It is extremely unfortunate that I have to do this, but I am hosting Booknest’s reviews for the foreseeable future in regard to SPFBO. Their site was hacked and has not yet been reinstated, so in the meantime, they will have placeholders here
This review was written by Drew McVittie.
The Thirteenth Hour (The Cruel Gods #1) by Trudie Skies
In the city of Chime, people from a dozen worlds, each with their own God and unique abilities, come together in the hopes of making better lives. Unfortunately some are more vulnerable than others and those are the ones Kayl and her friends seek to help.
Kayl is a survivor, having had a little in the way of connections since she was a child. In effect, the misfit group of Godless has become her de facto family, complete with brothers and sisters of all races. Her work and relationships with them, including investigating those who are likely to be preying on those less fortunate, takes a central role in her life. This has led her to be empathetic, especially toward the more down-trodden, and with a distinct and understandable antipathy towards those in power, whether God or mortal.
While never the most skilled among them, Kayl is shocked to find she has a previously unrealized immunity to the powers of the other races during what should have been a routine surveillance mission. Furthermore, prolonged contact with any of them leads to her taking on both their aspect and abilities as well. The way she begins to develop and harness these unexpected skills is handled in an extremely believable way; flitting between incredulity, fear and delight.
Unfortunately for Kayl, she is not alone in making the above discovery, something which leads to her being accused of murder and becoming the most wanted fugitive in the city. These combine to set off a parallel mystery as she and the professional investigator who ends up having to supervise her work to uncover her origins.
Quentin, or Quen as he asks a select few to call him, is an equally interesting character. At times both more empathetic and more ruthless than many of his fellow Diviners, he is haunted in a number of ways. His doubts and conflicts seem to crystallize around Kayl, leading him to take risks for her sake that he would not otherwise allow himself to consider. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for the way he finds himself torn between his loyalties to his God, his supervisors, and himself.
While less time is spent with Kayl’s fellow Godless, the reader is given insight into many of their back-stories through her interactions with them. Not only does this serve to flesh them out, it also shows the varying ways that the God of each race impacts their people and the reasons some would have to reject them.
The strongest part to recommend The Thirteenth Hour is the world-building, or perhaps worlds-building. While most of the narrative takes place within the various environs of Chime, particularly the Undercity and the Central Square, the twelve other worlds linked to it are constantly referenced, as are their varied peoples. Some love the light and others the darkness, some are avian, amphibian, etc. While most are touched on during the novel, if feels like there is still a great deal of ground to cover in future installments. Between this and where the characters are left here, I definitely want to read more.
8.5 out of 10 aether lamps