Book Review: The Gods of Men

The Gods of Men by [Kloss, Barbara]

4.5/5 stars

This was (almost) everything I wanted it to be. A solid, rip-roaring epic fantasy, with all the beloved elements of the genre. Usually when I pick up such a story, I rate it on four (albeit completely arbitrary and unique to myself) elements: magic, monsters, (wo)+men, and mayhem. All four of these things were *very* nearly there, and made my fantasy-loving heart oh so happy.

First, magic (and the only category with a docked half-point). The magic system was solid, but didn’t completely do it for me. I don’t mind unclarity (is that a word? If not, I declare it so) with magic. In fact, I prefer a little mystery to accompany the system, but this had a little TOO much fogginess with how it worked. I’m assuming it will become more concrete with the next installment of the series. But I would have preferred a little more clear lines with what it is and how it works. I feel like with certain POV’s, it could have been fleshed out more, particularly Rasmin’s. But generally, I enjoyed the unique element of music being a part of it, and the Shah was certainly an interesting concept. It will be cool to see how it (hopefully) becomes more defined in book 2.

Second, monsters. I love some good scary beasts adding unpredictability to a narrative. This book had it in spades. The shades were super scary and unique, and the chakran was downright terrifying. They kicked the intensity up a notch, and raised the stakes at times, so it had this element that I really enjoy and typically judge an epic fantasy by.

Third, (wo)+men, which is just a dumb way of talking about the characters while having everything start with an “m”. I thoroughly enjoyed ALL the characters, which is unusual for me. Usually there are one or two that I have complaints about, be it their character arc or motivations. But every single actor in this story was well-written, had believable motivations, and flowed well with what the author seemed to be trying to accomplish. Even the Maker, the god in this story, wasn’t typical. I love how the characters each interacted with him differently, had various ways they believed or didn’t believe, and how that affected each of their stories. Sable was a compelling main character, and the Wolf, while somewhat typical (at least, IMO) had elements to him that made him a bit different, too. I really loved the “is he a good guy or bad guy?” question throughout the whole book, and how it made him unique. There were snippets here and there throughout the book of fun, believable relationships. Wolf/Braddok and their friendship, the complicated Wolf/Sable thing going on, and even the sibling relationships the author delved into were awesome. My only complaint (very, very minor) was what happened with Astrid’s character arc. It was heartbreaking, in a way, but also made me both angry and unsatisfied. However, I think this is probably what the author was going for, and it in no way detracts from the story.

Lastly, mayhem. This book delivers on complicated plots, battles, fight scenes, and general madness that makes epic fantasy so fun and engaging to read. The author has a knack for pacing that is pretty unusual with epic fantasy, too. Most authors (usually unique to epic fantasy writers) can’t quite strike a good balance between worldbuilding and pacing the plot forward, but the author has mastered this. There wasn’t ever a point where I was bored by the descriptions of the world, because it was so masterfully woven into the narrative. Yet there wasn’t ever a time I was confused, either, by parts of the world because there wasn’t an explanation of it. YOU GUYS. This is so hard to do. I write epic fantasy, and this is the hardest part of writing it, hands down. It seems like this author literally had no issue with mastering this, and it makes me jealous. It seemed so effortless, so immersive, and kept the pacing of the book flawless. Major kudos.

All in all, this ties with one of my favorite epic fantasy reads this year. I’m really looking forward to book 2, and following this author’s career.

Grab it on Amazon or add it on Goodreads

Now available: The Shade War

It’s time to wrap up The Rodasia Chronicles. The Shade War, volume III, released today. It’s a bittersweet moment for me. Years of work, finally completed. Sigh. There’s a sense of accomplishment, though. Get caught up by reading The Hidden Queen and The Coming Light.

 

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When Music Led to Crime: My Neighbor’s Story

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My second home with my husband was a two-bedroom apartment in south Orlando. We were there for two years, and over the course of that time, we had developed some relationships with our neighbors, particularly a man named “Joe” (not his real name.) We would greet him whenever we saw him, and he would respond with a big smile and a wave. We would comment about the weather, or other “fluff” conversation, to see if it led anywhere. Our mission and purpose was clear…we wanted to influence our neighbors with the gospel, and would search for open doors.

