September 11, 2023


By Hannah Kaner
Review by
In Hannah Kaner’s Godkiller, the world is filled with gods both major and minor, all of whom are as powerful as they are monstrously selfish.
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Kissen is a veiga, or godkiller, sanctioned by the Middren government to kill nascent minor deities when they become troublesome. She holds a deep hatred of gods, given that her family, who was favored by the sea god Osidisen, was sacrificed to the rising fire god Hseth. So she’s deeply uneasy when she encounters Inara Craier, a recently orphaned noble girl who is somehow bonded to Skediceth, a minor god of white lies. Inara and Skediceth’s connection is an abomination in a land like Middren, which recently fought a war against and killed most of the gods. Soon, the three are traveling to the city of Blenraden, the only place with shrines powerful enough to potentially break the bond between Inara and Skediceth. Joining them on their quest is Elogast, a baker on a secret mission for the king himself.

In Hannah Kaner’s Godkiller, gods are creatures who feed on human devotion, much like Stephen Eriksen’s fading deities or C.S. Friedman’s symbiotic, emotion-eating Iezu. This symbiosis turns, all too easily, to predation and, eventually, bitter generational enmities between gods and their subjects. Unlike the dizzying political intrigue of Eriksen’s Malazan Book of the Fallen or Friedman’s character-driven Coldfire trilogy, Kaner’s work centers on her divine magic system. Godkiller is not a commentary on religion or free will; rather, it is about what happens when power lies in the hands of entities who simply do not care about the consequences of its use.

By far, the best characters are the gods themselves. Humans in Godkiller tend to be defined by single traits, whether Elogast’s honor, Kissen’s anger or Inara’s resilience. The gods are similarly one-note, but because they are all so deeply focused on their own self-preservation, they possess an amoral selfishness that is consistently interesting. Osidisen’s fury at Hseth seems largely motivated by how she stole his worshippers; Hseth herself simply requires an ever-growing coterie of human thralls to survive, like a fire needs a constant supply of fuel. Even Skediceth, despite his friendship and bond with Inara, views acting in his own best interest as the ultimate moral good.

But archetypes are common in fantasy for a reason: They’re compelling and fun. And there are few things more enjoyable than watching a bruised yet honorable man and a vengeance-seeking assassin escort a young girl and her manipulative, telepathic divinity of a familiar to the forbidden city of the gods. Especially when the world they’re traipsing through is so rich and laden with narrative potential.

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By Hannah Kaner
Harper Voyager
ISBN 9780063348271

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