We are on the board for real this time, as this is a review written by Kristen and myself!!
The Thirteenth Hour is the story of an interesting world wherein twelve gods rule, and each of them has their own race of people, with distinctly unique powers. Kayl is a Vesper, a subject of one of the more cruel of the gods, who demands tithes from her followers that leaves many of them destitute. Kayl is also one of the founding members of The Godless, a group of people who stand against the gods and refuse to worship them.
Quen is a Diviner, able to stop time and to see people’s recent memories by touching them. Many Diviners are members of The Wardens, a kind of police force that tries to keep order in the world, for better or worse. Quen is sent to investigate the Godless, and does so, running into Kayl and the two of them have many adventures, full of many shenanigans.
I really enjoyed this one. The prose was lovely, and I absolutely loved Kayl as a character. She was relatable in many ways, and so I latched on really early on in the story. When she and Quen met and started investigating things together, I found myself really coming to like Quen more than I did in the beginning. Thirteen is a repeating theme in this one (obviously) but I really liked how the author managed to insert the word thirteen, or make it a focus in so many different ways throughout.
We see the book mainly from Kayl and Quen’s POV, alternating chapters somewhat, and I didn’t find that this took me out of the story like it sometimes does.
I found this world absolutely fascinating to read about, and I definitely can’t wait to read more of Kayl and Quen’s adventures. 8.5/10 stars!
(I wrote this pre-SPFBO)
I honestly can’t remember who told me about this, or why it popped up on my radar since it wasn’t a review request. It just seems to have appeared in front of me and I was like, yay book.
I ‘read’ this via audio, and oh my, what a great performer. RJ Bayley kicked this up a notch giving a lot of life to the characters right from the start. I was hooked within the first few paragraphs. This a world where the gods are real. Praying to them is like calling them on the phone, it creates a direct line of communication to the gods and boy is that a dangerous move. The gods all have their own distinct personalities and what they consider to be blasphemous. If you pray to a god in the middle of a sin you’re likely to be punished, tortured, or executed depending on the offense. I love when fantasy elements play a pivotal role in society. It forces a domino like effect in the world building, and when it’s well done, the effects of magic and gods should ripple down on every level of every day life, which it does here, creating a vibrant breathing world. Shit like this is the kind of reason I started to read fantasy in the first place.
At the start of the story, Kayl is trying to get a group of refugees to safety, she’s what’s known as a Vespa and she’s trying to get her people to safety. There are 12 gods, each creating their own mortals in their own image, leading to 12 very distinct species of humanoids. There are lion people, fish people, bird people, and various less altered humanoids with varying shades of skin tone and hair color etc. Not only do each of the 12 classifications of humanoids look different, they all have unique abilities that are inherent to their domain. The Vespa can hide in shadows, the mesmer can read thoughts, the necro can do weird shit to flesh etc. All of the 12 dominions are supposed to be equals, but lol, they aren’t. There are many domains that are treated as second class citizens, (which include the Vespa), many of them living just above what would be considered slaves. Meanwhile, the Glimmers and the Diviners are more or less running the city of Chime. Glimmers are the wealthiest and also kind of prude, think super Puritan British. While the Diviners control time itself. They are fastidious and organized, and can read into the past and present of any person via touch.
One of the main POVs, Kayl (mentioned earlier), is from one of those lesser subgroups of people called the Vespa, and she’s a member of the Godless, a rebellion group. They are mostly non-violent and call for an end of suffering from the Gods. The Vespa god in particular is cruel, and disposes of her own citizens for gold, and it’s not uncommon for her to torture her own people if she considers them blasphemous. Kayl and her partner Malc are trying to form a resistance, but they being watched and trying to evade the wardens. The wardens are supposed to be a representation of police in a way, all 12 dominions are supposed to be represented in this task force that keeps the peace and the law in Chime.
The other POV is from Quentin, a warden. Not just any warden, but a very powerful Diviner warden who’s got a really bad reputation. The reputation is unwarranted, though. Both of these characters are written in a sympathetic and relatable way, which immediately creates a good amount of tension in the story, since they are on ‘opposing sides’ and the reader is intended to root for both of the POVs.
As far as the writing there is a definite style and flare to the prose that marks the author as having a distinct voice. I believe I’d recognize it again if I saw an excerpt from another book. It’s kind of hard to describe, but it’s definitely there, and I personally enjoyed it.
The city of Chime is run on steam, it’s a wild fantastical place and what’s great is I could see it all. I struggle with visualization so it’s always a find for me when an author can write in a way where I can see the world and people. There was a bit of exposition throughout but honestly I didn’t care since it was done lightly and in a natural way when it popped up in dialogue. More clunky bits of information were put into the beginning of chapters as notes/excerpts from the characters diaries and such which is a great way to try and fit in critical information that otherwise just doesn’t fit smoothly into the narrative or dialogue.
Now, the one aspect of the prose I didn’t like was the romance stuff, which again, if you read my reviews regularly you’ll know I’m not one for flourishing romance. I really don’t care about characters being all hot and bothered for each other, and I didn’t like Malc from start to finish, lol. It was just all lust and no reason for me to care about it since he was off page for most of the book. I DID like the weird awkward feelings that Quentin had for Kayl, that was cute and slow burn and more to my style. For romance people I imagine this would be a bonus aspect to the book, not a detraction, so your mileage will vary here. The pacing was great, this is a pretty lengthy book, but it didn’t feel that way at all. I just kept wanting to listen, I put this on at like 8 a.m. and continued on until like 10 p.m. so I could finish it in a day.
The world building was just immense and in depth and so well done. I really want to get back in this world again ASAP. I am all about categorized magic and it had been a fucking while since I hit one so it really just mmmm hit the spot. I’ve already gone into a lot of the world building aspect so I’m just going to leave it as, it’s a lot and it’s really interesting.
I’ve been rambling and rambling and I haven’t even gotten to the plot of the book. So dead bodies are turning up that’s not fucking normal. When the citizens of Chime die, they turn into ash or something and their bodies disappear, and their souls go directly back to their gods. Dead bodies just aren’t supposed to be a thing, but now they are. The implication is something is feeding on the souls of Diviners and no one knows why. Quen and Kayl are paired up to try and figure out what’s happening. To make things weirder, Kayl isn’t a Vespa like she thought she was her whole life. She’s showing powers linked to all of the domains, but never quite fits the bill for any one particular domain, her abilities don’t fit any pattern and this has never happened before. She’s not even certain if the wardens allow her to live since she’s such an abnormality. Oh, and she’s got a fucking voice in her head that may be another disembodied soul she’s sharing her body with that she thought was her imaginary friend as a kid but has since learned it’s a twin soul. Lol, sorry lady. Your shit got weird real fast.
I mean, there’s so much going on here that I kept going until there wasn’t anything left to read and I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel which is coming out in a few months.
- Plot: 13/15
- Characters: 14/15
- World Building: 14/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 12/15
- Originality: 12/15
- Enjoyment: 8/10
Final Score: 85/100