The first and most immediate thing that I can say I loved about this novel was its sense of identity. There’s an issue with constructing secondary worlds in which the world can feel like a non-cohesive hodgepodge of elements seemingly thrown together for a cool factor. Not here. This work knows what meal it wants to serve you and justifies everything it throws into the recipe. There’s a level of confidence in the writing that quickly pulls you in and doesn’t let you go until all the secrets are on the table.
History and the things it buries is the bubbling cauldron that the people in this world are having to wade through. Set in a North African styled world, LOST GODS centers on a brotherhood of assassins known as the Shedaim. They are considered whispered legend in the world around them. A familiar trope, yes? But POC deserve to see ourselves existing in these tropes as much as white audiences. So do not let the familiarity be a turnoff as the story brings a political heft to the order of assassins that I don’t usually see in other books of this kind. The way the history of the Shedaim ties into their larger world is for both good and ill.
Neythan is our main character in this world. He’s a newly initiated member of the Shedaim, but despite that success is still largely unsure about his place in the world. Past choices and an exiled guardian leave him with a lot of internal conflict. He’s quickly put in opposition against the order he worked so hard to join and is thrust on a quest to ultimately clear his name. There’s almost an element of The Fugitive to this plot line in the story and it makes for compelling action scenes, a heightened sense of tension in every chapter we get from his POV and an element of “what’s really going on here” that I love in stories.
What makes this story really shine is that the characters are products of their world and not set pieces just dropped into it. The motivations for each of these characters are intrinsically tied into the worldbuilding. We live in a time where people, particularly those in positions of power, emphatically want to insist that the past has no bearing on the present. That atrocities of the past could not possibly hold weight on the descendants of those they were committed against. This book is refreshing in its refusal to give such malarkey any weight. History flows throughout the narrative and motivates these characters into making choices.
So do you like assassins? Do you want something non-Eurocentric? Do you enjoy books that shine a light on how the powerful may change history’s tale, but that you can never change its consequences? Then LOST GODS might be for you.