Title: The Gods of Men
Author: Barbara Kloss
Published: June, 2018
Rating: 9.5 out of 10 (NOT OFFICIAL SCORE; TSWI SCORE ONLY)
Blurb: Sable hated the gods. She hated what men did in their name.
Magic is forbidden throughout the Five Provinces; those born with it are hunted and killed. Sable doesn’t know her music holds power over souls—not until, at age nine, she plays her flute before the desert court and accidentally stops her baby sister’s heart, killing her. Horrified by what she’s done and fearing for her life, she flees north, out of Provincial jurisdiction and into the frigid land of exiles and thieves, known as The Wilds. There, Sable lives in hiding, burdened by guilt, and survives as a healer. But now, ten years later, someone—or something—is hunting her.
On the run again, Sable’s best chance for survival is Jos, a lethal man from the Five Provinces, who claims to need her skills as a healer to save his dying father, and she needs the large sum of money he’s offered. There’s something about him Sable doesn’t trust, but she doesn’t have many options. A spirit of the dead is hunting her, summoned by a mysterious necromancer, and it’s getting closer.
Sable soon discovers she’s just the start of the necromancer’s plan to take over the Five Provinces, and she’s the only one with the power to stop it. But harnessing her forbidden power means revealing it to the world, and the dangerous Provincial, Jos, she’s beginning to fall for.
Holy goodness me, fam.
You ever read a book that’s so good, you struggle how to properly find words to write the review, because you’re just in love with the story so much and want more books to appear in the story instead and read those, rather than writing said review?
That’s exactly how I’m feeling with Barbara Kloss’s The Gods of Men.
To illustrate, let me direct quote the first note I wrote while reading this book (after reading the prologue):
Fuck, what a way to start the first chapter. I’m already hooked.
…I mean, SHIT, goodness. This book had everything I want in a quality fantasy novel.
Story wise, I thought it was brilliant. I found myself rooting for Sable and Jos, and the parallelism that develops between their storylines the further we read along is stunning. The worldbuilding was solid, the pace was spot on, the conflict was great and the romance, eegak! That was exactly the kind of romance I was hoping to see in this contest!** I just completely fell in love with this story and, even though I had a set number of pages allocated that I planned to read each day, every day I kept going over until this morning, where I read over 200 pages in one sitting and finished the dang thing a day earlier than planned. I flew through this novel and I just bloody loved it.
But that’s just the story. Looking at the writing and just… Friends, this book was so fantastically written. I was pulled in immediately and absolutely hooked, and half my notes are just gushing about how beautiful the writing is, how much I love Kloss’s descriptions, how I truly adored the metaphors she uses (they are just so unique); and honestly? A little bit of writer envy, because I definitely don’t write like this and I wish I could (but I’m always here to find new female role models to follow and support, and I’ve definitely found one in Kloss here). The way she transitions between perspectives is also really spot on and seamless, which only adds to the fluidity of the pace.
I even had to stop and copy down one of my favorite lines (without spoilers):
There are always two sides, Sable. Don’t dismiss mine simply because it complicates yours.
*chills break out everywhere as she rereads it again*
So, pair a fantastic story with the absolutely beautiful writing and that ending!? Now you have a reader in me who is desperate for the sequel (but take your time, Barbara, seriously; you just have a new fan in your corner who will definitely be buying the sequel as soon as it hits print).
My complaints, if I really had any, are pretty minor. At times, I thought the use of italics to emphasize words was overdone, so some of the words that were meant to be emphasized lost their oompf (says the woman who uses italics in her reviews like it’s her oxygen to breathe). But the only other criticism I had, I can’t really share without it being a spoiler, but basically, there was some backstory I would have rather gotten earlier on, to help readers understand a different perspective later on in the story, really helping to give even more meaning to the quote I pulled from above.
This book left my speechless and I am going to go out and buy this one to put on my bookshelf, no question. So thankful to SPFBO for bringing this book to my attention. It’s a gem I would have missed out on, otherwise (though, thanks to this contest, I’m definitely going to be paying more attention to the self-published world, because there are just too many good books I risk missing if I don’t).
**Please keep in mind that I didn’t cut any of the books from Phase 1 due to lack of romance, as this is a fantasy book contest, after all. I just have a very personal preference of there being romance in the fantasy books that I read, so books that incorporated it usually helped hit home for me more than some other reviewers, simply because that’s my taste (and, as always, all reviews are subjective). But also: the way Kloss writes romantic scenes has me really hoping there are more in the sequels, because damn. *fans self*