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Lost Gods is the debut novel by UK author Micah Yongo, and introduces an African-inspired fantasy setting full of political intrigue, mystery, violence, and conspiracy. A young man, Naythan, trained in a brotherhood of assassins finds himself dropped in the middle of a war he didn’t even know existed, with sides he barely understands, hunted and dogged by people he thought were his friends. A little slow-moving at the start, but it pulls you in inexorably as Naythan is drawn in turn into world sweeping events of consequence. Lost Gods is a debut with a lot of potential.

In an epic fantasy kingdom inspired by African legends, a young assassin finds himself hunted by the brothers and sisters he has trained alongside since birth.

A teenaged assassin is hunted by his own Brotherhood as he seeks to uncover a supernatural conspiracy before it’s too late

Neythan is one of five adolescents trained and raised together by a mysterious brotherhood of assassins known as the Shedaím. When Neythan is framed for the murder of his closest friend, he pursues his betrayer, and in so doing learns there’s far more to the Brotherhood, and even the world itself, than he’d ever thought possible.

The opening of Lost Gods really set up a great story. A group of young friends, training together in a secret brotherhood of assassins, about to graduate and be sent on their first assignments? That, my friends, is pretty freaking cool. Then we move on to some political intrigue, a young teen Sharif, and lots of mysterious goings on. Everything seemed off to a great start.

I’ve stated more than once, my feeling about setting out to write a series. I’ve always felt that one should try to write a solid, engaging, and complete story, and if it happens to segue into an idea for a sequel, and the book is popular, then be happy and keep writing. The danger, when starting with a series, is that you either set your scope so big (After all you have ideas to fill 2, 3, 10 books!) that you give over too much of your first book to exposition and world building and not enough to plot, or you end up moving slower than a reader might like, giving the impression of saving your best bits for the later books.

Which is to say, after the intro, the book slowed down a lot. A lot of pages were given over to travel, and exposition dumps. You really shouldn’t find yourself in a position where a dead character reveals their entire whole backstory to a character in a letter they get after they die. While I thoroughly enjoy just how much is going on in this story, the attempts to communicate mysterious supernatural goings on -and- court intrigue -and- the history and future of the Shedaím while also introducing multiple characters, many of whom turn out later to be involved in several layers of the goings on, just led to too much wasted time explaining.

Now before you go getting the idea that I didn’t like Lost Gods, let me assure you, I did. All of the faults I’ve seen I can absolutely chalk up to Debut Novel Syndrome. When you’ve got a great idea, and you want to make it a series, and you want to make sure all your great ideas get to us, it becomes very tempting to try and push it all in at once. I get it. The combination of patience on the exposition and keeping the scope and pacing optimal comes with time. I have every expectation that book two will be a lot better structurally. Like I said, Yongo definitely has potential, and I will be keeping an eye out for the next book to see how it gets realized.

There’s a lot to like about Lost Gods. Part of the reason the exposition felt draggy is just how much cool stuff is going on. The Shedaím brotherhood was super interesting, and I definitely wanted to learn more about them, and see them in action. The combat is written in a very sparse and to-the-point way that makes perfect sense for assassins who want to get a job done, without all of the dramatic flourishes that so much Fantasy leans on. You get the impression that even the sentence or two of description takes longer than the actual fight, which feels very accurate and right to me. Neythan is young, but the point of graduation into the ranks of the Brotherhood is after 11 years of basically constant training, and I appreciated how his youth was never really pushed as justification for failure in combat. In general life, sure. His naivete and inexperience with life in the wider world also made him relatable, and not just a killing machine.

I was also very much a fan of fellow Shedaím, and compatriot, Arianna. Every bit the equal of the boys in her group, often their superior, she is as much a main character as Neythan, embroiled in all of the goings on just as much, and honestly, handling it better and with more aplomb than the protagonist despite being theoretically the same age. There was a little bit of love interest dancing about that felt out of place, though I could be misreading Yongo’s intentions there just from force of habit. I like to see a major female character holding her own without her femaleness being the subject of to-do. There’s no questioning of her abilities because she’s a woman, but nor is she portrayed as a stone-cold badass which basically gets used in SFF to question her abilities from the other direction via making her non-feminine.

Altogether this was a solid read. It suffers a little from some common debut mistakes, but by virtue of their being common, there’s no reason to hold them against Yongo, who otherwise crafted an excellent world with a lot of depth, populated by interesting people doing interesting things. Angry Robot has a reputation with me for finding really cool stuff, which is generally outside the mainstream, and spotlighting it. They were one of the first publishers where I actually noticed “I can pick a book just by the Angry Robot logo on the spine, and be pretty much guaranteed to enjoy the book” and they have not let me down with Lost Gods. Great setting, interesting and relatable characters, and a lot of potential to be realised in the next book. Definitely worth a read.

Dan Received an Advance Review Copy of this novel from Angry Robot via NetGalley
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