The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman
The Sanctuary of the Redeemers: vast, desolate, hopeless. Where children endure brutal cruelty and violence in the name of the One True Faith. Lost in the Sanctuary's huge maze of corridors is a boy: his age uncertain, his real name unknown. They call him Cale. He is strange and secretive, witty and charming - and violent. But when he opens the wrong door at the wrong time he witnesses an act so horrible he must flee, or die. The Redeemers will go to any lengths to get Cale back. Not because of the secret he has discovered. But because of a more terrifying secret that lies undiscovered in himself.
I started on the back-foot with this book. First of all it was bought as a present for me by the missus, and she rarely buys me fantasy books as she can’t remember what I’ve read (hey, sometimes I can’t remember). She’d seen it on the shelf in Tesco’s. Now that’s the second reason - a fantasy book in a national supermarket chain. You just want it to be superb. The final reason was that the cover rocks—I mean it is simply great and the luminaries that sing its praise in and outside of the cover. I really wanted to like it.
And in truth, there’s a lot to like about it.
The story starts in the Sanctuary of the Redeemers, a brutal monastery where young lads are raised in terrible conditions to serve God. We meet three friends—Thomas (Cale), our main character, Kleist and Vague Henri. The friends discover a dark secret within the Sanctuary and flee into the outside world where they travel to the city of Memphis. Whilst there they become embroiled in a Machiavellian world and the Holy War that the Redeemers plan to enact upon the sinners of the city.
Hoffman’s writing is engaging and easy to read and the main characters well designed and interesting. The interplay between the friends is enjoyable and often funny and I really enjoyed the ideas behind the Cale character. But the book feels like a work of two halves. The tone and style of the first part, where the boys are in the Sanctuary is bleak, tense and an absolute page-turner. It felt like a George RR Martin or Scott Lynch dark fantasy. But then when they leave the Sanctuary it starts getting a bit, well, silly. Cale’s character begins to feel inconsistent - at one stage he’s this rock-hard warrior, at another he’s a love-sick puppy and another he’s freaking out in a fight. It’s all explicable but it conveys a sense of patchiness.
Another issue is with the world design. Hoffman has this irritating habit of mixing real place names in with fantasy names, and of mixing real religious aspects with fantastical ones. Perhaps he’s doing something really clever or really ironic but it was lost on me. So the novel starts to feel part historical fantasy, part heroic fantasy and you’re left feeling dissatisfied. For example he has the city of Memphis, Cortina and York, then someplace called Somkheti and then somewhere called Fort Invincible. It’s the same with the names - we have Italian names mixed with British mixed with pure fantasy (Idris Pukke, Arbell, Vipond). Is it a big deal? Not really, but it just makes it appear lazy and poorly thought out, which given the praise it garners, simply isn’t good enough. There are some great scenes. Most of the part set in the Sanctuary, the battle at Silbury Hill in the finale and a lot of the interplay between the friends are well written and I enjoyed them. The book was a good enough read and has planted a degree of curiosity with regards the rest of the trilogy. It just could have been more, especially given the accolade showered upon it.
Ross Kitson, 6/10
I liked this book. I liked it a lot. If you were of a mind to go through the book, looking for contrivances and weaknesses, then you will never be searching for long. Yes, the book is flawed and the world, which is an alternate version of our own, confused me and I would hazard a guess that the author even confused himself on more than one occasion.
But to counteract these failings, indeed to relegate them to little more than asides, is a story arc and characters that are simply wonderful. Add to this the book’s opening, which is one of the most atmospheric and immersive I have ever read, and I am left with far more reasons to recommend than to dissuade.
The beginning is unquestionably the strongest section of the book and while the middle and end have good moments, once the walls of the Sanctuary are left behind the narrative loses a little of its power. However, I enjoyed every moment I was reading The Left Hand of God, never did I wish I was reading something else, doing something else, or ever thought of putting it down. So I would highly recommend this book but with the small caveat that you may need to have your disbelief well and truly suspended in order to enjoy it to its fullest.
All reviews for: The Left Hand of God Trilogy
The Left Hand of God
The Left Hand of God Trilogy #1
The Sanctuary of the Redeemers: vast, desolate, hopeless. Where children endure brutal cruelty and violence in the name of the One True Faith. Lost in the Sanctuary's h...
The Last Four Things
The Left Hand of God Trilogy #2
Returning to the Sanctuary of the Redeemers, Thomas Cale is told by the Lord Militant that the destruction of mankind is necessary; the only way to undo God?s greatest mist...
The Beating of His Wings
The Left Hand of God Trilogy #3
The Beating of His Wings is the third and final instalment in Paul Hoffman's Left Hand of God trilogy, which is preceded by The Last Four Things, a book I reviewed only...
Have you read The Left Hand of God?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Left Hand of God reader reviews
Hanne from UK
I just finished the whole trilogy. "The Left hand of God" was a strong start. Since I have read a lot of different things I'm still looking for something different, something that can still captive my mind, so to speak. Even when English isn't my native language - I have read a lot already in English though, almost more than Dutch - I found what I sought in "The Left Hand of God". It ís different and at times a bit strange, but that was what kept me interested. I can't exactly say what I liked about it so much. There are things I really didn't like, too, (as there is the fate of my favorite character :p ) but somehow I had to go on reading. I was totally drawn to the story. I finished the 3th book yesterday and I feel a bit lost. I fear the whole trilogy might not be good reading for the occasional reader, but this first book might be strong enough to take you further once you are on that train. :) but surely it's gold for die hard readers, readers who look for something different and anyone who opens his or her mind for it.
Xavier from Austria
Completely agree. The first part of the book is outstanding, amongst the most atmospheric writing I have read in a long time. But once the Sanctuary is left behind and Memphis appears on the horizon the quality of the story becomes rather patchy. Still very good in places but it suffers in comparison to what has gone before. All in all though I would recommend it. This book's sequel, The Last Four Things, is rather disappointing but I will still be reading the third book as Paul Hoffman is an author that definitely has talent and is worth persevering with.
7.4/10 from 3 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear while the Lord Ruler reigned with absolute power ...
Half a King
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it al...
The Faithful and The Fallen
Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will...
The Farseer Trilogy
In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma. Born on the wrong side of the sheets,...
The World Tree rises up out of the seething clouds like a green mountain, lifting its children up to the light. All creation nestles in its gigantic branches: all take shel...
Hope and Red
In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two people find a common cause. Hope, the lone survivor of a village massacred by the emperor's forces, is secretly tr...
The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures...
In the cramped west end of Sharakhai, the Amber Jewel of the Desert, Çeda fights in the pits to scrape a living. She, like so many in the city, pray for the downfall...
The Black God's War
Moses Siregar III
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 wa...
Wall of Night
The violence of an age-old war casts a long shadow. It falls on a world where mercy is weakness and conflict is a way of life. Young Malian is being trained to rule. Her pe...
Long ago, the evil God Torak fought a war to obtain an object of immense power - the Orb of Aldur. But Torak was defeated and the Orb reclaimed by Belgarath, the sorcerer. ...
The Emperor's Soul
Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skilful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emper...
Hunt for Valamon
When Crown Prince Valamon is impossibly taken from the heart of Algaris Castle, the only clue as to motive or culprit is the use of unknown sorcery. Reclusive cleric Seris ...
Four millennia have passed since the gods came to Myrillia, creating the nine lands of peace as a haven from the nightmarish, accursed Hinterlands. In all this time nothing...
A Trial of Blood and Steel
Spurning her royal heritage to be raised by the great warrior, Kessligh, her exquisite swordplay astonishes all who witness it. But Sasha is still young, untested in battle...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: