Anamelia Regan (EldritchFae)
Brilliantly creepy sequel that left me wanting more
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 13 October 2020
Ruthless Gods is full of gothic imagery, eldritch horror, blood mages, a very unsettling forest, insane divinity and a lot of chaos. It is also full of some very stupid teenagers – which I say with a lot of affection. It’s pretty safe to say that I loved it. Gothic horror imagery is definitely my kind of thing, and this book delivers it in bucket-loads. It contains eyes where they definitely don’t belong, pools of blood, monsters, mythology, razor talons, blood magic and snarled black hair filled with bone fragments. There’s a fair bit of body horror, so it’s not for the squeamish, but it was one of the things that made this book stand out from anything else I’ve read recently, and I loved it for that. All of this combined definitely left me desperate for book three!
The setting for Ruthless Gods (both Tranavia and Kalyazin) is beautiful and bleak, menacing in its darkness and I really enjoyed how each place seemed to reflect what was going on with the characters. There was a lot of internal struggle, fighting and despair going on, and the settings (especially that of the forest) became part of that fight. I’m torn between wanting to visit them, but also wanting to run as far away as possible from the very idea of them. The struggle that Nadya, Serefin, Malachiasz had because of their settings never really changed over the duration of Ruthless Gods. Everything had a sense of displacement. Everyone was uncomfortable, no matter where they were. Their longing to be in another place, or further along their journey made them seem unsettled. Even when they were in their ‘homeland’, everything was still against them, and added to the tension of the book.
I really enjoyed Nadya so much more in this book. She’s become stronger and more determined. She still followed the path others set out for her, but she grew in strength, started questioning things, became her own person and a character I really care about! Nadya is fierce and brave even though she’s scared. I love her relationship with Malachiasz, which really built upon the foundations laid in Wicked Saints. They are so bad for each other, and yet their magic is tied together, and they can’t escape the draw that they hold to each other. I loved their banter, their journey and their romance. Malachiasz is probably my favourite character. He’s morally grey, morally questionable, a monster and also just a boy who is really out of his depth. He’s got so much going on, physically and mentally and I honestly just want him to be OK. I loved seeing more sides of him, and he is my favourite chaos monster. Finally, we have Serefin to round off our unholy trio. He has a really tough time in this book. After dying in the last book, I really didn’t think things could get much worse for him, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. Not that the other characters didn’t suffer too, but I really felt for Serefin. Please, someone just let him have some alcohol in peace! I honestly love so many things about all the characters in the books, their interactions, their journeys and most of all, some really stupid decisions they make. The new characters we met along the way were also a lot of fun, as well as getting to see more of Kacper, Ostyia, Rashid and Parijahan, who we learnt more about, and who I also love (especially Kacper). I can’t wait to find out what awaits them next.
For me, one of the best parts of Ruthless Gods was that questions of morality and mortality are looked at in a way which makes everything so confusing. Everyone thinks that what they believe in is right, even when they’re questioning the outcomes. There are so many questions about the divine and the self. Every character has a crisis of faith and self after the events of Wicked Saints, and yet they all keep holding onto their beliefs despite that. Their faith is constantly shaken and confronted by something new, making them have to call into question every aspect of their lives. The unquestioning belief in their country/religion vs the truth of what they have seen and learnt keeps shifting their desires, and makes everyone seem so much more human.
One thing I really wanted more of in Wicked Saints was getting to know more of the history of the pantheon, more about the gods themselves and what divinity really means in this universe. We started to slowly get answers here which made everything feel like it’s slowly coming together. The monstrous and divine are so enmeshed in this series in a way I haven’t seen before. The conflicted imagery is so perfect, and it’s one of my favourite things about this series. Definitions of divinity from the different perspectives are also fascinating here, and I have so many questions.
I really can’t wait for book three. Ruthless Gods was a chaotic masterpiece of a book, and the only downside for me was that there were a couple of things I would have loved to see more of, or have further explanation on, but I’m hoping I will get those in the next book.