Gods Of Nabban (book 3) by K.V. Johansen (book review).
The idea of a god and an assassin traveling together is what enticed me to request ‘Gods Of Nabban’ by K.V. Johansen from publisher, Pyr. The unlikely pairing alone promises a good read, but there’s more.
These two have a long and torturous history. One is a fugitive slave and the other was formerly possessed by a ghost. One is described as innocent and the other a madman. The best is yet to come, however. These two share a bond closer than friendship. The sort of love that can only arise from holding one another’s fate and the belief any separation will mean the end of them both. Oh, and they have a devil on their team, one whose descendants currently hold power in the land and somewhat mad with it.
The story is a journey in many respects. Ghu begins as heir to the gods, Ahjvar as the mad assassin. They traverse the land toward Ghu’s destiny and end up in war-torn Nabban where they will strive to free the empire from the tyranny of the Yeh-Lin’s descendants. As with any worthy quest, their small party will expand along the way, attracting the eye of prophets, unlikely allies and enemies.
All the while, Ghu is coming into his power. The changes are subtle. At first, I believed his godhood or heirship to be something of an honorary title. That maybe the gods of this land were self-made through deeds and magic. It becomes quite clear Ghu is something of a foretold entity, however, and that he is greatly feared by the empress and her agents.
Alongside, Ahjvar wrestles not only with sanity but with what Ghu means to him. We are told he has known Ghu since he was a boy and that he has felt responsible for this boy for what feels like a lifetime. That he has a difficult time recognising Ghu as a man. But he is that, a man, and Ahjvar’s steadfast companion. Someone he owes if not his life but his soul. Someone who has his heart. At times, he wishes Ghu would let him go, so he can die. He also fears this very thing and so gives himself completely to the heir of the gods.
Yeh-Lin looks on the pair of them as both tragic and perhaps the only chance the empire has against her descendants. She also has her own journey. She is a devil, after all, and the children of her children are breaking the world.
It’s difficult to review a sequel without having read the other books in the series. Blinded by the gorgeous cover and awesome premise, I missed the fact ‘Gods Of Nabban’ picks up the story begun in ‘The Leopard’ (Marakand, Volume One) and continued in ‘The Lady’ (Marakand, Volume Two). There is no handy ‘Volume Three’ stamped anywhere on the cover. It’s clear from the back cover copy that we’re in the middle of a greater story, but some of the best novels start there. Despite often wishing I had started at the beginning, I don’t regret coming to this story at this juncture, however.
Firstly, it’s clear we’re still somewhere in the middle. There is more tale to tell, upon which I cannot elaborate without spoiling this book. Secondly, this is such a richly detailed world that beginning in the middle is a pleasure, though also a minor regret. Because of author Johansen’s writing style, I can imagine coming to this story armed with all the joy and pain of the previous novels. The unfolding lore of the land, the escalating conflicts and the exchange of power between Ghu and Ahjvar.
‘Gods Of Nabban’ is a complete adventure and I enjoyed the story greatly. In particular, I loved the blurred lines between god and human, devil and human, god and devil. Magic is an absolute given in this world and not always a source of great power. Magic is also an extreme frustration. The world is extremely vast and described in vivid detail. There is taste, texture and scent. Every scene is a sensory experience.
I also enjoyed the love story buried not so deeply beneath the adventure or the realisation of love, the acknowledging of it. Because these two obviously have a long history together and one is patently more invested in that aspect of their relationship than the other, it’s both a gentle and powerful undercurrent.
Over all, I recommend this book to fantasy enthusiasts and fans of the series and the author. It’s a vast world with a deep story. For those new to K.V. Johansen and her world, I would recommend starting at the beginning.
(pub: Pyr/Prometheus. 569 page paperback and ebook. Paperback Price: $17.00 (US), £12.65 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-63388-203-4. Ebook Price: $ 9.99 (US), £ 8.54 (UK). ASIN: B01AQNYP60)
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