several things about this system of magic are never made clear, however. Some sages study for years, but can apparently teach their powers to others with no apparent training in a matter of days or hours. It is also never explained what makes some sages more powerful than others or how those powers compare to the powers wielded by the Rezzian gods.
The plot moves steadily forward and maintains interest, but the results of the battles and the strategies employed are unreliable. The feelings and motivations of some, but not all, of the main characters seem to change almost randomly. It is hard to become invested in the outcome of the battles when there seems to be no permanence or consequence to them.
Maybe the point is that motivations for starting and continuing a war are murky and clouded by personal feelings of those in charge. Or that the outcome of battles and maybe even entire wars is irrelevant and inconsequential. As a story, though, it is ultimately unsatisfying.
The level of the writing and some of the concepts involved make this an interesting read. The holes in the plot and the arbitrariness of some of the outcomes make it less satisfying.