After hosting the cover reveal for War of the God Queen, David Hambling kindly provided me a paperback copy as a gift. As I enjoyed his Harry Stubbs series (I can prove this with my reviews of The Elder Ice, Broken Meats and Alien Stars), I also agreed to review his latest epic fantasy novel, the first in a new series, Age of Monsters, as well.
|Series: Age of the Monsters #1||Genre:|
|Date of Publishing: January 17th 2020||Trigger Warnings: gore, miscarriage|
|Page count: 375||Publisher: Self-published|
Thrown back through time…
Jessica has only her wits.
Will she find a way to survive long enough to get back home?
She was fresh out of architecture school and ready to take the world by storm. She wasn’t prepared for what came next. An alien encounter that sent her falling through a portal into another world
Jessica’s plight looks hopeless — she doesn’t understand the language, the bronze-age culture, or even how to defend herself. She’s not a Connecticut Yankee and this is definitely not King Arthur’s court.
The locals are unimpressed.
What’s her next move?
Her only goal is to get back home, but Jessica has landed in the middle of something sinister: in the ancient near east, circa 1000 B.C., a war rages.
Can she stop an alien invasion through time?
She’ll need help, but who can she count on?
You’ll love this brilliant take on portal fiction, with twists and turns that are different than what you’ve grown to expect.
When I started to write my review, I had no idea what song I’ll pick to go with War of the God Queen. Then I remembered Shaman’s Harvest‘s last album which has that kind of mood I think goes well with the book. Lucky for me, I think A Longer View is a pretty good match too.
David Hambling‘s name was definitely not unfamiliar to me. I immensely enjoyed his Harry Stubbs series, so I was really excited to read his latest epic fantasy/horror novel, War of the God Queen, the first in the Age of Monsters series. As the Harry Stubbs series, this novel also takes elements from the Cthulhu mythos – with which I’m still not familiar with. But that did not take away from the reading experience. I went into this book with the expectations that I will enjoy it just as much as I did with Hambling‘s other books, but, as much as it pains me to admit, I did not. (Might as well tear off the bandage right at the beginning.) I’m not quite sure if it’s me or the book, honestly. But let’s start from the beginning.
Jessica, a young archeologist after an accident finds herself a few thousand years into the past from 1920’s London. The people she finds thinks her a goddess come to help them to fight against the Spawn. With her limited knowledge and resources, Jessica attempts to modernize the nomads while also getting them ready for a war. Her goal is to get rid of the monsters and also to find a way back home. Whatever the cost. She is not alone in her quest. After mastering the language, Amir the leader of the tribe agreed to free those women the Spawn held captive to help them breed. Surrounded by her handmaidens, Jessica first teaches them the language, then with their help builds a budding community within the nomads. Coming from different ages and parts of the world, they also bring their different ideas, values, and skills to the table. This creates a unique micro civilization with plenty of tension not only between the women themselves but between them and the nomads as well.
What War of the God Queen does really well is the worldbuilding and bringing the original idea to life. Hambling plays with the idea of what would happen if you brought people together with different backgrounds, from different eras and places, then let them clash with each other. Naturally, all these women have their own ideas how the world should work, or how they should run it. While also facing a threat that might end everything they worked so hard for. It definitely has some thought-provoking going on for it. For example: just because your culture is more advanced, does it mean it’s better too? Is it okay to force change on a culture that doesn’t want it, just because they don’t know whether they want it or not? What rights a person (or a group of people, who are outsiders at that) has to make life-altering decisions regarding others? War of the God Queen does not give us questions, but it makes you think nonetheless. I daresay it even makes you feel uncomfortable a bit.
But while War of the God Queen is well written and has many good qualities, I still struggled with it. Mostly because I just couldn’t make myself care or feel anything about the characters. Jessica is this somewhat arrogant (though I’m not sure if she was intended to come across like that) and a headstrong woman who has pretty clear ideas of what she wants and does not stop until she gets it. No matter the consequences. She means well – at least she does mean to help the nomads as long as she gets to find a way back. She is smart and adapting to her environment and it’s pretty admirable how she survives in the first place. And still. There remains a barrier between her and the reader and her coldness and almost emotionless character makes it hard to care about her or to root for her. War of the God Queen being her story, written in the first-person perspective makes this just so much harder to swallow. I usually prefer this to third person.
The other women in her group aren’t any more likeable. They all have their strengths and flaws and you kinda see what Hambling was trying to accomplish with this book, but somehow the execution fell flat. Which is a pity. Though I need to mention a certain character called Timi, who hails from Hungary. Sounds familiar? 🙂 I wish I was so good with money as she was… I think part of my issue is probably the fact that this book has a pretty large cast and while Hambling did handle them well, giving them all some space, they didn’t get enough time to really shine.
David Hambling certainly knows how to write slow-burn books with just enough action to keep things interesting. I also thought the ending a bit underwhelming personally, even though we get a nice big epic battle. Despite finding it hard to connect with War of the God Queen on an emotional level, I still think you should give it a go. If nothing else for the huge amount of research that went into writing this epic fantasy novel, which is only the start of a series.