Timy reviews The Last God by Michael McClung, a novella consisting of three novelettes. It fits into the Amra Thetys series by McClung but it’s not necessary to read it to enjoy this book.
|Series: Amra Thetys
|Date of Publishing: October 31st, 2017
|Trigger Warnings: death, explicit language/swearing
|Page count: 165
From the author of the Amra Thetys series comes a new novelette set in the same world, featuring the world’s grumpiest old man:
Sage Lhiewyn, high priest of the god of knowledge, would like nothing better than to spend his remaining days getting his naps in and collecting offerings from what few faithful remain. Unfortunately, he’s going on a pair of adventures instead. With his less-than faithful acolyte at his side, Lhiewyn will have to face down a rampaging sewer demon and outwit the beautiful, wily priestess of a foreign god bent on unearthing his greatest, most terrible secret. Looks like his nap will have to wait….
A note to potential readers: It is not necessary to read the Amra Thetys series to enjoy this novelette, though of course I think it would be an excellent idea if you did. -Michael McClung
I’m not 100% of this choice, but I honestly had a hard time trying to pick a song. I think Forget It by Breaking Benjamin fits once you read the book.
I’ve read a scandalously few books from Michael McClung yet, but those I enjoyed immensely. I got a paperback copy of The Last God as a Christmas gift from the lovely Justine and I finally got around to jump on it. As I’m struggling with reading these days, it was just the perfect size and fun I was looking for.
Let me start by saying that I fucking love Lhiewyn. He is definitely one of my favorite characters ever, and I was super happy when I found out there is a whole book with him in the lead. I knew I had to get my hands on The Last God and I was not disappointed. Now, you need to know two things before we get to the review. First, you don’t need to read any of the books in the Amra Thetys series to enjoy this book (although please do read it as it’s awesome, I’ve reviewed The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids before). Secondly, this is a collection of three novelettes which overall add up to a novella, telling an interesting story about Lhiewyn, the high priest of Lagna, the god of knowledge, and a snarky bastard you can’t help loving.
Down In It
Lhiewyn is asked by Lord Morno, Governor of Lucernis to investigate why the new sewage system isn’t working as it is supposed to do. To his and his apprentice, Jessep’s immense joy, the cesspit had become the home of a shit demon that is not happy to leave its newfound home. Which results in wreaking some havoc in the city that Lhiewyn and a rather reluctant Kluge – a mage and the commander of the city watch, who might be familiar to those who read the Amra Thetys series – to clean up. Now, I’m usually not into potty humor, but honestly, you just can’t read through this story without laughing out loud at least once. Partly because of the absurdity of the whole situation and partly because of Llhiewyn’s charming self. He is a foul-mouthed, self-proclaimed asshole who likes to aggravate everyone who comes to him to disturb his quiet life. Regardless of whether he likes them or not, although chances are he does not.
He signed. “Is there any indication that you might have noticed of a daemonist at work, Sage Lhiewyn? Or of a hell gate?”
“No, Kluge. Just a shit demon in a cesspit.”
“That no one else sees.”
“I’ve got hemorrhoids older than you, Kluge. If you’re trying to be a noticeable pain in my ass, you’ll have to work a lot harder at it.”
Not long after the shit demon problem, Lord Morno invites Lhiewyn to a state dinner to welcome the Chagan delegation. As you can imagine, having Lhiewyn present for such events tend to be rather hilarious. However, this story brings us deeper into Lhiewyn’s secrets. We get to learn a bit about the wider world of this universe with the Chagan’s appearance and especially one young priestess Chang Ying who befriends Lhiewyn. This story also gives us an insight into the theology in this world, and especially the questions of godhood. Naturally, Chang Ying has some ulterior motives to befriend the high priest of Lagna, but that doesn’t stop Lhiewyn from being entertaining. We learn about Lhiewyn’s past, a part I wouldn’t mind reading more about as it sounds like great material for an adventure, even if we know now how it ends.
“The gods don’t care what you think of them, any more than you care what your cat thinks of you. They don’t derive their legitimacy , if that is the correct word, from us mortals, and you won’t suddenly change that by deciding you don’t think they’re godly enough to suit your sensibilities. If you want to redefine godhood, there’s nothing to stop you trying. But the gods won’t notice or care, and so you are, in essence, engaging in theological masturbation – fun enough, but ultimately pointless.”
The God of Forgetting
After his little adventure with Chang Ying, Lhiewyn is now forced to deal with a murderer along with Kluge. This time we are getting into the business of the local gods. All of the events, hints, crumbles of information leading up to the reveal of some deeply buried secrets and Lhiewyn will have to use all his wit to solve the murders and deal with the culprit. We also arrive at the grand reveal of this book, which in hindsight should have been obvious, but I never saw it coming. I have to say, it’s a pretty clever twist and one that fits really well into the narrative. I was way too focused on having fun with Lhiewyn and am now have to give a nod of appreciation to McClung for the build-up, the execution, and generally for creating Lhiewyn and this world.
“Is it a custom of yours to insult someone who offers aid?” Bath asked. “It seems rather self-defeating.”
“I’m an old man. It’s my privilege to be insulting to anyone, any time.”
“Old as you are, you are still an infant in terms of the elevated,” he said.
“Well, all you gods are eternal children. Emotionally, you’re toddlers who don’t mind stooping to war, plague, famine or worse when you don’t get what you want. Which is my polite way of telling you to go fuck yourself, in case you were wondering.”
As you can see from the quotes, The Last God is not for those who don’t like crude language or a lot of swearing. Lhiewyn’s character is just one of those who like insulting others in clever ways and McClung is rather good in finding the balance between it being entertaining rather than hurtful. While Lhiewyn does like to use his snarky tongue on others, they never fail to answer him in kind. And despite the grumpy old man exterior, he does care about others, such as Jessep for instance. I think why I love Lhiewyn so much is because he kind of reminds me of myself, although I still have a lot to learn to achieve the level of not giving a shit as he did. And while I mostly focused on the fact of how much fun I had reading this book, it’s worth mentioning that it’s not all shit and giggles. Under the humor, McClung shows that he has great skills as a storyteller. Each story has its own arc and climax but it all culminates in the third story which is also the high point of the overall arc of the book. And if you pay attention to the little hints, they make perfect sense in the grand scheme of things.
I don’t think I can ever get enough of Lhiewyn and really my only real complaint regarding this book is that it’s not nearly long enough. I demand more, McClung!
With its 165 pages, The Last God provides perfect entertainment for an afternoon and one which will make you laugh out loud and keep you glued to the pages. If you won’t fall in love with Lhiewyn’s character by the end, I’ll take that as a personal insult and we are not going to be friends anymore. (Just kidding, but I’ll be very disappointed nonetheless.) The Last God should be prescribed for those who love snarky, foul-mouthed characters, humor mixed with a good dose of mystery and fantasy focusing on gods/myths. Can’t. Put. It. Down.