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God Stalk by P. C. Hodgell
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The story opens with a young woman fleeing from a dark and terrible adversary toward a city where she hopes she will find safety. It is apparent there is a large gap in her memory and that she is very much alone as one thing she is sure of, even her own family had not cared for who she was and what she represented. She enters a bewildering city that appears to be dead but miraculously finds her way to a safe haven, an inn run by good people. During the course of the novel she will make friends, get some of her memories back, and simultaneously create havoc while trying to solve problems and be helpful. She is one of an alien people, the Kencyrath, who came to this planet hundreds (thousands?) of years ago to try and protect it from an entity known as the Perimal Darkling. I read this in a group read and therefore will say no more although I might come back when the read ends. Suffice it to say I liked the book enough to purchase the next one. I know there are six more beyond that and likely I will seek them out. It starts a bit roughly, but somewhere between page 70 and page 90 either it smooths out or I somehow "got" the setting and was thoroughly engaged from then on. **** ( )
  sibyx | May 29, 2018 |
Description from The Black Gate: Adventures in Fantasy Literature:
”Out of the haunted north comes Jame the Kencyr to Rathilien’s greatest city, Tai-Tastigon. From the hills above, the city appears strangely dark and silent. She arrives at its gates with large gaps in her memory and cat claws instead of fingernails. She’s carrying a pack full of strange artifacts, including a ring still on its owner’s finger… and she’s been bitten by a zombie. Wary, but in desperate need of a place to heal, Jame enters the city. So begins God Stalk, the first book in P.C. Hodgell’s Kencyrath series and one of my absolute, bar none, don’t-bother-me-if-you-see-me-reading-it, favorite fantasy novels.”

A complex story in a multi-layered complex world with a very (what else?) complex protagonist.
Jame struggles to fill in the gaps of her missing memory while also looking for the truth of gods and god-heads. She's been taught that there is only one god. However the city she enters is full of them and it's unclear whether they are the Creators or the Created.

It's not my usual genre, but I'm intrigued enough that I've ordered the second book in the series. ( )
  streamsong | Mar 9, 2018 |
I'm not even going to try to summarize the plot of this old-school science fiction work. Rather, I want to capture my honest reactions. I enjoyed it and I understand why sci-fi is not my usual go-to fare. Early in the novel, during a context-establishing chase scene, I was sitting in my quiet house so caught up in the scene that I jumped when my phone pinged. It made me chuckle and gave me a preview of what the reading experience would be.

The plot is complicated, the characters slow to develop (or, more accurately, slow to develop into distinct beings), but the ride was fun. I felt like I was reading a video game (and I get that there is a strong relationship between SF and much of the modern video game territory), with one adventure leading to the next, discoveries of intrigue, deceit, and ancient secrets that illuminated one mystery only to lead to another.

The summary description at the end of the novel helped. Surprisingly, I was glad it is at the end of the book; at the beginning it would have been less meaningful. Will I read the next in the series? I'm undecided about that. If I do, Level Up! ( )
  EBT1002 | Jan 29, 2018 |
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: In the first book of the Kencyrath, Jame, a young woman missing her memories, struggles out of the haunted wastes into Tai-tastigon, the old, corrupt, rich and god-infested city between the mountains and the lost lands of the Kencyrath.

Jame's struggle to regain her strength, her memories, and the resources to travel to join her people, the Kencyrath, drag her into several relationships, earning affection, respect, bitter hatred and, as always, haunting memories of friends and enemies dead in her wake.

My Review: I read this 35-year-old fantasy novel because my good LibraryThing friend Roni ran a group read of it. She contended that the book was underfamous and underappreciated. I don't know about you, but I'd say any first-in-series book that's followed by eight others (to date) set in the same universe, and which has an 816 page fandom wiki, isn't exactly a concealed target.

Still.

Reading older books in the speculative fiction genre is an education in revised expectations and their invisibility until challenged. Modern fantasy nonillionologies, each volume a minimum of a jillion pages densely packed with made-up language vocabulary and/or Randomly capitalized normal Words that indicate they're being used as something More Than their mundane meaning, are now the minimum standard. This book predates that trend. As a result, its brevity can feel...unfinished...to a 21st century sensibility. There were many, many moments that the author moved through hastily or simply glided past entirely that would, in modern times, be entire novels.

I've complained about book bloat and editing fails so often and so publicly that I expect someone will quite soon point this out with a smug "gotcha!" of some sort. To those legions of carping natterers, I say "oh shut up" and remind them that 1) consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds and 2) there's such a thing as a happy medium.

I'm not a huge consumer of fantasy novels at the best of times because magic makes me itch. It seems so nonsensical, so counter to the realities of physical laws under which we live; it flies in the face of experiential existence; but it satisfies a deep need in many people, just not me. Also, almost always, the protagonist is An Exceptional Adolescent (usually female), and that's very much not my favorite kind of person. Adolescence stank, and so do adolescents. Just not where I want to be, or to stay for any length of time.

