Paul reviews (extremely belatedly) The Hand of God by Yuval Kordov, the first book in the Dark Legacies Science Fantasy series.
|Series:||Dark Legacies #1|
|Genre:||Science Fiction, Dystopian|
|Date of Publishing:||February 13, 2023|
|Trigger Warnings:||Violence, death, body horror, child death|
For fans of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos, Iain Banks’ Culture novels, A Canticle for Leibowitz and other classic metaphysical science fiction. This compelling new series explores questions of family, faith, and the human condition on the backdrop of a dark post-apocalyptic future. The world ended—twice. Once at humanity’s hand and a second time at God’s, according to legend. Only Esther, the Eternal One, saw it all happen. Chosen by the Messiah to redeem humanity, she heads a holy sisterhood that rules Cathedral, the Last City. Except Cathedral isn’t the last city, and the source of the Revenant Sisterhood’s supernatural power is far from holy. It’s the year 2500, give or take. The passage of time has become as blurry as the gray wastes that cover most of North America. No moon or stars light the night, and demonic hordes smash against the last outposts of civilization. Two reborn nations vie for humanity’s future. In the west, Cathedral unleashes its God-engines—ancient walking war machines—in a final bid to cleanse the earth. In the east, the struggling city-state of Bastion turns to the last living AI for salvation. Between them, a tribe of technological scavengers known as the Union unwittingly holds the balance of power. Hell is on the horizon. Who will survive?
‘No one was willing to lose unless everybody lost.’
My review of The Hand of God has been a long time coming; I read it back in April/May, got the COVID, didn’t feel like reviewing while ill, and then, since ‘recovering’, have found it tremendously difficult to write anything of any discernible quality.
While I didn’t need to tell anyone that, I wanted it to act as a bit of a disclaimer. Because I read it quite a while back and lost all my notes in a PC upgrade, I genuinely don’t feel that I’m going to do this book any semblance of justice.
Back when I finished this gem of a book, it was my favourite book of the year. I’m writing this review now and with a few more books under my belt, and nothing’s changed. The Hand of God is still my book of the year, and in truth, it’s going to take something cataclysmic to knock it off its perch.
Yuval Kordov’s world is a very dark, post-apocalyptic wasteland, and to a degree, it straddles the boundary of science-fiction and fantasy (though it is slightly more weighted towards science-fiction, in my opinion). Where else will you see humans fighting daemons straight from hell AND giant battle walkers replete with nuclear armaments?
There are two main pockets of civilization, though three main factions: the people of Bastion, the machine-worshiping Revenant Sisterhood of Cathedral, and the ScavRats, who find themselves increasingly pinned between the two. Being derived from an existing Tabletop Role Playing Game, each faction has a strong sense of identity and separation from the others.
Bastion and its people feel like a proto-Imperium from Warhammer 40,000. They have a heavy religious aspect and a very Gothic, baroque aesthetic.
The Revenant Sisterhood remind me of Magic the Gathering’s Phyrexians. Viciously singular in purpose and fanatical about remaking the world into their idea of perfection.
Then you have the ScavRats, who were my favourite of the three and are all about resilience, independence, and endeavour.
Between these three groups, there is genuinely something for everyone; each group is so intriguing in its own right that I never found myself wishing I was elsewhere and instead just wanted to know everything about, well… everything?! It also helps that every single PoV character, and even the side characters, are genuinely interesting, and so engaging that you mourn the ending of each chapter.
The Hand of God’s prose blew me away; being a dystopian novel, I expected it to be direct and visceral, the words thunderous and bone-shaking like the heartbeat of some colossal engine. What I wasn’t expecting was how beautifully written large swathes of the narrative turned out to be, a delicate latticework of emotion and atmosphere. Stylistically, you get everything you could wish for, balanced and delivered perfectly. One second, the world is screaming as it’s pummelled around you, but then suddenly, the rending whump-whump-whump of violence is ripped from your ears, leaving nothing but a sorrowful whisper snaking across the wasteland.
As already mentioned, I read this three months ago, and normally, as time passes and the euphoria of finishing a good book dissipates, my mind tends to dredge up negatives I didn’t think of at the time. Looking back at The Hand of God, there’s not a negative I can think of, nothing that left me dissatisfied, and nothing that I thought would be better, ‘if only…’
For the first book in a new series, it was flawless, I feel like we’ve just peeled back the dressing to look at the festering wound beneath. What do the later books hold? Healing, a gangrenous rot, something altogether more brutal? At this point, I couldn’t say, but I do know that a nuclear sunrise throws the darkest of shadows, and we haven’t seen even 1% of what’s waiting in them.
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