Saturday, March 14, 2015

Book Review: Godhead: Book I of the Aldariad

In Godhead: Book I of the Aldariad (Volume 1), Greg McLeod weaves a fantasy tale that merges with the real world in a magnificent, gripping saga. Seemingly disparate stories are begun, and then abruptly stop; only to be picked up again as the threads linking the two dimensions are drawn together. In Diggers Row, in the American West, in 2001, a boy named Billy disappears before his friend’s eyes while they’re out hunting. Then we are transported to Vereld, a world grown complacent over time with no apparent threat to make maintenance of the fortifications against enemy invaders seem a necessity. We meet Rather, a healer – although he terms himself more hedge wizard than mage – who is summoned to the house of a peasant couple to attend to their autistic boy. Something is terribly wrong. The boy, a savant, has covered the walls in his bedroom with prophetic sayings. Rather is able to translate and, having an eidetic memory, remember them. Then all hell breaks loose… The reader is swept into a loathsome maelstrom of black magic as a grim and awful dark god awakens and starts to get his grip on a world totally unprepared for the onslaught. There are many sorcerers willing to invest their powers in the creation of hybrid, monstrous creatures to fight in a battle that draws on black and white magic. As the story unfolds, we are introduced to three Redeemers – Anili, Jon and Orrin - whose stories merge so that they can fulfil their part of the prophecy and save humanity. The story moves from Billy’s disappearance - which elicits the interest of the US security forces, and other, more unscrupulous parties anxious to commercially exploit this new dimension’s resources – to events in Vereld that link the two dimensions, to the Nazi interest in Jon’s great-uncle’s castle that holds a great secret, and finally unites the three people who can stem the impending tide of destruction.

I absolutely loved this book. It’s hard to find the words to encompass the scope of this bold and brilliant tapestry. Although there are strong hints of the influence of Tolkien, this story is uniquely the author’s own. Greg McLeod is a true ‘Wordlord’ in that he can describe a scene so beautifully and yet so succinctly that the reader imagines themselves transported there, be it a battle, a moment of quiet beauty or introspection, or the unfolding of a character’s development. I was captivated by this tale and although the abrupt changes in the story, as a new scenario is introduced, take some getting used to, the author deftly draws the reader back and reignites their attention. I loved the side characters who got equal attention in their portrayals as much as the main characters. The seven Unborn, misshapen and frightening to behold, but tender, compassionate and gentle, were wonderful. There is such a vast cast of characters that one is hard pressed to pick out particular names. They are all well developed and serve their purpose, from Baran the soldier tasked with protecting Anili, to Torgrim the wizard mentoring Jon, to the forest folk who saved Orrin from captivity. I also enjoyed the quotes that prefaced each chapter, in which a reader may glean more about coming events as well as information about how the magicality of Vereld works. Greg McLeod has created a compelling tale of good versus evil, with a unique and yet realistic fantasy world, populated with characters that rise to fulfil their destiny for the greater good, no matter what the cost. This story has everything for the fantasy fan, as well as the reader who enjoys a deep, well constructed plot, believable and appealing characters, and imaginative and credible world-building. Five stars!

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