I received this free copy of ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
When Asta’s nephew is taken by slavers, she pledges to her brother that she will find him, or die trying. Her search takes her from the fading islands of the Scattering, a nation in thrall to a powerful enemy, to the port city of Abonnae. There she finds a people dominated by a sinister cult, thirsty for blood to feed their hungry god.
Haunted by the spirit of her brother, forced into an uncertain alliance with a pair of assassins, Asta faces a deadly choice – save the people of two nations, or save her brother’s only son.
A complicated plot is not everybody’s cup of tea. This book progresses with the adventures of a female warrior, who is also the leader of her tribe. Asta is a protagonist who can roam around with her brother in the spirit world, takes on slavery, fake Gods, priests and other people abusing their position of power and exploiting the vulnerability of the starved and helpless. A group of assassins hired by the emperor of a distant land befriends Asta, the protagonist. With help from unexpected sources, against all odds, Asta achieves her goal of returning home with her nephew.
Ms. Hall has kept the pace of this book moderate but consistent. The reader will not lose interest, at the same time, will not be confused with the numerous events occurring within a short span.
Slavery is the focus of this book. Betrayal by Asta’s fellow tribe member, greed leading to cruelty and abuse of power, are countered by Asta’s love for her brother and her nephew, her faith in her brother’s spirit, and staying true to her goal, no matter what.
The characters (one major, few significant supporting and many minor) develop gradually. The completeness of each character leaves the reader satisfied in the end. I have particularly liked the way Ms. Hall has handled the weak characters. By nature, their loyalty dangles in the tip of a sword, swaying with the wind of power. The antagonists either consider themselves helpless, or they exploit the powerless.
One can easily feel Asta’s emotions as the story grows. From being the leader of her tribe, Asta becomes an unwilling goddess for her captors, voluntarily enters into the service of a mysterious and sinister priestess of a foreign temple, befriends assassins, escapes enslavement with their help, enters the temple again, willingly, and succeeds in overthrowing the evil power. The character of God, whom Asta bestows no faith, is suggestively some animal, who is forced into confinement within the temple and fed young children/adults bought from the slave market.
I would have liked to have a clearer picture of this God, but the air of suspense and mystery competently keeps up the fear factor. So can’t complain much.
Rhodan, being still a child, throws tantrums, Finn is moody but protective, Illu is straight out of The Dark Brotherhood from Elder Scrolls games.
I must point out one aspect which is uncommon with female fantasy writers. There is no hero, or a male protagonist, even a supporting one. The only male characters appearing in Asta’s life are dead or betray her in some way or are too insignificant. Romance is not the theme. While the author does explore tender feelings, she lets them die a natural death. The focus never shifts from the primary goal of Asta, to find her nephew and if possible, save her enslaved tribal subjects.
Ms. Hall has created the world different from the usual magical fantasy. In this book, we live with Asta in a tribal village in the seaside. The sea plays an important part in Asta’s adventure. We cross the sea with Asta after our enslavement and become the goddess or a mere puppet in manipulative politician’s hands. We cross the sea again and reach a foreign land where Asta faces the greatest threat of her life, almost reaches her goal but experiences a temporary failure, makes new friends, and shows us how she keeps her promise.
Ms. Hall has not given us a lush, beautiful, romantic countryside. She has not spent pages of describing how extraordinary this fantasy world is.
Instead, her locations are minimalistic, appropriate for each sequence of events and just descriptive enough to give us a clear understanding of the surroundings.
The author makes sure we can correctly visualize the buildings where a majority of Asta’s unfortunate experiences have happened, for e.g. the manse in Scattering, the temple in Abonnae, slave market and the house on the hill.
This book is about human misery and helplessness, so pastures and waterfalls and gentle streams do not fit in this story.
Please read this. If you don’t, you will miss something wonderful. If you like adventures, grimdark but not exceptionally gory or violent, if you don’t care much about romance in fantasy, this is your book.
Thank you, Joanne Hall, Kristell Ink and Netgalley for the ARC.
Title: The Summer Goddess
Author: Joanne Hall
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Kristell Ink, Grimbold Books
Publication Date: 23 September 2016
Review Format: eBook (Kindle)
Other Formats: Paperback
Images are taken from Goodreads.