Monday, May 20, 2024

Book Review: Godly Heathens

Godly Heathens 
by H.E. Edgmon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 - 4 stars. I didn't love everything about this... about 75% of the way through I felt like I lost the thread and didn't really get back to it until closer to the end. However I'm glad I stuck it out as I suspected at some point this confusion was intentional. H. E. Edgmon is making the reader feel as disoriented and confused about who is who (as each character has multiple names, memories, and recognition of themselves) in such a way as it is the closest I (as a bisexual woman) may ever come to having even an iota of understanding what it might be like to be confused about gender and sexuality as a teen (my own understanding of being bisexual was helped along by some key late 90's, early LGBTQ+ Internet pages) .

I'm looking forward to recommending this to my trans cousin and seeing what she thinks. I am confident she will want to read it when I tell her it's complex like Gideon the Ninth (Tamsyn Muir), as godly as Banewrecker (Jacqueline Carey), and as teenage romantic as Aristotle and Dante (Benjamin Alire Sáenz). It also features realistic physical moments between a trans character and their partner; such as running fingers over top surgery scars. I shivered a little at this at felt so genuine and definitely very intimate.

All that said... there are three important things to know, in my opinion, going into Godly Heathens: 
1) The ending is abrupt and a cliffhanger. I was lucky to have book 2, Merciless Saviors at my fingertips to start immediately. You are likely to want to do the same. It is about one minute between the end of the first book and the opening line of book 2. I greatly dislike this, as it gives no reminder of the story if there has been some time between books (it's also just rude to readers to give no real ending at all...). I'm also not a fan of reading books one after another for fear of getting tired of characters or the story. That said, her I am making the exception for the first time in years.

2) There are a lot of characters with different names, abilities, memories, and situations. It's a lot to keep track of. I did not realize, until near the end, that there is a cast of the god characters at the back of the print book. However it should be noted that the list has spoilers for events in this first book.
One thing that does help a lot with this issue, and perhaps saved me at times, was listening to some chapters on audio. The narrator does a brilliant job of defining the characters and being consistent with the voices of each. In the end it helped me keep things together enough to keep going and not feel like I needed to reread/listen to sections, or just give up on the whole story. I did swap between audio and print a few times, and I'm glad I did. This gave me time to absorb some of the story in my head in print; but the audio helped define the different characters when I was lost. Kudos to the narrator for keeping the voices consistent and distinct (without being silly or obnoxious).

3) Morality and love are brilliantly put in opposition of one another in Godly Heathens. Edgmon takes us on a crazy journey and confuses us as much as the leading POV character is. It is brilliant; and it is frustrating. At times I wanted to yell at our non-binary lead to tell them to just do something!! Yet I also understood why they didn't (generally because of their heart being in the way). At the end of the day I love Edgmon's continuing message: "Surviving does not make us evil".

And now I am doing something I almost never ever do... I am heading into book 2 immediately. As I went to listen to the first chapter or two; and now I'm sucked in. (Insert a maniacal winning laugh here from Edgmon and the publisher that I'm caught in their web, lol.) So I suppose they win this round as I break my usual rule of waiting a book or two before heading into the next in a series.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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1 comment:

Leonore Winterer said...

Uh, this one sounds exciting. You know, I'm actually *trying* to read sequels closer together lately. I tend to want to savour a series, but then I end up never getting back, or when I do I forgot most of the finer plot points, so now I'm trying to get back to binging book series like I did when I was much younger.