Reviewing ‘The Black God’s War’

I dunno what exactly I expected from this novel, written by the rather unfortunately named Moses Siregar III, but it’s less action and more philosophic than I figured. And more pacifist. It’s actually more about belief and religion than it is about war.

The Rezzians are pretty obviously based on the Greek culture, with a pantheon of ten deities called the Lux Lucis. But it’s a little odd that they also have a messiah-figure called the Haizzem because the Greeks didn’t really go for messiahs (heroes, yes; messiahs, not so much). And under the urging of these gods, the Rezzians have declared war on the neighboring Pawelons.

The Pawelons are derivatives of Indian culture, but more Buddhist than Hindu in that they are atheistic. But this all is more concrete than most theistic-atheistic contrasts I’ve seen because the Rezzian gods actually do influence events in obviously supernatural ways and occasionally appear in visible form, and the Pawelon sages really do become invisible or take on others’ appearances and suchlike through means of mantras and mudras and so on. And karma will kick your ass.

The thematics are the important part, because the characters are more….ehhhhh. Not quite mehhh, but kinda ehhhh. They play out more as stereotypes than individuals, but the individual flavor isn’t lost.

On the theist side, we have the duality of sincere believer (of the gods and their ultimate goodness) in Caio the Haizzem and the bitter hater of the Black God Danato, his older sister Lucia. The polytheism gives an interesting angle in that Lucia doesn’t doubt the intentions of most of the gods, especially her patron goddess Ysa, but she has been tormented by Danato since he took her mother at her younger brother’s birth. Lucia is the questioner of the goodness of the god of death, and it is pretty well justified because Danato pulls a lot of dick moves on her despite all his talk about loving her and helping her. Sound familiar to anyone? Lucia is almost the thematic contrast in of herself with her theistic anti-theism.

Sadly, there is no one compelling character on the Pawelon side as there is on the Rezzian side. The Pawelons are an intellectual kind of atheist, believing the Rezzian gods to be myths and made-up justification for Rezzian aggression and conquest into Pawelon territory. Sound familiar? Prince Rao and his bhai Aayu are likeable enough characters, but the prince’s lover, Narayani, ticks off too many of the “dumb whore” trope checklist than I really like. But these three characters make a very direct compare-contrast to the Haizzem Caio, his bodyguard Ilario, and the royal daughter Lucia.

Caio and Rao both want peace and are in conflict with their war-hungry king-fathers and generals. Aayu and Ilario are both solid wingmen (and not terribly much else). Narayani and Lucia are very different, but both harbor much anger and bitterness and deal with it in their very different ways.

I don’t know how my conservative Christian peeps would take this. I find the reframing of the old theist-atheist argument in these new contexts to be interesting, but I don’t know if they would like the choice between polytheist pagans and meditating, mystical-woo pagans.

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