Review: The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman

11 Jan

It’s been a couple of months since I read this book, but it’s still a book that I’m very excited about, and I’ve been telling everyone about this book!

Here’s the blurb for the book from Penguin UK:

“Listen. The Sanctuary of the Redeemers on Shotover Scarp is named after a damned lie for there is no redemption that goes on there and less sanctuary.”

The Sanctuary of the Redeemers is a vast and desolate place – a place without joy or hope. Most of its occupants were taken there as boys and for years have endured the brutal regime of the Lord Redeemers whose cruelty and violence have one singular purpose – to serve in the name of the One True Faith.

In one of the Sanctuary’s vast and twisting maze of corridors stands a boy. He is perhaps fourteen or fifteen years old – he is not sure and neither is anyone else. He has long-forgotten his real name, but now they call him Thomas Cale. He is strange and secretive, witty and charming, violent and profoundly bloody-minded. He is so used to the cruelty that he seems immune, but soon he will open the wrong door at the wrong time and witness an act so terrible that he will have to leave this place, or die.

His only hope of survival is to escape across the arid Scablands to Memphis, a city the opposite of the Sanctuary in every way: breathtakingly beautiful, infinitely Godless, and deeply corrupt.

But the Redeemers want Cale back at any price… not because of the secret he now knows but because of a much more terrifying secret he does not.”

Now, I stick by what I said in my mini-review: The Left Hand of God will be, without a doubt, one of 2010’s biggest novels. Why? Here are my reasons:

The Worldbuilding: Paul has created a world that is at once weird and stranger than any place you know, but also exhilarating in the way that it echoes the world we inhabit. Places that we know are slightly different, cultures have formed around different concepts, and religion has taken a twisted, convoluted path towards something strangely funny but shocking.

The Characters: Thomas himself is, well, in a word, scary, the kind of guy you only have to look at to get the sense that you don’t want to do anything he might consider untoward; but at the same time, once he reaches the wide, outside world, he’s incredibly naive, reduced to stumbling along while trying to stay ahead of his enemies. But Paul doesn’t stop with Thomas Cale – the cast of characters range from very creepy gang leaders to hilarious, sometimes bastardly nobles, to mysterious yet comic ex-military types, to friends who know as little about Cale as he himself does. Paul handles everyone with an expert touch, allowing us to travel through the storyscape while seeing Paul’s world from many different points of view.

The Action: Paul manages to at once take you deep into the blood and violence and fear of battle while also placing you in the minds of those fighting and dying. And as you would expect from a created world with strange cultures and people, Paul also weaves in new tactics and kinds of warfare; there is one major battle in the book that’ll take your breath away and make you wince, and I’m really excited to see what Paul’s got up his sleeve in books 2 and 3.

Everything Else: Paul’s writing is really easy on the mind, poetic and beautiful in places, charging along with incredible pace and tension in others. His writing seems entirely suited to Fantasy, and I’m very glad that I got the opportunity to read such a strong debut!

2010 looks set to be an absolutely huge year for SFF, and I’m sure that The Left Hand of God will be a strong contender for Debut of the Year on many lists. πŸ™‚ Highly recommended!

9 / 10

The Left Hand of God will be available in South Africa from next month (from Penguin Books SA) (even though it’s already available in the UK), so pre-order your copies here and here. For those of you in the UK, click here to order your copies.

Also, here’s the novel’s page on Penguin’s UK website (where you can read an excerpt of the novel, too), and good news for those in the UK – Paul will be at Forbidden Planet this month for a book signing! Click here for details. πŸ™‚

Coming up tomorrow on the blog, an awesome competition that’ll give you a chance to have your work seen in the paperback edition of The Left hand of God! πŸ™‚


Posted by on January 11, 2010 in Reviews


Tags: , , ,

22 responses to “Review: The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman

  1. kate.o.d

    January 21, 2010 at 6:00 am

    i have to disagree with you. i think this book falls short in many ways. mitchell tells us frequently that cale is dangerous and volatile etc but i never got that from cale himself. similarly the battle scenes were less passion and hellfire, more “battle strategies 101”.
    there were definitely things i enjoyed about this book – for instance the way he took bits of our familar world and jammed them together to make something new – but i think on the whole it misses the mark.
    there was so little “oomph”, i was not compelled to read on.

    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      January 22, 2010 at 1:09 pm

      I’m glad to see that the book has readers divided. πŸ™‚ I s’pose the proof will be in how it sells (is selling, too). πŸ™‚

      • Lea

        November 13, 2010 at 3:39 pm

        I have to sorely disagree on that. Great selling numbers never equals to quality, mostly the ability of companies to promote the book and entice peopl enough to buy it (and again, it does not tell us who many who bought it actually read it or started to read it but put the book down).

        On the contrary, a lot of authors we consider today to be vital to the development of literature such as Kafka were despised during their time.

      • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

        November 14, 2010 at 9:06 am

        I agree, selling many copies definitely doesn’t equate to a well-written book, but the sad fact is that people wouldn’t know a well-written book if it bit them. Look at James Patterson – his novels aren’t particularly well written but they are immensely readable and that what sells more books, so… πŸ™‚

  2. Sarah Prior

    January 28, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Hi Dave, great post. Just thought you and your readers my be interested in our latest blog – we have an exclusive audio interview with Paul Hoffman and we’re giving away 3 copies of The Left Hand of God. Just leave a comment on the blog for a chance to win. We have linked back to your review. Thanks and all best.

  3. Sarah Prior

    January 28, 2010 at 2:43 pm

  4. aj

    January 31, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    i have just finished readin this book n was engrossed, i am a huge fan of fantasy, myth n magic like Eragon by Christopher Paolini n books like The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown but this is exceptional for its creativity n originality. I am really lookin forward to the next one to find out what happens with Cale, is their any hints to when its bein released?

    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      February 1, 2010 at 2:03 am

      Hey AJ, no news yet, Paul doesn’t even have a website that I’ve found where we can get the info, but if I have to hazard a guess, I would say that he’s probably writing bk 2 at the moment, and we should start hearing something in a couple of months. πŸ™‚ As soon as I hear something I will, of course, post the news on the blog. πŸ™‚

  5. aj

    February 1, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    really lookin 4ward 2 readin the next 1, i hope he can maintain there high standards

    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      November 14, 2010 at 9:02 am

      Hey AJ, some news for you – bk 2, The Last Four Things, should be out April 2011. πŸ™‚

  6. James

    May 10, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    I really enjoyed the book, however I found that the plot was floating all over the place at times and that his characters have extreme changes at the drop of a hat multiple times with no apparent forewarning. The fight scenes I found rather good. Reminded me of the Sword of Shadows series. However the Major battle in the book seemed to be almost an exact copy of the Battle of Azincourt. Seriously, read the book by Bernard Cornwell and it is almost exactly the same. The only difference is the point of view. I hope that in the next book Paul will be more consistent with his characters and try to stop developing the same plot in 6 different ways with information revealed randomly at odd times. Looking forward to the next in the series though.

    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      May 10, 2010 at 10:11 pm

      I s’pose I should read more widely than I do. πŸ™‚ I have to agree about the fight scenes, very cool indeed, and I’ll be sure to read up on the Agincourt battle. Definitely looking forward to the second book in the series! πŸ™‚ Thanks for visiting the blog, James!

  7. Kyle

    July 8, 2010 at 4:20 am

    The story is sound. But this book lacks depth. Far to many plots and everyday sayings and actions unexplained.

  8. Tyson

    August 16, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Unbelievable book 9/10

    Will there be a sequel??

    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      August 16, 2010 at 9:25 pm

      I’ve heard that Paul has planned a trilogy, so I’ll post the news as and when I get it. πŸ™‚

  9. Tyson

    August 18, 2010 at 1:54 pm


    have i subscribed to this correctly??

    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      August 20, 2010 at 6:01 pm

      You’re not showing up as one of the subscribers, but if you get the blog in your Google Reader then you won’t show up on my subscribers list; however, if you get an email telling you that I’ve replied to your comment, then you’ve subscribed to the post’s comments. πŸ™‚

    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      November 14, 2010 at 9:03 am

      Hey Tyson, bk 2 is coming in April – The Last Four Things. πŸ™‚

  10. Craig

    March 14, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Can anyone explain to me who the soldiers are that Cale says he killed during his conversation with Idrispukke on about the 4th page of chapter 20????? (pg 247 in my Penguin edition). Is it just me or did this NEVER HAPPEN in the book?? Same as the first reference to Bosco. He is just inserted as a character we feel i felt i was supposed to already know about. This book has so many random things like this in it. I find i am always flicking back through pages Please respond if u can explain the above mystery though. It’s killing me.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s



C.T. Phipps

Author of horror, sci-fi, and superheroes.

M.D. Thalmann

M.D. Thalmann, a novelist and freelance journalist with an affinity for satire and science fiction, lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, children, and ornery cats, reads too much and sleeps too little.

Greyhart Press

Publisher of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Thrillers

Joseph D'Lacey

My pen is my compass. It points to the page.

This Is Horror

The Voice of Horror


Book, comic and sometimes film reviews

The Talkative Writer

Musings by speculative fiction author Karen Miller

Cohesion Press

The Battle Has Just Begun

SplatterGeist Reviews

Books worth a read.

Indie Hero

Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller

Paws in the Porridge

'She is like a muse...who kicks people in the face.'



Matthew Sylvester

father, author, martial artist

Shannon A. Thompson

Author. Speaker. Librarian.

%d bloggers like this: