Monday, December 2, 2013

The Godborn by Paul Kemp

In many ways, The Godborn was vastly superior to R.A. Salvadore's The Companions, the book that preceded it in the Sundering series.  It is only loosely connected, which was as expected.  What was unexpected was how easy it was to step into Paul Kemp's world.  I hadn't read any of the previous Everis Cale books.  Aside from spending some time reading Kemp's excerpts, and then looking up some of the names and characters on the Forgotten Realms Wiki, I had no experience with any of the preceding content.  Nevertheless, I found this book very approachable and easy to dive into.  In fact, I read the vast majority of it in a four-day span over Thanksgiving.

The summary: it's very good.  It has excellent pacing.  Despite the fact that much of the first two thirds of the book is largely preparatory, the whirl-wind, stunning last third of the book manages to wrap up most of the innumerable apparently disjointed threads introduced early on without seeming rushed or anti-climactic.  Kemp writes excellent dialog and presents some wonderfully believable characters.  In contrast with the chaotic but wonderfully energetic battle scenes that Salvadore composes, Kemp's combat scenes are far more cinematic and visually descriptive.  It begins as a very gritty, down-to-earth book, but as it moves along the action rises to grander and grander scales.  It was hard to put down, and never felt slow.

In the end, we have a very satisfying conclusion to a saga that I only know in part.  As excited I was to see it end, I can only imagine what someone who has read all of the Cale books must feel at its end.  It was riveting from start to finish.

I do have a few critiques.  First, the book does have substantial horror elements that are critical to the plot.  I'm not a big fan of horror, but I get it and it works for the novel.  There was one set of characters, however, that seemed to be created strictly to pound one the reader's emotional heartstrings.  This is unfortunately very obvious from the start, and to me felt far too transparent.  Furthermore, while it sets up a tale of revenge, this is never really allowed to run its course in a satisfying way.  

Second, I was surprised to see a number of editing problems in the kindle version that I read.  There were several cases where words or sentences were spliced together incorrectly.  Furthermore, there were some plot inconsistencies.  At one point, Vasen loses an important item to the Shadovar.  Then, later, the book mentions him using it again, only to later remind us that the Shadovar have it.  I wasn't the only one who noticed either--my Kindle noted that three people had underlined both of those passages.

Still, it was a great book.  If the first two thirds were a 3-4 star, the brilliant conclusion easily justifies a 5-star rating.  I'm not sure if we'll see more of Everis or Vasen Cale, or their surviving companions.  But if so, I will gladly and eagerly read on.

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