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Nellie

The Left Hand Of God

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ISBN: 978-0718155186

 

Published: Jan 2010

 

Published By: Michael Joseph

 

Now, where to start with this one? The story follows Cale, a 14 year old boy who lives in The Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is run by the religious order of The Redeemers, whose particular brand of religion involves beating the young boys in their care for every misdemeanor, threatening to burn them at the stake, and training them to fight in a holy war. Cale stumbles across one of the Redeemers in the middle of a horrific experiment and along with his two friends, they escape to the vice-ridden city of Memphis. The Redeemers want the boys back and terrified of a long an painful death, they fight for their freedom, leading to unintended consequences.

 

The first few chapters confused me as I couldn't work out where the story was set. It seemed to be an imaginary world, but many of the place names are from our own world. Having decided this was an imaginary world, I became increasingly distracted by the sledgehammer parallels of the religious basis of the Redeemers to that of Christianity. You don't need a degree in Theology to work out who The Hanged Redeemer is supposed to represent. I can see that the author wanted to explore how religious zeal, taken to the extreme and combined with power can lead to unjustifiable actions, but it seemed either lazy or highly provocative to use Christianity as the basis. I think regardless of your own beliefs, the way that this theme is presented will leave you feeling uncomfortable, but perhaps that was the point.

 

The religious themes aside, the story feels disjointed, and there were a lot of unresolved sub-plots, which presumably will be sorted out in the following books. By the last chapter I felt thoroughly frustrated and then something was revealed about Cale which will ensure that I will be reading the sequel.

 

This has been a bit of a mixed review. Would I recommend this book? I would, but it comes with a health warning, if you are offended by attacks on religious belief, stay away from this one. I also think you need to be prepared to invest time in this first book to lay the ground work for the subsequent ones, as I suspect that the story will only make full sense after reading all of them.

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As somewhat of a fantasy junky, I loved this book, for many reasons. As someone who grew up religious and then deconverted to being an atheist, the fact that he's taken christianity for the basis of his trilagy meets with no opposition with me whatsoever, I actually think it rather appropriate, given the history of the catholic church in particular. He even quietly eludes to the sex scandles re young boys.

 

The thing I really love though is that he doesn't need any of the stereotypical elements of fantasy to write a fantastic story. There is no magic, no dragons, no mythical beasts or mages. It's a book about people being people within the particular constructs of this world he has created, such as people living under something considerably more than dark age religious rule.

 

I should probably freely admit, that since I listened to the audio version, I might actually think this book better than it actually is, because Sean Barrett read it, and he could read me literally anything and I'd probably nominate it for an award. However I don't think it's entirely his doing.

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