What would you sacrifice to be free?
For Senn, former slave turned rebel leader and now the powerful Herald of the Lord of Greed, the answer was everything. He thought he had left hope behind forever. But when a ghostly child with sparkling blue eyes appears to him, Senn’s loyalty is tested. His own God and army turn against him, forcing him to flee into the harsh desert wasteland alone and powerless.
But as he searches for revenge and a new source of power, he must confront his past, including the woman he left behind at the mercy of the Forever King and his Chainkeepers. A new path that may lead him to Hope, even if he’s not yet ready to embrace it.
Will Senn find redemption and a new purpose, or will he fall to the forces that seek to destroy him and turn all of humanity into thralls?
Thralls of a Tyrant God is an epic start to the God Engine Trilogy. A grimdark novel set in a bleak world full of scheming gods but devoid of hope. I really enjoyed this book and I recommend it to readers of grimdark looking for something different.
It’s no secret that I am a big fan of worldbuilding, and this novel did not disappoint. Everson has crafted an intriguing and dark world that we have only scratched the surface of in this first entry. But don’t worry, there are no massive lore dumps to develop the world, from the first page we are thrown into the deep end and we slowly learn more about the gods, magic, and people of the world simply from the characters living in it. I thought the development of the worldbuilding was written exceedingly well, though as I mentioned, Everson does not hold your hand. Although I never felt overly confused, you should go into this book being okay with not understanding everything at first. Trust me, it will make sense as you read.
There isn’t too much I can say about the gods without getting into spoilers but they are an intriguing part of the world. Our main character Senn is the Herald of the Lord of Greed, and has magic given to him by his god. This magic is fueled by the hunger of the wielder. It can be hunger for power, strength, or just about anything else. The stronger your greed, the more powerful you are. Senn wasn’t always the Herald though, he used to be a slave to the Forever King. While a slave, the Lord of Hunger started appearing to Senn and talking to him. He was mostly powerless and needed Senn to help give him strength to pull him through the veil and take a corporeal form. When Senn leads a revolt and frees a number of slaves, they start worshipping the Lord of Greed and this gives him the power he needs. This creates an interesting relationship between gods and their followers. It is implied that there are other gods beyond the veil, unable to come into the world. So they need power from their followers, who in turn gain power from their chosen god.
The world is a bleak and cruel one. I will note though that there is not an overabundance of graphic content in this book, it isn’t that kind of grimdark. The two populations of humans are ruled over by ruthless gods who don’t care about the lives of their followers. In the camp of the Forever King, almost every human is a slave. While in the city of the Lord of Greed there are few actual slaves, but it is a ruthless society where advancement at any cost is encouraged. Though different in nature, it begs the question of whether or not the freed slaves are actually better off now. This leads to the major theme of this novel, which is what does it mean to truly be free? Can a slave be free? Can a “freeman” really be a slave of appetite or ambition? This is a question that Senn grapples with as the novel progresses.
Senn isn’t our only POV character though. We also have a slave woman named Naial, a boy named Brand, and Senn’s protege Mirai. They each have their own journey of discovery during this book, and although we see them less than Senn, I enjoyed each of them and what they brought to the story. Like Senn they are all in horrible situations and must find ways to not only survive, but achieve some level of hope in the circumstances they are in. There are some grimdark novels that lack any amount of hope whatsoever, but this is not one of them. It may seem like it at first but we start seeing sparks of hope later on.
Based on the magic and the gods, especially in the final reveal at the end, I often felt like I was reading a book that took place in a grimdark Sanderson world. But the writing and characters are more reminiscent of Erikson, where the characters are morally complex and the writing denser and more evocative. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys their fantasy on the darker side, there is a lot to like here in the worldbuilding, characters, and themes. The more I learned as the novel progressed, the more excited I was to continue the series, and I can’t wait to jump into the next book and see where Everson takes us.