It’s been a while.
Alas, that is my fault. The fact that I started The Pagan Night by Tim Akers almost a month ago and just frantically finished it this morning does an injustice undeserved to said book. It insinuates that the book isn’t good, because it took me so long to read it (for me, a month is a long time to finish a book). But that’s simply not the case.
This book was fantastic.
Let me tell you how I discovered it, first, before I explain why it was so brilliant. If you follow my other blog, you know that I’m a writer and recently started working on the first draft of my fifth book (one of the main reasons why I read The Pagan Night in spurts rather than consistently. The other reason is Elder Scrolls Online…yeah). My previous four books are in various states of revision and I’ve battled through the query trenches a few times, before going back to the editing grind, to better prepare for my next trek. Somewhere along the line this summer, I discovered an agency that, after thorough creeping, I know is my dream agency: Jabberwocky Literary Agency.
I can put checks down my entire wishlist when it comes to Jabberwocky. Do they represent fantasy and science fiction? Check. Are each of their agents so personable and appealing, when I actually query them later this year, I believe I’ll still have no idea which is the best fit for me, because I want to work with all of them? Check. Are there doses of quirkiness and fun? Check. Do they appear dedicated to their authors and creating the best homes for their stories? Check.
Multiple creeping sessions later, I knew I would work as hard as required (and harder, honestly) to prove that my stories deserve to have a home there, too; to show that I could be an author they would enjoy working with; to join that family. So, I continue to work on my stories, perfect my query and basically work my ass off in attempts to try and get a shot at working with such an amazing agency.
In that game plan, I knew that even if I never work with them, something I should be doing is supporting their authors. In my dream world, those are the people I might actually become friends with (swoon). In reality, those are the people who have already done exactly what I want to do. Not only do they probably have some amazing stories, but I could learn a lot from them about what the agency likes and truly see if my own stories could potentially make a good fit. So I went to their clients page and starting snooping around.
There, I discovered Tim Akers for the first time.
On his page, it listed three books. Two in a series known as the Jacob Burn Novels, which, frankly, I skipped right over, because I was immediately interested in the third book down, the start of another series: The Pagan Night, book one of The Hallowed War. I looked it up, read the blurb on the back cover and immediately put it on hold at my library. The cover looked awesome, I loved the war-fueled-by-religion plotline and I wanted to learn about the people hinted at on the back that would turn the tide: Ian and Gwen.
Oh boy, did I learn about them.
WARNING: Small spoilers abound after this. If you haven’t read the book, easy fix: go read it (seriously). If you have: welcome.
I knew from the title, before I even opened the book, that I would be loyal to the Pagan cause. I just knew it. And I stayed loyal throughout (but the throat-punch that served as the last fifty pages tells me that my loyalties are going to be shaken after I read book two). Ian Blakely and his family are loyal to the church. And that is totally okay with me. I rather liked Malcolm, Ian’s father, and I loved his wife–especially their dynamic. I love that she was a warrior as much as a wife and how obviously they loved one another. It made the ending, the final freakin’ line, particularly throat-clenching. I found myself particularly protective over the Blakely house, regardless of their loyalties to the church.
Ian, though. Wow, did Ian drive me nuts. Instantly upon meeting him, I was angered by his defiance and his constant, apparent need, to question everything, complain or challenge his father’s word. I didn’t understand why he needed to prove himself so desperately, aside from the fact that he is still a child–the same fact he wants to ignore yet his father wants him to cherish. Interestingly enough, by the end of the book, I discovered a trend I hadn’t realized whilst reading. I only found Ian irritating when juxtaposed with his father. Other scenes when his father wasn’t around, I found Ian tolerable; likeable, even. That discovery, especially viewed in relation to the events in the last fifty pages, just impressed the hell out of me. Masterful, Mr. Akers, sir. Masterful.
Gwen, of House Adair, however, was an entirely other story. I loved her. I loved her as soon as I met her. She had a maturity that I admired, she was a pagan (obviously in secret, but she was the hero I was searching for and wanted to root for) and the foolish–and very costly–mistakes she had made me that much more loyal to her, oddly enough. At the end, I feared for her, though I respected and supported her choice. And I’m most eager to see her again in the next book.
Aside from my fierce opinions, quickly formed, surrounding the two main characters, there were two elements in particular that I truly enjoyed: the pacing/attention to detail and the balancing of extremes (okay, I cheated, that’s three. Bear with me). I loved–loved, loved, loved, loved–the attention to detail that was given throughout the book through the slower pace. We weren’t rushed through to the first battle. We took our time getting there. Instead, we were introduced into the world and the conflicts surrounding it and the main players and we were allowed to form opinions/sides regarding it all, before the real struggles and fighting began; which then, of course, caused us to reevaluate the opinions already formed, as the plot-twists arose and true natures were revealed. I loved it even more because the beginning wasn’t slow, either. It picked up quickly and it wasn’t rushed.
I was also a fan of the main issue the characters faced: the problems caused by being unable to find a middle ground, instead trying to balance extremes. The pagans and their gods used to rule, but now the church has come in with their gods Cinder and Strife and taken over, converting the masses. Instead of finding a middle ground–which, as the book continues, is desperately needed–pagan worship is not allowed, their old gods–now gheists–are hunted and slain by vow knights sworn to the church, and the church rules. One extreme–strictly pagan worship–has been traded for another–strictly church worship. On the surface, there is no room for middle ground. Yet the presence and power of the gheists (who are beautiful and terrible in their own rights and deserve a cinematic representation), the secret pagans and witches, the need for vow knights, all show that indeed a middle ground remains. Then, the lines begin to blur until you realize that many major players aren’t a part of one extreme, yet instead, somewhere in that middle ground, though only one extreme is expected or accepted.
Friends, this book was fantastic. When I did read it, I read hundreds of pages in one sitting. At my horrendous multi-hour trip to the DMV, The Pagan Night was my faithful companion (get it? Faithful? Because…oh, nevermind.) When I got down to the last fifty pages (which, let me tell you, words cannot express how great they were), I didn’t read for almost two weeks because I didn’t want it to end (and only then did I foolishly remember that the second book hasn’t been published yet). This is a book you will get lost in and form opinions about very quickly. By the end, you will feel conflicted and just want to know more. You’ll wish you didn’t have to wait until next year. You’ll wish that really hard. That being said, don’t wait to read it. Don’t miss this gem.
I’m torn, whether to sign off crying, “The Hound! The Hallow!” or “Iron in the Blood.” Hopefully once I read The Iron Hound, I can figure out which house I’m truly loyal to.