Mad God’s Muse by Matthew Gilbert

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I read the first in this series for my 100 SPFBO book challenge last year, I enjoyed the first one and was happy to read the second book when I got the request.

Like the first book, this one also has a prologue at the beginning, but it’s about half as long as the one from the first book, which I prefer. It makes it easier to get into the story when you don’t spend a long time in the prologue only to “start over” again when you hit chapter one, it helps with the pacing.

This picks up shortly after the events of the first book, Aiul was imprisoned and injured sometime during that imprisonment. His mother Narelki is trying to find answers to why her son is violent and nonverbal. The answer is a complicated tangle of events and motives. Narelki is a snarky motherfucker but manages to maintain her stoicism most of the time. She doesn’t usually say the cold-ass shit that’s in her head since she is the head of a house it’s somewhat expected that she act with dignity. However, with her son sick her composure starts to falter, she visits him every day sometimes multiple times a day hoping for a change in his condition. Her own health is starting to be affected, and the attending doctors start to encourage her to think of the possibility that this may be permanent, and there’s no need to torture herself like this, if things will change, it will take time. The attending physician is also a part of her house, but he’s also involved with Aiul’s present condition. He does feel bad about it, he was forced into it under threat of death, but if Narelki ever finds out his involvement it will mean his head.

The official story is that Aiul knocked himself unconscious while trying to escape, and may have permanent brain damage. He now has two settings, off, and raving lunatic. He’s gone completely mute unless he’s attacking people around him. His wife died in the last book and it’s left him pretty broken, what’s worse is that his mother put those events in motion and has no small part in the outcome. There’s a lot of backstabbery and fuckery going on in this book.

Despite Aiul being more or less a vegetable at the start of the book, we still get his POV via flashbacks of his imprisonment. Then Aiul starts to have feverish dreams where the Dead God, Elgar, comes to speak with him. Aiul had vowed he would make a deal with the devil himself to get him out of prison to seek his revenge on those that put him in there. It looks like a God answered him. Aiul and Elgar merge, and Aiul starts killing everyone in sight and then raising them back from the dead to form a small army. Swords are breaking against his skin, he’s as solid as stone and overly-strong as well. He’s seemingly unstoppable. After rampaging a bit he does snap out of it and become “himself” again and finds that he’s now a “Knight of Elgar”, along with another character, Logrus who has saught him out amongst the chaos.

And UGH, goddamnit, Kariana is back. I still hate that psycho but I think she’s supposed to be slightly less annoying in this one? She has a few humanizing scenes where she feels guilty that she has “failed” at her duty to keep the Eye safe. The Eye is a necklace that was mentioned in the prologue, it allows the wearer to see all things and know all things at once, it grants omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience all at the same time. It’s been passed down for generations and her father told her to keep it safe at all costs, however, when Aiul and the Dead God merge, the first thing he does is go straight for the Eye and take it for himself. If Aiul/Elgar get the Eye into their possession, things could be dire indeed.

Ahmed is in quite the predicament, he’s on a boat with a bunch of hardened warriors trying to convince them that they need to stay where they are and fight the prophecy laid out by the Dead God, but the captain/leader is like “yeah no, we’re leaving”. He tries his best to channel his father and what he would have done in the same situation, he’s desperate to convince them to stay because he knows that if they leave it could mean horrors for the rest of the world. Ahmed ends up losing the argument and the fleet heads out to go home… but Ilweh’s will capsizes the boats, kills the captain, and Ahmed is forced to jump overboard to try and save himself. Before the captain dies, though, he gives Ahmed a few things for safe keeping and instructs him to bring it to Prince Philip.

The writing was pretty solid, I wasn’t catching many grammar or spelling errors while reading. The prose is straight forward-ish, without a ton of simile, metaphor, or flowery turns of phrase. The pacing was sort of slower because of how many POV’s the story is following, sometimes POV’s are introduced later on in the book and it takes a bit to find out why they’re relevant to the story.

Side note: I read a review for this that had noted problems with the font, page breaks, and formatting. I didn’t find anything like that in this one so I assume the author fixed it.

Audience:

  • multi pov
  • epic stories
  • gods/prophecies
  • intricate plot
  • morally ambiguous characters
  • undead/zombies
  • possessions

Ratings:

  • Plot: 13/15
  • Characters: 12.5/15
  • World Building: 12.5/15
  • Writing: 11.5/15
  • Pacing: 10/15
  • Originality: 11/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 7.5/10

Final Score: 78/100 – 3.9/5 GR stars – recommended!

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