Whew, I read this one in August of last year and I thought I had done a review for it. Even the author thought I had done a review for it. I had not. So here it is, a year late. I listened to the audiobook version of this and really enjoyed it, so if you like audiobooks maybe check that one out.
I’ve come to like urban fantasy, it’s a genre I used to stay away from but it’s grown on me over the years. Though I do find that within the UF genre there are some repetitious character types, world-building, and plotlines. I’ve read so many detective stories or bounty hunter stories it’s not even funny. It’s super refreshing to find a book in UF that mashes up old school mythos with a modern day storyline.
It starts off kind of slower, in the blurb about the book it tells you about an attack on a hospital, but that doesn’t happen until about 1/4th the way through the book (I think, it’s been a year). The beginning quarter of the book sets up the characters and the world as they knew them, only to turn it on its head.
There are two main plotlines that start as separate things in the beginning and merge about halfway through.
Fiona/Fi is working in a hospital and tending to the elderly, she’s been assigned to one patient in particular, an older man named Peter who’s suffering from dementia. He’s taken a particular shine to her and only responds positively when she’s around. Fi is somewhat involved with another health care worker named Zeke. The book actually starts off after a disastrous night between the two. Fi makes a move for Zeke while they’re alone and he rejects her and it goes over poorly, she hightails it out of there after he rebuffs her and heads for home, where she lives with her uncle Edgar. Her father was never in the picture and her mother died years ago, and it’s one of the things she and Zeke have in common. He grew up in foster care, and his foster mother died the year before.
Then there’s the perspective of the First Born, demi-god like creatures that have been around almost since the beginning of time. There’s an entity known as “Father” that created the First Born, and on down the line, there are Second Born, Third Born, Fourth Born etc. The First Born are turning on each other, and there’s a group of them hunting down and killing their siblings. This book takes all the worlds mythos and combines them, with the idea that all mythology has an aspect of truth to it, from the Norse gods to the ancient Egyptians. I really wish I had even the smallest bit of background in mythos because I would have gotten so much more out of this book. I was confused a few times when there were large groups of First Born interacting because I would lose track of who was who at points – sometimes audiobooks aren’t the best way to do the first read-through of a book.
These two plotlines merge when the First Born come to Fi’s and Zeke’s hospital looking for her patient, Peter. After that, there are a lot of reveals and explanations to questions that had been in the back of my mind for a while. Peter isn’t who he appeared to be, and the whole world as Fi knows it was turned upside down.
The First Born come in all sorts of animal shapes fused with human characteristics, giant bat-like monsters, crocodile, bull, rhino, eagle etc. Vampires and werewolves come into it a little later on, as well as mentions of Thor and other well known and ancient deities. The First Born are incredibly powerful and have been around long before the last ice age, and are now having to adapt to a life where they share the planet with humans that have advanced technology. It used to be easy to trick humans into believing the First Born were regular people passing through a town, but now with surveillance camera’s and satellite pictures it’s getting harder and harder to hide. I found that aspect of the book really fascinating. Although the First Born have been around for hundreds of thousands of years, it’s not that First Born can’t die, it’s just incredibly difficult to kill them. As the years go on, there are fewer and fewer First Born left in the world.
The writing can be descriptive but I wouldn’t call it flowery, I listened to it on audiobook and found it gave me great visuals of what was going on despite not having much background in mythos and the creatures/gods in them. For the first quarter of the book it was build up and intro to what was going on, but once the attack on the hospital happens things sped up and it didn’t let down much from there.
The originality in this is what I really loved, it’s always nice getting something completely different from its peers within the genre. Since I read so much I find that originality matters more to me than to others, so take that as you will.
Overall this was a great book and I can see why it did so well in the SPFBO competition.
For people who like
- mythos and ancient religions
- urban fantasy
- third person writing
- great audiobooks
- lots of action
- beheadings, so many beheadings
- high amounts of fantasy elements
- Plot: 12.5/15
- Characters: 10/15
- World Building: 13/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 11.5/15
- Originality: 13/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 8.25/10
Final Score: 80.25/100 – 4 stars (recommended reading)
After 4.5 decades of reading SFF, I can agree that originality takes the cake second only to the quality of the writing itself. Paternus delivers.