Friday, October 9, 2009 | |

Servant of a Dark God by John Brown

Servant of a Dark God is a new novel by up and coming author John Brown. I received an advance copy of this a little over a month ago (You're Welcome, FTC), and devoured it in just a few days. Now, time to put the fanboy attitude aside and do some honest reviewing.

This book struck me as falling into the mold of classic fantasy somewhat, while at the same time doing everything just different enough to be seen as original. Sure, there's a young boy with a destiny of sorts, but his interaction with his family and their involvement in that destiny are very different than other fantasy offerings. Yes, there's an evil power seeking dominion over the entire world, but it's basically already got it, and we're looking at the beginning of a rebellion. This, too, has been done, but I think it was just different enough with the political intrigue and terrible power of the evil forces to keep things fresh and new.

The story revolves around The Order, a group of people who want to give the power to the people. The magic power, that is. The Divines rule the land with an almost godlike status, hiding the reality that magic is for everyone in order to hold onto their power over the people. The story mainly revolves around two families who are caught up in the trouble brewing between the Order and the Divines.

I really enjoyed the emotional attachment that I developed to the characters, particularly to their interaction with one another. From the outset I was drawn in as Talen embarked upon the noble quest of finding his pants. It was a fun way to start a book, and a good way to see the humor in the characters before the try/fail cycles of the novel kicked in and we got to see the deeper side of each character. For me, the interaction in the emotional scene between Argoth and his son Nettle was particularly heart-wrenching, and signaled strong writing on the part of Mr. Brown. I also enjoyed the inner demons of Sugar, having to deal with the terrible things that she saw, particularly her reaction to them. Hunger was an excellent sort of anti-villain, someone you felt terrible for and routed against almost at the same time. In short, characters make a book, and this one is full of quality characters.

Rather than start with the young boy who gathers friends along the way for the great quest, this book begins with a well organized group, and that was refreshing in a way. Readers who aren't as experienced in the genre might struggle a little bit to understand everything that's going on, since Brown doesn't just hand it out to everyone. However, it's not nearly as difficult as, say, Gardens of the Moon by Erikson, where as a teenager I remember reading the entire first book and still asking myself, "What's going on here?" In fact, I now enjoy this approach, where the author doesn't explain every single detail of the world or the magic system. It should, in my opinion, come in parts, just like everything we learn in life comes in chunks that build together to become total knowledge. Think about it, when was the last time you went to Pep Boys for an oil change and the mechanic talked with you for nine hours about exactly how the car runs?

The book did have a couple of slow spots, where I felt like my emotions, fears and trust in the characters  should have been building a little more dramatically rather than just maintaining, but I can't point them out specifically without a re-read, so that means they're not glaring enough to hinder anyone's reading of the tale.

The best compliment that I can give John Brown is this: Servant of a Dark God does not feel like it's his first published novel. It's more mature, and far more well-written than some of the first offerings of other authors I've come across. I would compare Servant of a Dark God to Brandon Sanderson's first offering, Elantris. Now, I didn't stay up all night reading Servant of a Dark God like I did Elantris but I'm also not 17 anymore, and have a 5 month old baby, so I can no longer base the quality of a work on how late it keeps me up at night. Also, let's remember that Sanderson wrote something like 12 books before he got Elantris published, so I'd say Brown's writing is definitely up to snuff. I'm eagerly awaiting the second book, and John, if you need an alpha reader, I'm right here baby!

Final Verdict: 8.5/10. A fresh new voice in fantasy is always welcome, and Mr. Brown's epic will undoubtedly claim its place on my shelves, right next to those other people I like enough to buy. A solid mix of humor and heart-wrenching sadness combine with plenty of well-done action to produce a novel that new readers as well as experienced hands will enjoy.


Josh Carr Superstar said...

Good reveiw - I read this book and loved it. It is very deserving of the 8.5/10 that you gave it.

I literally could not put this book down and I can't wait for the rest of the series.

I have found that the author John Brown is very approachable (maybe all new authors are) he has been very responsive to me on twitter and facebook.

here is a link to his blog

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