SPFBO Review: Aching God by Mike Shel

38769599Getting a pretty good start in this new year with the SPFBO finalists! This one had an audiobook so that made it a lot easier for me to fit it into my day at work! 🙂

The days of adventure are passed for Auric Manteo. Retired to the countryside with his scars and riches, he no longer delves into forbidden ruins seeking dark wisdom and treasure. That is, until old nightmares begin plaguing his sleep, heralding an urgent summons back to that old life.

To save his only daughter, Auric must return to the place of his greatest trauma: the haunted Barrowlands. With only a few inexperienced companions and an old soldier, he must confront the dangers of the ancient and wicked Djao civilization. Auric has survived fell beasts, insidious traps, and deadly hazards before. But can he contend with the malice of a bloodthirsty living god?

This is the story of Auric Manteo, who is a retired member of a league of relic hunters and adventurers. With his wife and son dead, all the family he has left is his daughter, and when he receives word that there is a plague caused by a cursed relic rampaging in the city and that his daughter is a victim of it, he agrees to a mission given to him by the queen to return the relic to whence it came – a tomb in the Barrowlands inhabited by a being only known as The Aching God.

Auric is a really interesting character. He is flawed, and definitely suffers some PTSD from his last foray into the Barrowlands. He blacks out at the sight of blood. He relives the deaths of his friends that occurred during his last mission frequently, in waking dreams sometimes as well as sleeping ones.

The band of adventurers that accompany him on his mission were also interesting and unique. There’s a sorcerer, and a healing priest, an alchemist, and a couple of fighters, one who uses a mace and the other a sword. These guys really gave the story the feel of an intricately crafted D&D session, in a way. It was a dungeon crawler, in its way.

The book was very well written, and had plenty of twists and turns in the plot to keep it engaging enough, but I found that I had a very hard time getting engaged with it in the first place. There was nothing that was outright repellent about the book at all, but I just couldn’t stay interested in it, and found my attention wandering away from the book a lot. This required a lot of rewinding in order for me to keep up with what was going on. By about halfway into the book, I was finally hooked into it though. I listened to the last quarter or so of it in one sitting, so once I got there, I got there.

This audiobook is narrated by Simon Vance, which was a huge draw for me listening to the audio rather than sitting down with the book. Here’s the thing though… and I can’t believe I am saying this… but I… didn’t love Vance as the narrator. I liked his narration of Auric, which I suppose is what carried it along to the end for me… but overall, the narration just felt kind of… just alright to me. However, that said, other friends of mine who have listened to the audiobook found the narration to be amazeballs, so this is entirely subjective. Give the sample on audible a listen, and you may just love it. 🙂

It’s kind of the Temple of Doom. With more doom! 😀

All told, it was a very good book, but I wasn’t in love with it. I certainly enjoyed my time with it enough that I finished it, and I have to say that the last half or so of it was a lot more engaging than the first half for me. I had 7/10 stars of fun with this one, in the end. (This is not our team’s final score – this is one score that will be averaged with the scores of other members of Team Weatherwax). 🙂


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