The Black God's War by Moses Siregar III

Rating 9.4/10
This book has style, substance, and a lot of heart.

Against the backdrop of epic warfare and the powers of ten mysterious gods, Lucia struggles to understand The Black One.

Her father-king wants war.

Her messianic brother wants peace.

The black god wants his due.

She suffers all the consequences.

King Vieri is losing his war against the lands of Pawelon. Feeling abandoned by his god, he forces his son Caio, the kingdom’s holy saviour, to lead his army. Victory ought to come soon.

To counter Caio’s powers, Pawelon’s prince enters the conflict. Rao is a gifted sage, a master of spiritual laws. He joins the rajah to defend their citadel against the invaders. But Rao’s ideals soon clash with his army’s general.

The Black One tortures Lucia nightly with visions promising another ten years of bloodshed. She can no longer tell the difference between the waking world and her nightmares. Lucia knows the black god too well. He entered her bed and dreams when she was ten.

The Black One watches, waiting to see Lucia confront an impossible decision over the fates of two men—and two lands.

Synopsis sourced from the authors website (http://sciencefictionfantasybooks.net)

I first come across The Black God's War back in April of this year. It was a free to download novella, a 15 chapter excerpt from the novel of the same name due to be released in August of this year. I was very impressed with the novella (see my review here) and as Moses can probably tell you I had been waiting impatiently for him to hurry up and release the completed novel. Now that I have finished reading the full release, I can say that The Black God's War easily eclipses my already high expectations, and I am now impatiently pestering Moses to hurry up and write book two.

The Black God's War is a familiar story set in a familiar world. We are introduced to the tale of two nations, locked in a seemingly unending war have forgotten the reasons for why they are still fighting, and now that their young and powerful heroes have come of age the end of the war is finally within sight. At the same time we are introduced to a world with an amazing breadth and depth of history, religion and culture, a world that has taken much influence from our own world to create something that feels both familiar and alien at the same time. This familiarity upfront is a good move and Siregar uses it to ease you into the story, drawing you right in and allowing you to explore and become comfortable with two immensely rich cultures until reach the end of the first stanza, at which point the carpet is pulled out from under your feet and you are sent rocketing through the story at breakneck speed. The classic sucker punch - I saw it coming at the last minute, I was not ready for it, and I did not expect to be hit so powerfully by it. And the punches keep coming, the twists and turns keeping you on the edge of you seat right up until the conclusion, and when you turn that last page you can finally take a breath and wonder whether or not that really just happened. When I look back on it, I wonder whether or not Siregar was trying to do too much with the story. There was so much going on, so many characters in motion, so many little twists and turns that it can at times become overwhelming. It is a quality that I really like in a book, but one that can be an issue for readers who do not like to be overwhelmed.

While the story and its events may be lacking in subtlety, the characters have been more carefully crafted with the layers upon layers of complex emotions and relationships providing balance to the story. Siregar, taking a lot of influence from classic Greek poems, has decided to give us two sympathetic heroes in Caio and Rao - one from each side of the war (think Achilles and Hector). Both are spiritual leaders of their own religions, both have immense powers, both are quite spiritually enlightened when compared to their military counterparts, and both want the war to end but can see no way for it to happen unless one defeats the other. They only meet once or twice, they speak very few words to each other, but their relationship is by far the most frustrating yet rewarding one in the entire book. I was physically vocal while reading this book, shouting at both men that they could solve the worlds problems if they would just sit down and talk to each other. Both Caio and Rao are ably supported by friends and relatives whose own stories are so complex that any of them could easily take over as protagonists and you would not feel cheated. All these characters are so diverse, all share the same goal, but are all so stubborn in their beliefs that it is only through severe adversity that they come to sympathise with each other, even though we the readers are sympathising with all characters and sharing all of their emotions from the very start of the book.

The Black God's War is an exploration of the nature of duality in every facet of life. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, the magic provided by the gods of Rezzia complements the abilities achieved through meditation by the Pawelons, karma must be satisfied. Siregar is a scholar in religious studies and The Black God's War is something of a case study into the nature of spirituality, using elements from many of our own religions as foundations for both the Pawelon and Rezzian religions. Something that was completely unexpected was the way that some of the concepts explored really challenged me and my own spiritual beliefs. I'm not a particularly spiritual person but much of the dialogue in this story really resonated with my way of thinking, and challenged me to expand the scope of how I define the world. What made this challenge work for me was that it came without being "preachy", rather it was a side affect that came from the exploration of what happens when you throw two religions at each other head first.  I enjoyed the challenge and I hope that Siregar can continue to weave similar challenges into his future story telling.

When it comes to writing style, Siregar is very fluid. His pacing is a bit slow to start with while he introduces us to the world and culture, but it is very consistent and that makes the book easy to read. When he shifts gears at the end of the first stanza, he does so without you even realising - you go from a couple of a chapters a sitting to three, four, ten chapters a sitting and before you know it the book is finished. The dialogue is solid, the witty banter between characters and thought provoking conversations with gods balance each other nicely. Given the quality of the writing, you would not know that this is Siregar's first novel and he set the bar quite high for any other indie authors who wish to follow.

I enjoyed this book, immensely. It had style, it had substance, and it had a lot of heart. For an independently self published novel, Siregar easily defies the stigma that you can only get a quality book out of a recognised publishing house. From the cover art he designed himself through to the words put down on paper (or e-paper for e-book readers), Siregar has produced a full package of the highest quality and I will definitely be going back for more.

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