The first installment of the Godless World trilogy, this debut from U.K. author Ruckley is epic fantasy in the mode of George R. R. Martin and R. Scott Bakker, but with some Scottish flavor.
After two of the world’s five races exterminated a third, the despairing gods abandoned their creation. Hundreds of years later, the great kingdom of the Huanin (i.e., humans) shattered into bickering clans, or Bloods, each ruled by a Thane, with one High Thane above them all. A further split occurred when a fisherwoman began preaching the Black Road, a harsh creed of predestination that promised the gods’ return once the entire world was converted to the Road’s teachings. Those Bloods that followed the Black Road also followed the path of exile into the barren northern lands bordered by the Vale of Stones. One hundred and fifty years later an invading army of Black Road Bloods determines to reclaim what once was theirs, setting off a conflict that will engulf humans, the forest-dwelling Kyrinin race and the magically gifted Huanin/Kyrinin crossbreeds known as na’kyrim. The Black Road army is a substantial threat to the so-called True Bloods, but as the plot progresses it becomes clearer (to the reader, at least) that the greatest potential danger—to all sides—is the desperately needy, always angry and extremely powerful na’kyrim Aeglyss. Well-crafted world-building and sympathetic, fully rounded characters make wading through this complicated setup (typical for such novels) worthwhile.
Readers who like their fantasy dark, multi-threaded and political will sink their teeth into this one.