The Broken God by Gareth Hanrahan – Book Review

Book 1 review here | Book 2 review here

Series: The Black Iron Legacy # 3
Published by: Orbit
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Review Format: paperback
Purchased Copy.

The third novel in the Black Iron Legacy series, The Broken God awakened my slumbering love for dark, heart-wrenching fantasy. Following the Tripartite Armistice that saw Guerdon divided in three influence zones a-la Berlin and Germany post-World War II, the precarious balance is all but sure to break under the maneuvering of the powerful criminal syndicate of the Ghierdana, its power-hungry dragons, and loyal scion, Rasce. The cast of characters swells with new faces, some more devious than others—Rasce’s not quite chief among them, but close. Rasce’s machinations are a direct product of almost rabid loyalty towards his family, a search for approval that I couldn’t help but feel was fated to end badly. Ordered to take over the city’s alchemical supply trade, Rasce will allow nothing to stand in his way – not the uneasy truce that offers Guerdon a degree of peace, not the defenders of that peace, and not the voice of the New City that only he can hear. As for that voice? It is the last remnant of Spar, whose ability to hold onto parts of himself is slipping more and more—and that is something Carillon Thay has travelled half the world to find a cure for.

The former Saint of Blades is not having an easy go of it, though—far from Guerdon’s New City, “she’s powerless. Harmless as a fucking fly” (15). Cari wasn’t a major PoV character in the The Shadow Saint (just as Eladora isn’t a major PoV character here) and to follow her once more is like coming home after years of wandering—a pleasure and a comfort. That’s not to say that a lot of what she goes through isn’t bonkers insane; some old friends, lots of backstory, and a new sorcerous ally whom I will forever ship with Carillon. Most horrific (and exciting) by far is seeing the Godswar and what it has done to the outside world—these sections are some of the most powerful in the Black Iron Legacy through sheer force of imagination. Here’s a morsel for you:

Carillon and Myri risk being remade by these vanished gods. Both women are fortified against the touch of the divine – one through her sorcery, the other through the remnants of her sainthood, through her eldritch heritage, and both have enough willpower to resist direct assault by these diminished spirits. These gods are still perilous in an oblique manner; at times, Cari’s attention strays from the dusty path, and alien thoughts infiltrate her mind. Once, she imagines what it would be like to tear Myri’s throat out with her teeth, to howl and call her vanished pack…Another time, she finds herself reciting poetry, her words so sweet that honey comes dripping from her mouth. She has the presence of mind to keep reciting for a few minutes after the fit fades, and Myri collects the honey so that they have something to eat at least.

The Broken God, 365

There is more, so much more that shows the boundless creativity Hanrahan is capable of, and it makes me eager to the point of desperation to see where the next novel goes. But that’s far from the author’s only strength: With Gareth Hanrahan’s writing, there is this pervading feeling that no detail he includes is extraneous, no detail is incidental. Both the political intrigue he weaves (here, unlike in The Shadow Saint, the high-brow political intrigue takes a back-street to gangster dealings and spycraft) and the character work at display are impressive. That is exhibited well in the character arc of Baston, a former lieutenant of the Brotherhood whose progression turns the stomach. In a good way.

By the novel’s end, Guerdon is remade once more, the cost of Rasce’s ambitions having marked it in ways you’d never expect at The Broken God’s opening. What I want to find out most is, what’s next? Will the peace hold? What of Cari and Eladora? What of Spar? And the Godswar? It’s only going to get worse, isn’t it? Only time will tell.

I leave you with a final quote that I particularly enjoyed: “Arrogance or pride? The difference between them is one of balance—take pride just a little too far, and you’ll slip and fall.”

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