Some of you on Twitter may have seen my over-excited tweet last week while I was still reading Hammer of God. 🙂 Yep, I love the book!
I read Empress in April 2009 and The Riven Kingdom in September 2009, so yes, it’s taken me some time to get through the series, but one of the strengths, right out of the gate, of this series and of Karen’s writing is that it’s memorable.
In Empress, Karen took us to Mijak, a desert land where their god is worshipped with blood-sacrifices. It’s a land of warriors and priests and slaves, harsh and brutal and beautiful at the same time, and in Mijak Karen introduced us to one the best female lead characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading – Hekat. We also met Vortka and Raklion and Nagarak and Zandakar and Dmitrak, but it was Hekat who stole the show.
In The Riven Kingdom, Karen took us to Ethrea and introduced us to Rhian, the only daughter of the ailing King. Rhian soon finds herself scrambling to survive and trying to get support for her own bid to ascend to Ethrea’s throne as its first-ever queen. The Riven Kingdom was a much-needed breath after the emotional and brutal rollercoaster that was Empress and took us to a world more easily understood, but it was as good as Empress was, for different reasons.
Now, in Hammer of God, Karen brings Mijak and Ethrea crashing together, and what a clash it is!
One thing I noticed in Empress and The Riven Kingdom was the type of writing employed – in Empress the sentences were shorter and in many cases, more simply understood; as a reader I was very much thrust into the thought processes and culture of Mijak which made their religion and lives more easily understood – sometimes I would even find myself thinking ‘tcha!’ in response to something stupid or frivolous or something I didn’t agree with. The Riven Kingdom is different again in that the writing and language used is closer to what we’d expect to read, so the novel flows extremely well as Karen introduces new characters and places and events. Hammer of God is a blend of these styles – simple yet elegant, flowing yet fast-paced, brutal and beautiful, too. One of my friends, Justin Germishuys, a fellow writer who has studied language and grammar intensively, is reading Hammer of God now and has said on numerous occasions that Karen Miller is a brilliant writer – I’ll leave it up to him to explain, since I don’t know half the time what he’s talking about when he’s using the technical-grammar terms to describe her writing. 😉 I guess what I’m trying to say is that Karen writes novels that anyone, from any background, can read and enjoy because she doesn’t use complicated sentence structures that’ll have you re-reading paragraphs; everything flows as the characters and their emotions are brought to life and the worlds that Karen creates in these novels were intensely interesting to me, whether I was in Mijak or in Ethrea. 🙂
I’ve said before that Karen does characters brilliantly, and if anything, I felt she surpassed herself in Hammer of God. Here we’ve got a young girl, Rhian, having to take a position of leadership under the mos extreme circumstances; here we’ve got a man in a world alien to him who must learn a completely new way of life if he is to survive; here we’ve got a priest who sees the good in everyone but who is forced to oversee and do terrible things in the name of the god he believes in; here we’ve got a toymaker who misses his wife and only wants to make toys but is forced into the spotlight and chosen to wield a power he never believed in; here we have an Empress who believes, to the core of her being, that she is doing what her god wants her to do… Even the psychology behind these characters would be, on their own, interesting, and Karen brings them all beautifully and tragically to life – many times I shook my head, incredulous or stunned and I laughed plenty, too – sometimes because the characters had to laugh or die and I felt I needed it, too. That’s the kind of reaction that Karen managed to elicit from me.
Event-wise and action-wise, Karen went all out in Hammer of God, and no-one was spared a chance to step into danger; I was hectically tense throughout the last ten or so chapters of this novel and the pace kicked up into the stratosphere, so expect not wanting to sleep or work or eat. 🙂
There was one culture and character that I didn’t get nearly enough of it was the people of of another great empire, far from Ethrea and Mijak, and the empire’s Emperor – I seriously hope we’ll be meeting these guys again some time! And I have to add, too, that the end of the book made me extremely curious about what would happen in both Ethrea and Mijak; these are two lands and cultures, with all their characters, that I’ll miss!
All in all, Hammer of God is an excellent climax to a really interesting and intriguing series – cool magic, deep religious and political thoughts and discussions, and larger-than-life characters that really make you look at yourself and what you think and believe.
I’m giving Hammer of God an air-punching 9 / 10, and the Godspeaker series an excellent 8 / 10 – the trilogy is complete so you can read all the books in one go, no waiting for more volumes!
Check out Karen’s website here and click this link to read excerpts of all the novels; to order your copies of Hammer of God, use the following links: Amazon US, Amazon UK and Exclusive Books (South Africa).
Also, you guys in the UK are in for a treat! Karen will be at Forbidden Planet this coming Saturday (October 30th), along with NK Jemisin! Check out this link for more info.