The door opened with Joe. The longer we were living there, the more we interacted with him. He would often smoke outside his apartment and we would take the opportunity to engage him in conversation. Eventually we invited him to church, and it became clear that he knew we were Christians and yet remained open to continuing to dialogue with us. Eric eventually asked him to meet with him over coffee and talk about Jesus. He gladly agreed. When they met, Eric heard some of his story. He was a former felon, had spent time in and out of jail for drug related charges. He would deal drugs on and off (and swore he currently wasn’t) yet his Mom had raised him right. They attended church as he was growing up, and he had wandered away from his faith when he entered his teenage years. He asked for prayer for himself, and for his girlfriend, also a former felon, who was currently in rehab.

Eric and I discussed what we could do for them, and how to best serve them. We talked to Joe about coming over for dinner, along with his girlfriend, where we would pray for them. He again gladly accepted, and picked her up from rehab to come have a meal with us. “Jane” was also friendly and outgoing. As soon as we sat down to eat, we couldn’t get them to stop talking. They opened up about their past, and their present struggles with drugs and alcohol and clubbing. They opened up about their upbringing, both from single-mom households, both dragged to church when they were kids, both getting lured away by friends who introduced them to what they called a “gangster” style of life. Jane told us about her daughter who was being raised by her grandmother, because Jane couldn’t keep herself out of trouble. They talked about how they both knew that they needed to get out of this lifestyle, and their inability to be able to make the right choices to do so, especially since it was so hard for them to get a job, let alone keep one.

We were able to share the glorious gospel with them, about how we understood their inability to choose any other way of life. We told them about Jesus, who could help them, about the Holy Spirit, who could empower them. It was an incredible night. It was obvious that they both really wanted to hear it; they soaked it up. Jane cried, and asked for prayer. Joe would say things like, “I know I need help. I know I need to change. I just can’t.”

What is my point? I’m setting this up for a particular reason. I asked them this question:

“Can you point to one particular thing that led you to this type of life? What was the entry gate?”

They could have said growing up with no fathers. They could have said the wrong friends and peer pressure. They could have said the first time they did drugs.

“Music,” Jane said without any hesitation.

“Absolutely. Listening to hip-hop,” Joe replied.

That was the last thing I expected to hear. There we were, with our apartment complex’s drug dealer and his girlfriend in our home, listening to their sad story of a life wasted to drugs and gangs, and they unequivocally blamed music as the entry into it all.

Jane went on to explain how as a young girl, hearing lyrics of the glories of a certain lifestyle, the wealth and prestige, influenced her to want that type of life.

“It was subtle at first. But as my girls and I listened, it no longer became something we wanted. It became what we were living. And it’s not all it was cracked up to be. It ruined my life. It led to doing drugs. It led to shoplifting and stealing, because we wanted to support the type of life we heard about, but never could afford. I’m in rehab because now I can’t get away from it, and it’s controlling me.”

I’m not making this up. I know you’re sitting there reading this, thinking, “No way. No one actually blames music for how they messed up their life. That’s just silly.”

Yet I’m here to tell you that that is exactly what they said. And it shocked me, too. You can make the argument that lyrics don’t affect you; that you just listen to the music. That not all hip-hop is bad, because seriously, Lecrae is a hip-hip artist isn’t he?

Look, I’m not here to bash hip-hop; of course not all hip-hop is bad, and every style, including some Christian music, has its vices. What I am saying is that you can’t make the claim that you are unaffected by what you hear. That’s just not a biblical concept. The only way we can understand anything spoken to us is because we hear it and interpret it. “Faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

James speaks often about the power of words, specifically about the power of the tongue (James 3). The only category for music in the Scriptures is that of singing praise and giving glory to God, so much so that even if we as Christians are silent, the rocks and trees would praise him (Luke 19:40).

I think there is a definite use for non-Christian music. You can sing about the love you have for you significant other, and it can be glorifying to God. You can sing about righting social wrongs and it be glorifying to God. You can sing about the sacrifices of our military, or the pain and suffering after 9/11, or the pain and sadness after a break-up, and it be glorifying to God. What matters is how we interpret these things. Through what filter are you listening? The filter of a secular worldview that finds ourselves as the arbiter of truth? Or the filter of a biblical worldview that sees God as the giver of all things good, the One who is behind the love you have for your spouse, the one who ultimately will makes all things right, the one who is with you when you are broken? All things are empty without Him, and that emptiness is on full display when what we listen to is devoid of Him.

So let me challenge you, next time you turn on Keith Urban, or Elvis, or Macklemore…listen with ears that can filter out the truth from the lies. Do what Joe and Jane couldn’t do. Listen and point to the One who gives the good gift of music. And if what you are listening to is in direct rebellion to the character of the God we worship, for crying out loud…turn it off.

Originally posted here.