IN SEARCH OF GODS AND HEROES by SAMMY HK SMITH
PB, 405 pages, Kristell Ink
When a demon forces his way into Chaeli’s home and kills her sister, Chaeli is thrown into a new world where nothing is as it first appears. A world where living gods stalk the land, playing out their games of spite and malice, where alliances are uncertain and shifting, and where her own mysterious heritage makes her a pawn in a deadly game of good vs evil. Can she trust an Underworld assassin, a dead man, or a changeling who prefers the form of a cat?
Sammy HK Smith’s debut novel is a tightly-paced coming-of-age story set in a world where the living gods bicker and play politics just like earthly men. Ibea is a richly characterised world, full of broken seers, scarred herbalists, mysterious librarians, spies and counter-spies. Everyone, including the gods, plays to their own agenda, and the way Smith has weaved deception and counter-deception is skillful. The reader is never sure who to trust; even Chaeli, or the innocent seer Hanna, or quiet, scarred Anya, have their own secrets and desires that may set them at odds with both their companions and, sometimes, with themselves. And because of this conflict the story heads towards some dark places as it twists and tangles. In some places it’s unsettling – Captain Kerne’s abuse of both Anya and Hanna is disturbing, but although the story is bleak, it’s not without hope. Guardian Adley is pure of heart, a beacon of good in a dark world, as is conflicted Nathan who struggles to do the right thing by and for Chaeli.
It’s a shame there hasn’t yet been a sequel published, as the story is left on a number of cliffhangers and with plenty of questions left open. Recommended for those who like their fantasy on the dark side.