“The mountains became plains, and the seas boiled into deserts.”
So went the earth.
First came the World War, humanity’s suicide. Then came the War against Hell, humanity’s redemption. Esther, the Eternal One, led the way from darkness to light. A new order, by her will.
So went civilization.
For a time. But as history fades and the Eternal One’s yoke tightens, man turns upon man once more. Ancient dreams of independence rise in Cathedral’s shadow. Bastion’s vengeance awakens. War beckons.
And Hell is watching.
The best word I can use to describe All of Our Sins is consuming. The vivid imagery, dark atmosphere, and intriguing characters all blend together perfectly to create a whirlwind story that grips you from the very beginning and never lets you go.
The first book of the series, The Hand of God, was one of my favorite books I’ve read this year, so I was very excited to get to the sequel. I was confident it would live up to my expectations, but All of Our Sins not only did that but far exceeded them. I had forgotten just how vivid the author’s prose is but was very quickly reminded from the very first page. He has a way of eliciting certain emotions, particularly dread and unease, in a way I have never experienced before from any other book. Just like its predecessor, this book has no fluff, every word is deliberate and important to the story, which keeps it moving at a quick pace. If it ever feels rushed, it is meant to feel rushed because of the fever dream nature of certain moments of the story. The storytelling is so tight, and the word choice so evocative, that despite the complexity of the story, I absolutely soared through the novel.
Speaking of complexity, this novel can be difficult to grasp at times, but no more so than the first book so if you made it through that one, you should be just fine. This one doesn’t immediately pick up where the first book left off, which might be a bit jarring at first but is executed flawlessly. In classic Kordov style, there are frequently moments, especially in the first half, where you, along with the characters, aren’t sure what is real. Time, locations, memories are all played with in a fever dream manner that leave you questioning yourself. Wondering if what you just read actually happened, or was it a hallucination, or both? All I will say is trust the author, he knows exactly what he is doing and it all pays off, most likely sooner than later. While it may sound odd, these were some of my favorite moments of the book.
The already fantastic worldbuilding of the series was expanded further here, especially with the focus on Mother Rebekah and her abilities. There are some very interesting moments involving her and new elements introduced in this novel, that reveal new insights but also bring up new questions. We also get more events in the Deadlands, the absolutely mind-bending wastelands introduced in The Hand of God that, much like the deserts of Arrakis, act almost as another character. These scenes are eerie and ominous in the best ways and produced some of my favorite chapters. One of the main themes of this series is hope and perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds, and nothing evokes this more than the people traveling through the horrors of the Deadlands in pursuit of a brighter future.
Another addition to this book is a closer look at the organizations and politics of Bastion and the Scavrats. It is difficult to go into any detail without spoilers, but it was very intriguing to see the politics play out in the presence of looming war with Cathedral. For those who read the first book and loved Rebakah-6, like I did, we don’t get a whole lot of her in All of Our Sins but what we do get is just as emotional as always. In spite of everything, she is the most innocent character in the series and the author somehow portrays these scenes beautifully in this hellscape of a world. The ending is a perfect moment, that left me stunned and begging for the sequel immediately.
This series is impossible to classify but I can’t overstate how much I want every reader of SFF to pick up this series and discover just how great it is for themselves. Especially if you enjoy genre-bending, metaphysical books with deep themes and stunning prose. If you like being utterly consumed by the books you are reading, this is the series for you.