Book Review: God’s War by Kameron Hurley

Image

I’m posting the US cover because it’s so much better suited for the book than the English one in my opinion. Nyx looks like a teenage Natasha Romanoff on that one, and they are completely different. Even though Natasha Romanoff is the reason I came across “God’s War”.

As it can be gathered from the title, religion is a big theme in this book. As far as I understand, Umayma – the planet where the book takes place – is colonised by Muslims, judging by several mentions of mosques, traditional clothes and set prayer hours. I am not an expert on Theology however, so my sincerest apologies if I am wrong. To Nyxnissa or Nyx, however, religion matters very little. She is a Bel Dame – a lady bounty hunter paid to collect the heads of deserters. And she’s the deadliest of them all – her numerous young lovers can attest to that. She is a citizen of Nasheen, a country where matriarchy prevails and women are the ones participating in violent things that (for some ungodly reason) are still viewed as masculine in our world. Nasheenian ladies show, quite correctly, that “she who fights like a girl” is a thing people should be afraid of. However, Nasheen, like the rest of the planet, is at war. In a world ruled by gene pirates, violence and insect-based technology invented by magicians who can restore all your body parts except your head, the only possible ways to survive are to go to War or to be a mercenary. Nyx has done both. After her time at the front, she becomes a Bel Dame. But Bel Dames also need to survive, and they blur the lines between the rules almost all the time. Nyx, however, has crossed the line when she illegally sold her womb full of genetic material to the pirates. After serving her time in prison, she is angry, bitter and hates the world. She and her team of fellow mercenaries try their best to survive. This does not last long, however -the Queen gives the former Bel Dame a special note (a bounty). Nyx’s new target is Nikodem, an alien gene pirate who may or may not possess the technology that has the capacity to end the War that has been going on for as long as anyone can remember. Nyx’s team – her former fellow Nasheenian assassin Anneke, a peace-loving priest turned prostitute turned magician Rhys who escaped his home country, Chenja, and who may or may not have his own agenda, a Ras Tiegan (biracial as far as I understood) young man Taite whose relationship with a man he loves is illegal in Umayma (even though lesbian relationships are legal and encouraged), his pregnant sister Inaya, and last but not least, a conservative romantic Khos the shape-shifter – join her in her quest, which proves a lot more difficult than either of them anticipated. Nyx’s former “co-workers”, the bloodthirsty council of Bel Dames, are also after Nikodem, but for their own reasons which the Queen does not wish to divulge. Not to mention, her old nemesis Raine, whom she has deprived of his manhood while she was still a rookie is the one who has Nikodem. Follow Nyx and her team on a terrifying, gruesome adventure that apparently shall be continued in the second book of the series!

Hurley’s writing may not be world-class (in fact, it was hard to follow during the first half of the book), but she is quite skilled at world-building and writing complex, badass ladies. I may not know much about Muslim feminists, but I read a rather absurd article recently that denied they even existed. “God’s War” is arguably an interesting and eye-opening insight into leading Muslim ladies and shows that they can be just as awesome and unique as women who don’t follow Islam. Intersectional feminism is a phenomenon that not many people know about, which is why we need books like “God’s War” to understand other cultures. If you want to learn more, you should look up the “WeNeedDiverseBooks” campain.

However, Hurley isn’t satisfied with basing an entire world on religious dogma only. Somehow, she makes bug technology, shape-shifters and gene-stealing aliens work together really well. Someone referred to the book as a “science fiction noir with a dash of bug punk” which I am guessing is a subdivision of steampunk. I’m not going to lie – this book, and most likely the rest of this series is very dark, brutal and contains profanity on almost every second page. Blood gets spilled, heads get chopped off and grown again, gunshots are fired – Nyx’s life is anything but boring. This book, however, isn’t just about Nyx – Hurley takes a long time to reveal every character’s backstory, and some chapters are written from the POV of Nyx’s team members. The only one that’s missing is Anneke’s POV – she’s pretty cool and I am hoping to see more of her in the next book (not sure when it comes out here though?). The author’s style of writing complex ladies (and men) is not dissimilar to George R. R. Martin’s – the count of deaths is slightly lower though. For now. Hurley’s characters may not be likeable, or sympathetic, but they feel real. Characters with great backstory that makes sense are one of the things that, in my opinion, make an OK storyline good. Add a well-built world into the mix, and a book becomes great. So great that I am rating “God’s War” 7/10.

Favourite character

The pansexual badass bounty hunter of colour who doesn’t take crap from anyone and is a veteran – how can I not love Nyx?

Characters who get the most development

Inaya – she used to be a scared little girl who didn’t understand what was happening to her and whom her parents married off in order to escape imprisonment. Shape-shifting is illegal in Ras Tieg, and now that her husband is dead and she’s alone and pregnant, she really shows her emotional strength. I have a feeling that Sansa Stark’s haters may not like her because her complexity and power can be argued to be similar to Sansa’s in some ways. However, I have never understood those who don’t like Sansa Stark and I never will. Her and Inaya both develop quite a lot throughout their respective storylines.

Least favourite character

Rhys – I just didn’t connect with him

Favourite quote

“We rebel in our own ways.”

Recommendations

You will like “God’s War” if you liked:

“A Song of Ice and Fire series” by George R.R. Martin

“The Emperor’s Edge series” by Lindsay Buroker

“Dune” by Frank Herbert

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s