- Paperback: 565 pages
- Publisher: Pyr (20 Sept. 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1633882039
- ISBN-13: 978-1633882034
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.8 x 21.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,214,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Gods of Nabban Paperback – 6 Sep 2016
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"A lyrical and beguiling fantasy of gods and tortured souls, of grand magics and human frailty. Wonderful books that stand well above your average epic, Johansen's novels are beautifully written, timeless fantasy Tolkien himself would have loved."--TOM LLOYD, author of Stranger of Tempest "If you like epic fantasy full of flawed, diverse, bickering characters banding together to heal both their world and themselves, Gods of Nabban has got you covered. If you want a story with compelling, psychologically rich characters and a fascinating setting of empires, nomads, gods, and ghosts, it has all of that. And if you enjoy the pure sword-and-sorcery thrill of watching the toughest SOBs on the planet facing down a ruthless army of evil, it's got that too. K. V. Johansen takes you on a fantastic journey you won't forget." --CHRIS WILLRICH, author of the Gaunt and Bone series "K. V. Johansen has woven a fabulous epic. Exciting, passionate, and lyrical, with characters that loom larger than life on a grand stage." --JON SPRUNK, author of The Book of the Black Earth series "KV Johansen has crafted a captivating world of gods, demons, wizards and warriors. Enriched by a keen eye for character and masterly, lyrical prose this is an insightful look at the corrosive nature of power on the human soul, not to mention featuring some of the best swordfights I've ever read." --ANTHONY RYAN, author of the Raven's Shadow trilogy and The Waking Fire (reviewing Blackdog) "Johansen has found a winning combination: the modern epic fantasy penchant for a cast of thousands and the golden age feeling of a tale of Conan or Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser dueling with gods gone mad."
--Publishers Weekly (reviewing The Lady) "Blackdog is an absorbing story of a man and a goddess on the run, struggling to survive against impossible odds -- all in one can't-put-it-down volume."
--io9 (reviewing Blackdog) "Her world is full of rich and vivid detail... High fantasy for lovers of mythology and of powerful beings in human form, this adult fantasy debut should appeal to fans of Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series."
--Library Journal (reviewing Blackdog)
About the Author
K. V. Johansen is the author of The Lady (Marakand, Volume Two), The Leopard (Marakand, Volume One), and Blackdog, and numerous works for children, teens, and adults. She predominantly writes secondary-world fantasy but is also the author of some science fiction and literary criticism, and of a collection retelling medieval Danish ballads. With an artist friend, she is also working on a manga-style adaptation of a short story set in the Blackdog world. Johansen has an MA from the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. Her lifelong interest in ancient and medieval history and the history of languages has had a great influence on her writing and world building. Occasionally, she masquerades as an editor, freelance journalist, or book reviewer, and dabbles (infrequently) in illustration. She lives in New Brunswick, Canada with a moderately wicked dog.
Top customer reviews
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But first we have Ghu, a former slave, now a god to be? All very strange.
Then there is Ahjvan who gets more effed up with each book. At least he does not have another soul riding his body anymore. But he still can't die and is well effed up.
In Nabban we have a few players, I will not say more. Spoilers you know. But all is not well in Nabban, there is bloodshed and darkness. And everyone wants something. War is coming, well war is already here. Not everyone is fine to be ruled by the Emperor.
There will be fighting, and throne to pull down, and a new god to be made.
It's an interesting series, but I do warn you, if you do not have previous books fresh in your mind, it might be hard. I had to go read my old reviews to remember it all again.
NB You could probably read this as a standalone, but you'd miss a lot of references and backstory.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
In this book, Ahjvar and Ghu become really close, spiritually and ah...physically. Which is what I wanted, so that's why I love the book. As for the plot, it's about Ghu coming home to Nabban only to find the land in chaos, with the emperor killed and his sister declaring herself empress and Daughter of the Gods. The empress is being controlled by a character that was introduced in The Leopard and The Lady.
Yeh-lin accompanies Ahj and Ghu, and I like her very much. She provides the humor and straight talk.
