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Godslayer
Jacqueline Carey
Tor, 349 pages

Godslayer
Jacqueline Carey
Jacqueline Carey was born in 1964 in Highland Park, Illinois. After receiving B.A. degrees in psychology and English literature, she spent half a year living in London and working in a bookstore, travelling once the work permit expired. Upon returning to the U.S., she embarked on a writing career, travelling when possible, thus far ranging from Finland to Egypt. She currently lives in western Michigan, where she is a founding member of the oldest Mardi Gras krewe in the state.

Jacqueline Carey's Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Banewreaker
SF Site Review: Kushiel's Chosen
SF Site Review: Kushiel's Chosen
SF Site Review: Kushiel's Dart

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Soyka

J.R.R. Tolkien is frequently faulted, though not entirely fairly, for a one dimensional portrayal of good versus evil. Jacqueline Carey's Sundering series (of which Godslayer concludes the tale begun in Banewreaker and could and should have been published in one installment), takes several Tolkienesque tropes -- the single minded dwarves, the young "ring bearer" on the quest deep into the heart of evil to hurl a talisman to destroy the forces of darkness, the wise wizard full of inspiring if, at times, ambiguous admonitions, a dragon and its hoard and an ethereal immortal princess -- and forges them into something more nuanced. This is Carey's Paradise Lost version of The Lord of the Rings, where the supposed bad guys are more heroic and virtuous than the supposed good guys. And, perhaps consequently, where there is no ultimate victory of one side over the other even as good seems to triumphs over evil.

In other words, this is fantasy that's more like real life. Except possibly for the part where dying for a lost cause is depicted as noble.

Our story so far: seven "Shapers" have formed the world. One of them, Satoris ("satori" is the Buddhist term for enlightenment) Banewreaker (an obvious connotation), has angered the first and chief of the god siblings by providing a Prometheus-like gift (recall that Lucifer means "light-bearer" in Latin and was also the Roman name for Venus, the morning star, whose appearance at dawn heralds the rising of the sun and the renewal of light) to mortal races of his creation. Sides are chosen, a Fisher King-like wounded Satoris and his followers are banished to Darkhaven and a prophecy (of course there has to be a prophecy) outlines the conditions under which this sundering will be reconciled, with the subsequent destruction of the rebellious god and his adherents.

Satoris through his holy trinity of immortalized surrogates -- Tanaros, an Othello with a little more brains, the misshapened Ushahin Dreamspinner and strangely heir apparent, and the fat, war-loving and least developed character, Vorax -- attempts to thwart the prophecy. Of course, just like Oedipus, the steps taken to avert the inevitable lead to its fulfillment. Satoris himself fails to take the one action that would seemingly ensure continuance of his reign. Because, also like Oedipus, as Satoris comes to realize his fate, that knowledge paradoxically frees him to accept it. The god's self-sacrifice (and where have we heard this before?) allows for a second coming, and the wheel turns again, no doubt just to repeat itself for what purpose remains unfathomable. (And though this possibly portends further sequels, I think Carey's purpose here more in keeping with mythological archetypes than future revenue sources.)

Even though we are on familiar territory, and even as we know the outcome, the trick that Carey performs here is to, as Milton did with Satan, create sympathy for characters that in more hackneyed form would be objects of derision. Which is precisely why this fantasy rises above escapist fare, because it more accurately reflects the considerable grey area existing between the simplistic opposition of good versus evil.

Just the sort of thing that should be on the reading list of some of our political leaders, whose failure to understand that concept puts us all in a much more dangerous fantasyland.

Copyright © 2005 David Soyka

David Soyka is a former journalist and college teacher who writes the occasional short story and freelance article. He makes a living writing corporate marketing communications, which is a kind of fiction without the art.


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