SPFBO Review: The Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss

25469356I’m just gobbling up these hopefuls. I never doubted though – if Esme, Wol or Coffee like a book, there’s a good, good chance that I will also like that book. It has proven wrong a time or two… and it certainly doesn’t work in reverse all the time (KISSING BOOOOOOOKS) – but it’s a pretty reliable system. 😀

Sable hated the gods. She hated what men did in their name.

Magic is forbidden throughout the Five Provinces; those born with it are hunted and killed. Sable doesn’t know her music holds power over souls—not until, at age nine, she plays her flute before the desert court and accidentally stops her baby sister’s heart, killing her. Horrified by what she’s done and fearing for her life, she flees north, out of Provincial jurisdiction and into the frigid land of exiles and thieves, known as The Wilds. There, Sable lives in hiding, burdened by guilt, and survives as a healer. But now, ten years later, someone—or something—is hunting her.

On the run again, Sable’s best chance for survival is Jos, a lethal man from the Five Provinces, who claims to need her skills as a healer to save his dying father, and she needs the large sum of money he’s offered. There’s something about him Sable doesn’t trust, but she doesn’t have many options. A spirit of the dead is hunting her, summoned by a mysterious necromancer, and it’s getting closer.

Sable soon discovers she’s just the start of the necromancer’s plan to take over the Five Provinces, and she’s the only one with the power to stop it. But harnessing her forbidden power means revealing it to the world, and the dangerous Provincial, Jos, she’s beginning to fall for.

“You can plant seeds in other lands, give them plenty of water and sunshine, and hide them from pests, but if the gods designed them for sun and heat, they will not thrive in any other.”

As a Canadian living in Houston – gods above I can relate with that statement. I am not designed for this sort of heat and humidity, lol.

Anyways! Wow, this book, for starters! I finished up one book and decided that I had a little time left on my lunch break to start this one next and before I knew it I was like 35% into it and it was time to go home. So… I mean thanks for that, but also wooooow keeping my interest so hard has been difficult of late, so bravo to Gods of Men. I slammed this thing in a day and a half.

This is the story of Sable, who is a healer in the brutal snowy Wilds where thieves and other criminals are exiled. She’s originally from the bright and sunny country of Istraa, where she was Imari, the daughter of the ruler. Right up until she accidentally killed her younger sister… and fled right into the Wilds, where nobody would ever look for her, or her flute, whose music can apparently stop the heart of a child if she lets loose with it.

Many years earlier, Corinth, one of the Five Provinces, completely decimated the country of Sol Velor because some of their people could use magic. Not all, but some. But… the leader of those people was decidedly kind of evil. To this day, an elite team of Corinthians headed by the brutal Wolf still hunts down the Sol Velorians (or Scabs, as they are known), whether magical or not, and either kill them or bring them back to be… questioned. Jeric, who is the Wolf on top of being the second son of the King of Corinth, and two of his pack, Braddock and Gerald, are sent by his brother the heir, to the Wilds to find the mysterious Sable. Their father is dying and they’ve exhausted all their local ideas, and she is known to be a healer trained by a man from Istraa noted to be one of the best healers in the world. Too bad that Corinth and Istraa don’t particularly like one another.

He poses as Jos, a man who is from the Five Provinces, but is definitely not from Corinth (who are known to hate Scabs and Scablickers, a slur given to people from Istraa as they succored the Sol Velorians in their time of need). He tries to convince her with a giant pile of money, but when that doesn’t work, he’s trying to figure out what will, when a whole bunch of evil stuff shows up and starts hunting her down. So she flees with Jos into the brutal Wilds, chased by shades and evil sorcerers, and other things that go bump in the night.

“You don’t fear them?” she asked.

“I don’t believe in fear. To fear a thing only gives it power over you.”

“It also keeps you alive.”

“A man imprisoned is also alive. But that does not mean he lives.”

This one was so well written and edited right out the gate that like I said, I read a huuuuge chunk of it in one sitting, and then another huge chunk of it in the next sitting. It was an incredibly hard book to put down to do normal day to day activities like making dinner and actually sleeping at some point. I highlighted many, many quotes in this one, as generally happens with books I am really enjoying. It was never boring, and I always wanted to make time to read it.

I really liked Sable as a character, and I rooted for her right from the first page. She’s accidentally powerful and doesn’t want to be, and so flees from those she loves and learns to protect and camouflage herself by living in pretty much the last place one would look for her. She learns to live in a climate that’s nearly anathema to what she is used to. I was at first not so sure what I thought about Jeric/Jos and a romance between them, because, well… he is who he is and his skillset is largely in killing people… but I got there. I wasn’t expecting to get there but oh, I got there. I can see why some eyes got googly and some hearts thumped in each other’s general direction. The last 1/4 of this book gave me all kinds of the feels. My eyes got legitimately misty.

It’s got antagonists that you need to see get their comeuppance (one in particular comes to mind, and he’s not even the evil necromancer, heh). It’s got protagonists that you root for, and just enough romance to give Kristen the Kissy Book Lover something to squee over while not being super graphic about it. However, I will say that to those who find sexual violence uncomfortable in books, this one does imply a lot of it. Nothing graphic here either thankfully, but plenty of instances of these things happening behind the scenes. It didn’t bother me overmuch in the grand scheme of things, though I also felt as though there was really more than enough example to make that antagonist an antagonist without pointing out how rapey he is (it’s a lot) in nearly every scene in which he is present.

Someone tagged this book as YA on Goodreads, and the me that has no idea what in all the hells makes a novel YA is like… uh… well maybe, I guess? Teenage me would have totally loved this book too. But if we were determining what constitutes YA by what teenage me read, then The Babysitter’s Club would be YA… but so would The Stand and Interview with the Vampire, so yeah… we should not do that thing. This one is possibly acceptable for a younger audience, depending on that younger audience. No graphic sexual content or swearing. Alludes to rape quite a lot, and…. well all that murder, more murder, gore, necromancy, muuuuurder, stabstabstabbing, and the genocide/enslavement of an entire race of people and so on… but hey… no swearing or sex, so… uh, I’m sure it’s fine? 😀

So… yeah, this one was definitely a win for me. I really enjoyed this one and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m going to be all over the next book in this series. Ermagherd. 9/10 stars, guys. This one is not only my favorite SPFBO book so far, it’s very likely on the best of 2018 list at this point too. 😀


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