Downfall of the Gods by KJ Parker


Book of the Year 2016 (see all)

Downfall of the Gods is a standalone novella by KJ Parker, a story about a pantheon of gods and how they interact with the mortals who worship them. I've always been a fan of KJ Parker's novels, so I've always been meaning to try one of Parker's novellas, and I'm glad I did because this was an excellent story.

Downfall of the Gods imagines a pantheon of Greek inspired gods and presents them as a bickering squabbling family, similar to a stereotypical Greek family. The story follows Artemis, goddess of charm, who breaks bad by wilfully choosing not to provide salvation to a murderer (Lord Archias) who had done all the right things in terms of penance and prayer. At the behest of her father, Artemis provides Lord Archias with a chance at redemption and salvation - accompany her on a journey to the underworld to retrieve the man he murdered at great personal and spiritual risk. What follows is an exploration what the nature of gods might be, the importance of faith, and a brief exploration of what it means to be human in comparison to being a god.

What I liked about this story was the wide cast of gods and the ways in which their interactions shaped the world of the mortals below them. These gods have been around for an eternity, are all powerful, probably all knowing, but end up being quite immature and juvenile because they are bored. Gods will frequently play tricks on each other, set in motion complex plans of sabotage and vengeance that cause huge rifts between family members, and engage in all manner of petty fights that last only a few paragraphs on the page but result in the passing of months in the mortal world. This all causes much angst and frustration for mortals who are trying to interact with gods, because they are unable to shape the world, they j1ust have to react to what the gods decide. "Wait here, I'll be back in a moment," Artemis will say to Lord Archias, and she will only be gone a moment, but a moment to her results in 6 months passing in the mortal world and by that stage Lord Archias has almost starved to death in an arid inhospitable desert.

What brings this all together and makes this story so readable is the humour and wit that is present throughout the story. This primarily conveyed through argument - Artemis and Lord Archias have frequent exchanges that explore a variety of different themes, with Lord Archias taking great care in the way he formulates his argument, and Artemis showing great nonchalance in telling Lord Archias that he's wrong whilst rarely letting him know why he's wrong (it makes those times where Artemis does explain why Lord Archias is wrong so much more powerful). This is a story that takes two characters with diametrically opposed personalities, two diametrically opposed argument styles, and forces them to clash in a way that seems to be taken straight from my workplace. In most stories the arguments are between two strong personality types, so it was great to see something new explored.
I apologise for this "non-review", I really struggled to put together the words that would describe the book and make it seem enticing without revealing the true nature of the story. There is a plot and I think it's fantastic, especially the ending, but this book is more about the journey, the exploration, and the arguments that lead to the titular downfall of the gods. I can't really tell you what this book has to offer because it is something you have to see for yourself. This is story that needs to be experienced, and I will wholeheartedly recommend that you experience what it has to offer.

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