This week we are looking at The Pale Hand of God, a novel by indie author S.M. White. I have no memory of how I came to purchase this particular novel. Perhaps it was on a Kindle deals day, or perhaps I was simply looking for reasonably priced epic fantasy. Either way, it was an excellent choice on my part. I am now a great fan of author S.M. White.
"All Ages have a living darkness. In some, it is long buried. In others, it lives and thrives. And then there is the darkness no one sees, the patient darkness that reveals itself only when all light fails."
In an Age of fallen heroes, stolen princesses, and a city prison, the world balances upon the blades of haunted men.
Behind the walls of the clergy-controlled prison city of Iban Su, Lainn Sevai endures. But after losing his father and brother, Lainn finds the determination to seek freedom, following in the footsteps of the man whose iron tutelage molded him into one of the fiercest warriors Iban Su has ever known. In the process he discovers his father's terrible secret, and uncovers the thousand year mystery as to why the prophesied End of Days never came to the world. And in that sets in motion a terrible future.
With all the edge and grit of a Gemmell novel, The Pale Hand of God is the first half of a series that will determine the fate of a world fallen to cowardice and indolence. Heroes will topple, and villains will ascend. Light will fade, and shadows prevail. This is a tale of violence and peace, of love and hatred, and of how one man's fight to save his soul could very well damn all humanity.
There is a depth to this tale that goes well beyond the events it chronicles. Lainn Sevai is one of the most complex characters I’ve lately read. He is alternately likable and unlikable His world is violent, and he makes decisions based on what he knows of his world, choices that seem harsh on the surface. Lainn’s brother Ereck is terribly important to him, as is his late father. Lainn both loves and hates them both, envies and adores them. The brutalities of Lainn’s childhood follow him and color his perceptions—he is a charismatic warrior tortured by loss and self-doubt. In the end Lainn is one of the great heroes of epic fantasy, right up there with Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd.
The prose is quite reminiscent of the truly great fantasy tales, those great epic sagas written in an age when authors of speculative fiction knew they were on the fringe of respectability in the publishing world and wrote tales to please themselves, simply assuming their readers would understand compound words. This high quality of storytelling makes for a tale that fully involves the reader. The surroundings are clearly drawn with an economy of well-phrased words, with all the sounds and scents of a dirty, medieval environment. I found myself immersed in the tale to the exclusion of everything else, reading until I fell asleep with the Kindle in my hands and letting everything else go to hell until I had finished the book.
THAT powerful sort of writing is what I want from my epic fantasy, and it is a rare commodity in this day and age, where authors of all genres are told they must write in 60 second sound-bites so their readers won’t lose interest on the first page.
This is a great fantasy journey through all the many twists and turns, and though the road is rough for the characters who live in this strange world, it is a fantasy I can highly recommend. The Pale Hand of God by S.M. White is a book for the dedicated reader, and not for the faint of heart.