Review: The Godborn (The Sundering Book 2) by Paul S. Kemp

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The radical reshaping of the Forgotten Realms continues with the second book of The Sundering series, Paul S. Kemp’s The Godborn. Readers of the Erevis Cale series of novels will be glad to see that this novel while a stand alone story picks up on the story of the Cycle of Night and the events of Shadowrealm.  The Godborn features a hero born of shadow and light, Vasen Cale.  Son of Erevis Cale and Varra, Vasen is the literal embodiment of a penumbra, his flesh is of shadows yet his faith is of light. In his crafting of this compelling new hero, Kemp presents what is perhaps his most psychologically balanced hero, who has thrived despite is rather curious fate at the hands of the machinations of the god Mask. While Vasen shares heroic tendencies with his father, he is far from a carbon copy and a more traditional hero. Erevis’ struggle with losing his humanity presented a character that always felt like he was standing upon quicksand, while Vasen strikes one as a character firmly planted upon a rock. Despite his role in his community Vasen because of his physical appearance faces fear and suspicion.  The way that Vasen deals with this latent discrimination among those he protects further displays the positive qualities that this new hero possesses.

This novel also serves to further the reshaping of the Forgotten Realms universe as part of The Sundering series.  Having read The Companions which was the first book of The Sundering series, I will say that there really isn’t any need to read that book before this one, both briefly touch on magical and martial events that are reshaping the landscape but neither the plots nor the characters of each novel are connected.

Wizard’s Description of the novel:

In the 2nd book of the multi-author Sundering series, the shadow legacy of Erevis Cale lives on even as his old foe Mephistopheles seeks to stamp it out at any cost. Cale’s son Vasen—unmoored in time by the god Mask—has thus far been shielded from the archdevil’s dark schemes, alone among the servants of the Lord of Light who have raised him since birth.

Living in a remote abbey nestled among the Thunder Peaks of Sembia, Vasen is haunted by dreams of his father, trapped in the frozen hell of Cania. He knows the day will come when he must assume his role in the divine drama unfolding across Faerûn. But Vasen knows not what that role should be . . . or whether he is ready to take it on. He only knows what his father tells him in dreams—that he must not fail.

Enter Drasek Riven, a former compatriot of Erevis Cale, now near divine and haunted by dreams of his own—he too knows the time to act is near. Shar, the great goddess of darkness, looks to cast her shadow on the world forever. Riven has glimpsed the cycle of night she hopes to complete, and he knows she must be stopped.

At the crossroads of divine intrigue and mortal destiny, unlikely heroes unite to thwart the powers of shadow and hell, and the sundering of worlds is set on its course.

This was a very entertaining read with some very cool world building (Abbey of the Rose) and a rather one-sided take on the never-ending dogs versus cats debate. That being said, what struck me most was just how skilled Kemp has gotten with characterization.  The prologue of the novel features the meeting of Varra and the introduction of a new character Derreg.  These two get a brief amount of page time together but there is a richness of chemistry and character that does so much to establish the background of Vasen and how he was raised.

Perhaps my favorite part of the novel is when we meet Elle and Gerak, I won’t spoil it for you but what Kemp does with these characters I thought was masterful.

We see an interesting mix of old heroes and villains (Riven, Mags, Varra, Mephistopheles, Rivalen, Brennus) as well as new ones (Vasen, Gerak, Orsin, Zeehad, and Sayeed) some live and some die and in between just about everyone sheds copious amounts of various bodily fluids.  If you like your fantasy or fiction with a darker and more brutal flare that check out this novel and Kemp’s other work.  I for one enjoy this particular brand of splatter fantasy, because the use of violence and gore serves the story and the characters.  In a world where magic can heal most wounds, the wounds must naturally become more severe to give characters a physical price to pay.

As a stand alone novel the story arc of The Godborn ends in a way that some may find predictable, but reading this novel the richness of the characters and their own personal journey’s is more important that the plot. What this novel accomplishes in 336 pages is to provide satisfying resolutions to the fates of many characters and introducing and setting a path before new characters to be told in future stories.  It is not an easy task to provide character resolution when you are forced to jump forward in the timeline by almost century, between this novel and The Companions we have seen two ways in which author’s have approached this problem.  Some may criticize Wizard’s of the Coast’s decision to overhaul the Dungeons and Dragons universe in this way, but it is to the company’s credit that they are allowing a series like The Sundering to provide some closure for long time fans of characters from Forgotten Realms novels.

I really enjoyed The Godborn and I think you will too. If you are still not sure check out the novel’s prologue on-line.

For more background on the Erevis Cale family of novels visit the Paul S. Kemp’s website.

An advanced review copy was provided by the publisher via Net Galley for this review.