- Seventh Decimate (The Great God’s War Book One).
- Stephen Donaldson.
- 307 pages.
- Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / High Fantasy.
- My Rating: Hell No Book Review.
Fire. Wind. Pestilence. Earthquake. Drought. Lightning. These are the six Decimates, wielded by sorcerers for both good and evil.
But a seventh Decimate exists–the most devastating one of all…
For centuries, the realms of Belleger and Amika have been at war, with sorcerers from both sides brandishing the Decimates to rain blood and pain upon their enemy. But somehow, in some way, the Amikans have discovered and invoked a seventh Decimate, one that strips all lesser sorcery of its power. And now the Bellegerins stand defenseless.
Prince Bifalt, eldest son of the Bellegerin King, would like to see the world wiped free of sorcerers. But it is he who is charged with finding the repository of all of their knowledge, to find the book of the seventh Decimate–and reverse the fate of his land.
All hope rests with Bifalt. But the legendary library, which may or may not exist, lies beyond an unforgiving desert and treacherous mountains–and beyond the borders of his own experience. Wracked by hunger and fatigue, sacrificing loyal men along the way, Bifalt will discover that there is a game being played by those far more powerful than he could ever imagine. And that he is nothing but a pawn…
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Seventh Decimate is the first book in a brand new trilogy from Stephen Donaldson.
War has been a raging between the Bellegerins and the Amikans and their respective kingdoms of Belleger and Amika for longer than anyone can remember.
The book opens with a prologue set a couple of years before the actual story starts. The Bellegerins and Amikans are once again at war (this never-ending war is all consuming for Belleger and the nation of Amika is their mortal enemy).
The Bellegerins have a new weapon, gunpowder and the gun (not a musket but a gun with cartridges that is capable of repeated firing). In the ensuing battle use a small team which includes Prince Bifalt (our protagonist and the eldest son of King Abbator the King of Belleger) to test out the weaponry against the sorcerers of Amika (if the guns can kill sorcerers then it would give Belleger the upper hand in the war and help to turn the tides against Amika). The test is a success and thus ends the prologue.
After the prologue, we jump forward by a couple of years and things aren’t going well for Belleger. The gun trial while a success ultimately came to nothing as a year later magic mysteriously vanished from the land of Belleger (magic amongst its many other uses is needed to help produce the guns). Within the span of a day, magic disappeared. One moment it was there and the next it was gone.
No-one knows what happened to the decimates (the name for the magic system) and why the sorcerers were suddenly unable to access them. There is, however, whisperings of a seventh decimate. According to rumour for the seventh decimate to be used it needs to have been invoked which means someone has spoken the incantation. An old magister mentions to the King of Belleger that generations ago there used to be a great library that housed powerful and sorcerous books and that the book that contains the seventh decimate and a way to reverse its effect could if it still exists reside in this fabled library.
The location of the library, however, is unknown and the only clue to its whereabouts is that it is located across the desert to the east. So starts the adventure and quest as Prince Bifalt and his group go off in search of this legendary Refractory of books in search of the knowledge that they seek.
The world and setting in Seventh Decimate are quite self-contained and compared to other fantasy works and their subsequent world-building I sadly found it to be both rather lacking and bland. On three out of its four borders, the land of Belleger is surrounded by the sea with an impassable coastline, a mountain range and a vast desert. The fourth border to the North leads to Amika which is separated from Belleger by a river dividing the two nations.
Belleger doesn’t care about the wider world and what is beyond its borders as its main (only) focus is the war against Amika. The two nations will go to war, fight, kill and then regroup and for a while, there will be calm only for the cycle to repeat, again and again, generation after generation. Later in the book, there are some allusions to the wider world but that’s all they are, hints and mentions.
There aren’t many female characters and Seventh Decimate contains a cast that is very male centred. With the newer breed of fantasy writers, there’s a preponderance of well-rounded and well-developed (not in the Brigitte Nielsen from Red Sonja twin WMD’s developed way) females generally included in most of their books as a given. In today’s day and age it shouldn’t be ‘oh look, a strong female character‘ as though it’s a huge thing, it shouldn’t be! It should just be a normal and natural way of writing for writers to include them in their work! Badass males AND badass females for the win!
The lack of any well-developed females in Seventh Decimate was very noticeable. Sure, there’s a female assassin but other than her being an assassin she’s not well-realised or depicted. I do have to question why there weren’t any female sorcerers and why they were only male?! It just seemed weird, there isn’t many who can wield the decimates and surely they should have been able to have been wielded by BOTH men and women?! When the decimates manifested how did they manage to discriminate between the sexes?!
While I’m lamenting the lack of well-developed female characters I might as well throw in the rest of the male cast too. Apart from Prince Bifalt, they are all sorely lacking in the development department with only very rudimentary characterisation taking place for any character. With Bifalt’s group, I might well have found myself able to care them and their fates had they been rendered as more than a basic cardboard outline.
The main character, Prince Bifalt isn’t the most endearing and charismatic of people and it really is quite hard to like him. He is stubborn, obstinate, single-minded, has his own views and often comes across as arrogant, prejudiced and bigoted with some of them. He is blinded by his hatreds and absolutely abhors magic and sorcerers with the only thing he despises more being anyone and anything from the nation of Amika. On the plus side, he is loyal to his father, his people and the kingdom of Belleger.
With the main character, I personally like to see growth, development and the ability to learn from their mistakes as the story progresses. This trait is something that Bifalt is seriously lacking and the quest is definitely not a journey of self-discovery for the Prince. Trials, tribulations, hardships and mistakes change people and you generally at least try to learn from them so that they don’t happen again. Yet Bifalt fails to learn anything from his experiences and comes across as a bit of a pig-headed dolt. Come to the final page Bifalt has shown some slight growth but it’s a case of too little too late and he really isn’t much different from the first page, unlikeable!
As you can tell one of my main issues with the book was definitely Prince Bifalt and I truly feel that if Donaldson had written a more likeable main character that you could connect with then it would have greatly improved Seventh Decimate as a whole. Instead, you have a character that you don’t care about and who struggle to emphasise with. You can understand Belleger’s plight and get behind the quest but Bifalt himself, no, he isn’t endearing, grates on you and is frankly, quite annoying!
I found Seventh Decimate to have an old school feel to it in tone. It’s a quest from point A to point B with some hurdles, complications and roadblocks along the way. When reading it occasionally felt dated and far more like older fantasy works than the newer and more imaginative modern fantasy books that I am accustomed to reading.
At just over 300 pages in length, Seventh Decimate is short for a fantasy book and unfortunately, even at the short length it all just fell rather flat for me. I found myself losing interest and subsequently, I ended up skimming pages just to get to the end and finish.
With so many other stellar fantasy trilogies and series out there waiting to be read ultimately, Seventh Decimate wasn’t a book for me and I won’t be continuing with the trilogy.
Purchase Seventh Decimate (The Great God’s War Book One).
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