Deathless Gods by P.C. Hodgell • Baen • October 4, 2022
Review by Joseph Hoopman
Deathless Gods, volume 10 in P.C. Hodgell’s long-running God Stalker Chronicles, follows Jame and her brother Torisen and their not-quite-human people the Kencyrath, fled to the world of Rathillien, pursued by Perimal Darkling.
After her return to Tai-Tastigon in the previous volume (By Demons Possessed), itself following her assignment to garrison the fortress at Tagmeth in Gates of Tagmeth, Jamethiel Priest’s-Bane finds herself (belatedly) back in Gothregor. Also there are the cadets she took with her to Tagmeth, all anxious to find out if they’ve finally graduated from the military college at Tentir.
Which, of course, means that not only are they still embroiled in the poisonous, labyrinthine intrigues between the various Kencyrath houses, but now they’re being sent south to the Central Lands. They are to get involved in the equally poisonous, equally labyrinthine, sometimes-overlapping intrigues between the local kings, who engage Kencyrath troops to fight on their behalf, though there’s a tradition of attempting to insert hidden conditional clauses into the contracts. Caineron—whose relationship with Jame’s Knorth house and Jame herself has been… not good—has apparently reneged on a couple of those contracts, and told the Central Lands’ kings about the hidden clauses. Now those kings are composing their own contracts for the Kencyrath to sign…
So we’re off to see entirely new parts of the world, including the city of High Bashti, which is even bigger than Tai-Tastigon and equally god-haunted, albeit in very different ways, and possibly even weirder? We’ll be meeting any number of returning and brand-new characters, while somewhere in the background looms the shadow of Perimal Darkling and the losing war the Kencyrath have fought for the past 30,000 years, which might finally be getting ready to come to a head.
And here’s the thing: this is the tenth book in a series that began forty years ago (and if anyone needs me, I’ll be collapsing into a pile of dust) with the publication in 1982 of God Stalk. (This is a series that has had a publishing history almost as long and torturous as Jame’s wanderings, at least until it landed a home at Baen back in 2010 and new volumes began appearing with some regularity.) And this is absolutely not a stand-alone book. While it does have a reasonably satisfying beginning and end, there’s a whole lot going on here, both in terms of the aforementioned poisonous and labyrinthine intrigues and in terms of the deep lore of the world as a whole, that will not make a whole lot of sense if you haven’t read the preceding ~2,700 pages of Jame’s adventures on Rathillien. (Yes, there are appendices including a lengthy list of people, places and things, and some discussion of the political structure of Bashti itself, and those are very helpful for returning readers.)
But these books, all the way back to the beginning in the archaic past of 1982, have been an absolute delight to read over the years. Jame is a great and compelling character, as is her twin brother High Lord Torisen (who’s currently ten years older than she is—don’t ask); the supporting cast is memorable; and the world is wild and weird and strange. So my recommendation is this: if you haven’t read any of the previous installments, find yourself a copy of The God Stalker Chronicles (an omnibus collecting the first two volumes) and strap yourself in. And if you have read the previous installments, then you know you’ll want to see what Jame’s been up to recently, and to be all caught up when the next volume comes out.
Editor’s Note: We’re trying something new here at Thews You Can Use—a book review! If you’d like to see more reviews of new S&S and fantasy, or if you’re interested in writing for us, let us know at youngneedles (at) gmail (dot) com. Many thanks to Joseph Hoopman for penning our inaugural review, and to Sean CW Korsgaard at Baen for supporting the newsletter.