The Third God by Ricardo Pinto

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Rating 8.8/10
A very slow and frustrating book but the pay off is definitely worth it.

The Third God is the third and final book in Ricardo Pinto's The Stone Dance of the Chameleon series, published by Bantam in 2009. In The Chosen we were introduced to Carnelian and Osidian, got to explore the politics and brutality of The Three Lands, and felt angry when Carnelian and Osidian were betrayed by the ones they loved. In The Standing Dead we were introduced to the people of the Earthsky, fell in love with beauty of the sprawling plains, and came to loathe Osidian as he systematically conquered each tribe to create his own personal army.

The story picks up immediately from the events of the second book with Carnelian, Fern and Poppy learning that Osidian has massacred the whole Ochre tribe as a means to unite the Earthsky tribes into an army that can challenge his brother Molochite and help regain his rightful place as God Emperor. With Osidian severely weakened after his communion with his God, Carnelian takes up the leadership of the army hoping that he can bring some meaning to the senseless destruction of his tribe by toppling the brutal reign of the Chosen and bring freedom to the people of the Earthsky. As Carnelian and Osidian close in on Osrakum, the battles become bloodier and the consequences become much greater and much more horrific than Carnelian could have imagined. And while the representatives of the two Gods are waging their bloody war, the third God is watching, waiting for the opportune moment to exact the revenge that has been simmering for hundreds of years.

This was a very difficult book to read. I wanted to keep reading it because the settings were amazingly detailed and the characters were so complex and fascinating, but at times I couldn't bring myself to keep reading because just looking at the book reminded me of how slow the pacing was and how long it was taking me to read. As in his two previous books, Pinto has again demonstrated a rare mastery of the English language allowing him to create settings and characters abundant with substance and detail. At times this abundance can be quite excessive and unbalanced, but when Pinto does get the balance right the pages just melt away and this book becomes a pleasure to read.

I think the biggest improvement from the second book is that I have finally come to care about the characters and their stories, even Osidian towards the end. The main cast has been reduced which I believe has allowed Pinto to tighten his control in order to maintain a consistency with his characters that had previously been lacking. The characters just seem far more polished and believable and it makes for a much more engaging story.

This book is very much a showcase of the very best and the very worst that Pinto has to offer, with the brilliant prose and exquisite imagery offset by some very poor pacing that can be quite boring at times. Fortunately, there are enough hooks to keep you coming back during the slow times as the pace picks up dramatically in the second half of the book. This is one book you really need to keep coming back to because in one of the final chapters Pinto delivers two of the most stunning pages of fantasy writing that manages to completely redefine the way you look at the whole series. Those two pages on their own have elevated The Stone Dance of the Chameleon from what was a very good fantasy series to what I think is a great fantasy series that you must read.

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