Ivah's story, which began in Blackdog, comes to a close here (I think, idk...there's a time jump in the epilogue, so unless there's time travel or flashbacks, her story might be done). I was happy with what happened with Ivah. She found her purpose and place in the world. And, given the US election, I was happy with the role that Ivah took on. All in all, highly recommend if you enjoyed the previous books.
Bottom-line up-front, if you like dense, epic novels, and take your literature with two dollops of social progressive themes then you will absolutely love this book (and the three others in the series to date).
If you are not up for a detailed new world with several hundred names and backgrounds to immerse yourself in, or you prefer your speculative fiction to be an escape rather than a head-on confrontation of real-world social justice issues then this might not be a good book for you.
The writing is superb. The dialogue flows naturally, and the descriptions are at exactly the right level of detail to tell, but not tell too much.
From the dozen pages of persona dramatis listed at the beginning to the several hundred pages of story, Gods of Nabban reminded me a lot of Steven Eriksen's mammoth series starting with Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 1).
The premise of this book is that the protagonist, Ghu, was rid of a possession by a devil in a previous novel and now heads to Nabban to become the new god of the land. The old gods are dying, and this has a noticeable and dire effect on the land.
The authoress, K.V. Johansen, manages to weave in a number of socially progressive, modern themes into the book that might or might not be consistent with the world she creates, a high medieval setting where having many children and clear lines of familial succession prevented wars and leads to prosperity for the populace. The views of the local populace are amazingly progressive and pro social justice. Johansen attacks patriarchal succession by having the young princess declare herself to be the scion of the gods and starting a bloody civil war. The role and nature of religion, gods, devils, and morality are nebulous at best. The local populace is very accepting of sexual ambiguous characters. Etc. Etc. Etc.
These social themes will offer an instant appeal to many, many readers, and truth be told the social justice themes are really chrome on the body of the story -- neither contribute to, nor take away from the main plot-line that revolves around the cosmological implications of deities that are tied to the land and natural features.
The book was interesting, but it is not a world I would like to step into. But, many readers *love* books that have moral ambiguity, anti-heroes, and a gritty feel and will enjoy the setting immensely.
It is my understanding that the characters Ahjvar and Ghu from this book also appeared in previous volumes. Here, they are more of the main focus, and they are traveling. Ghu, in particular, seems drawn to Nabban and where Ghu goes, Ahjvar follows. Their quest becomes clearer as they near their destination and actually unfolds in a way that works quite well for me. They are joined early in their quest by Yeh-Lin, a sorceress (there is more to her than that, but I don't want to give too much away). Other POV characters include Kaeo, a slave who is both actor and prophet, and Ivah, who travels with caravans at the opening of the novel but ultimately has a more complex history.
In terms of character depth, I actually feel that Ahjvar has the most, even though it is my understanding he figured more prominently in a previous Marakand book. I didn't know, at the outset, what had happened to him previously, and what I saw early in "Gods of Nabban" was a man bent nearly to the point of breaking, someone who was haunted by his past, and, quite honestly, someone suffering from PTSD. Though he worries he will inadvertently harm Ghu or someone else (he doesn't really like being around a lot of people), Ghu wants him along. Over the course of the book, we get flashbacks and dreams from Ahjvar. It's hard to assess how accurately they reflect past events, but they are certainly telling regarding Ahjvar's interpretation of said events, and they both set the tone for and reflect a lot of his behavior. Ahjvar undergoes the biggest transformation, in a way, even though he is not the main focus of the book. But we get to SEE Ahjvar's transformation, we get to be in his mind, even during his worst times, and I just don't see the same depth out of Ghu. (That's not a criticism -- not exactly, anyway. Because of Ghu's nature and eventual role, I think it is fitting that his thought processes remain more distant for the reader.)
Yeh-Lin seems to have made her transformation before the events of this book, or very early on, and has to spend the rest of the book convincing others through words and deeds that she is not the same as she once was. She is tempted a few times but overrules some of her less-than-noble inclinations. Ivah becomes much more important than a caravaner, but she is accepting of her eventual fate and, by all accounts, is quite capable of handling the duties foisted upon her. Basically she has always had potential, always seemed to be something more, even in her early scenes,so her change seems like less of a change. (She also simply doesn't get as much POV time as the other characters.) And then there is Kaeo. It seemed like he was going to be a major player early on. And he is in the imperial capital -- even prophesying for a usurping Empress -- for some important events. But his storyline kinds of just, well, fizzles. He didn't contribute vitally to anything in the second half of the book. In fact, he was dropped from a long chunk in the middle and towards the end. Due to time constraints, it took me awhile to finish this book, and I had nearly forgotten about him, to be honest. I think he either needed a bigger role or needed to be dropped.
In sum, Ahjvar was the most interesting character for me and probably the best-developed overall. Others had varying degrees of complexity. (Those not already named play minor roles. Don't get intimidated by the super long character list at the beginning -- even minor characters who only appear in one scene get listings, as do other characters from the Marakand world who don't appear in this book. In fact, don't even read it, but refer back to it if you forget who someone is halfway through. There were a few minor lords I had trouble keeping straight, for example.) I wouldn't call this the best character development ever, and maybe it would've been more fitting for a first person or third person limited POV kind of story, but it was at least satisfactory. I did find myself caring about the characters and generally found them sympathetic.
The world is interesting to me. I know basically nothing of East Asian culture but can tell from what few details I am familiar with (e.g. about many layers of silk robes in graduated colors worn by royalty) that a fair amount of research went into this book. The world is, essentially, a real one, based on civilizations and customs that actually existed. But, they are customs that are less familiar to Western readers than the standard fantasy fare (pseudo-Medieval European). So you notice little details more so than you might otherwise, and it makes the world seem well-developed and complex. One thing I find a bit puzzling is that the imperial family discriminates against its female members (they are not in the line of succession and those with magical talent are not allowed to advance in their studies) but that, out in the countryside, a woman might challenge a man to a swordfight, women take part in battles on equal footing with men, women might lead armies, etc. But, out in the countryside, girls might be the only heirs a man has, and they show themselves to be capable. They don't have the luxury of hiding away out of the sun, and I guess I can see how that divide might've developed over time. (I also think it is probably blown away shortly after the book ends. But society changes in many ways over the course of this book.)
I can't honestly say what I think about the writing style. Nothing in particular stands out to me, several weeks after having finished the book. (Well, I suppose the language used to convey Ahjvar's PTSD-related thoughts was well thought out.) I suppose this means that it sat back and did its job of relating events without interfering. It wasn't overly grandiose, there weren't any odd turns of phrase.
The magic system here isn't well-defined; it seems that different characters have access to different types of magic (there are things Ahjvar can do based on his country of origin, the same for Ivah, there are things Yeh-Lin is capable of, and Ghu has his own set of rules). This isn't necessarily bad, as I don't really want a long discussion of what each person can do and why (a la Brandon Sanderson), I'd rather just learn about it by seeing it in action. I do think magic was artfully incorporated, and there were appropriate limitations (Ivah having to hold a construct for it to work, Yeh-Lin being constrained in what she can do because she doesn't want the enemy to scry to find her, etc.).
Plot-wise, while there ARE external events, this seems more like an internal journey of Ahjvar coming to peace with himself. There are a few stops on the physical journey, a few confrontations, but there is never a huge sense of danger for our protagonists until quite near the end. *Then* the author ramps up the danger for the main characters quite a bit. (The last third or so was more exciting, as a result. The first part of the book was rather leisurely by comparison.) I guess this increase in action, in the characters' sense of urgency, comes from increasing devastation they see as they travel. Priests, priestesses, and civilians have been slaughtered. Temples have been destroyed. There is also a bit of a mystery to solve, that of who or what is controlling the usurping Empress and what to do about it. If you are looking for an action fantasy, this book is probably not what you want. If you prefer something more complex, where the characters and the world are intertwined and don't mind that the pace is a little slower early on, or if you are looking for a setting that doesn't get much attention from Western fantasy authors, you might really end up liking this one. You don't have to start with "Blackdog," either -- this book is just fine as an entry point, with only the epilogue not making sense outside of the context of the overall Marakand narrative as developed in the other books. Of course if you are a fan of the other Marakand books, you will probably like this one as well.
Review copy provided by the publisher.