This novel's magical system got in under my radar because it feels to me, like the magic in Kai Ashante Wilson's marvelous Africa-set fantasy stories, as though any second we're going to be told that it's a form of technology we don't recognize as such. I can hang with that. Most of what the main character does isn't terribly magical, and the city of Tai-Tastigon itself is the source of the overall magic. We're teased with the notion of the city's magic being the reason there are so many gods in it; in fact, there's a truly delicious idea that temples to the gods are actually ways for the mundane people to *trap* the gods, to limit their scope for activity, instead of mere places of worship.

Jame, our main character, even targets one of these gods in an experiment to test the limits of its power. She causes the god to lose its worshipers in the process, and the results prove to Jame that there is something very hinky about the way the gods function. This subplot is played for comedy, but I was happy to note that the very real consequences for this god and its priest were later sources of shame and remorse for Jame. She goes out of her way to fix the damage she's done, and in the process discovers an amazing library of knowledge that this god's temple has hidden for ages. It is one of the wonderful things about the tapestry of Tai-Tastigon created by Author Hodgell.

The city and its quirks, its societal and legal peculiarities, are incredibly enough left to one side as soon as they're revealed! Inconceivable, and that word does mean what I think it means, in today's publishing world. I was intrigued by the Cloudies, a subset of society that's decided to take to the rooftops and not touch the ground: whence came they, what do they do for a living, how come they're not subject to groundling law, and so on and so forth. Never answered. Never addressed. The Thieves' Guild that Jame enters without the smallest tiniest bit of effort on her part is an entire multi-volume storytelling universe! The history that Jame barely skates over with her sort of accidental Thieves' Guild master, one Penari the ancient master thief, is another multi-volume series of novels. I am all for rich texture in a story, and I got it here, but there are way too many delicious side trails that lead nowhere in this book.

At the end of the book came my personal biggest disappointment as Jame left Tai-Tastigon for parts unknown. This was inevitable, given the fact that she enters the city from parts only slightly less unknown and for reasons utterly unclear and unclarified. This is a fantasy novel, and the first in a series. Of course there will be a quest, and of course it will lead away from any one location. That doesn't make me any happier about it. The textures of Tai-Tastigon's tapestry are involving and exciting, and I'd like to stay here please.

Which is how I know Author Hodgell created a wonderful thing in this book, and why it's no real surprise that her fantasy universe has spawned an 816-page wiki. She understands her readers' need to feel immersed and invested in more than a simple, surface-gleaming world. She delivers those goods. My various dissatisfactions with the execution of this tale aside, I admire her ability and her vision. I won't continue reading the series because I'm less interested in Jame than I am in Tai-Tastigon, but I will likely pick up any future book that returns to this setting. ( )
2 vote richardderus | Jan 28, 2018 |
Roni organized a group read of this fantasy novel, which is the first in an eight book series of books about Jame, a young woman who is struggling to remember her past and to figure out her place in a world wonderfully conceived by Hodgell. I am not going to even try to explain the plot or the themes here, but I will say that this is a book that slowly unravels its secrets. I liked the pacing - it drops you right into the action and never really slows down. I read the Kindle version, and there are very helpful appendixes at the end of the book which would be even more helpful it they were placed before the story, especially the one concerning the Thieves' Guild. I honestly would have been lost without the group read to help me out - I think this is one of those books that needs rereading to fully appreciate it. I enjoyed the world-building and the slow reveal, but I felt slightly detached from the characters - I wanted to like Jame, but I didn't feel invested in her. This is where I think rereading the story, now that I know where it is going would help. Also, Hodgell can be confusing at times. But there is humor here that is very well done and the story promises to be deeper, so I am curious about where it is going and how we will get there. ( )
2 vote Crazymamie | Jan 26, 2018 |
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The hills rolled up to the moon on slopes of wind-bent grass, crested, swept down into tangled brier shadows.
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Jame crouched in the dark, shivering. Where was it now? A rustle, a scrape of scales on stone ... it was coming after her.
With a chocked cry she whirled and leaped. Her fingers caught at the rough stone blocks and she scrambled blindly upward until one hand closed on a wooden beam. she was hanging there when a dazzling light seemed to explode in the room.
"Well!" said a voice. "No one's ever done that before!"
Jame saw Penari standing below with a torch in his hand. Behind him, light gleamed on a huge mound of flesh, white, convoluted, and quivering with lidless eyes.
"Too bad it's you, boy.," Penari said. "Monster hasn't been fed so far this month."
    ---------------------------------------

Welcome to the Holy City of Tai-tastigon.
Overrun with thieves and lousy with gods. Welcome to the House of the Luck-Bringers, where the ale flows, the jokes are ribald, and if you're lucky, you can see the Kencyr girl dance.
She's a thief, apprenticed to the Master Thief, the only living being who knows the secret of the ways. Why,s he stole the very britches off the Sky King himself!
And if you want to hear a tale even wildern than that, just listen ....
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