My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Gamers and movie-goers are probably now going to be familiar with mechs and giant robots, especially in content from the sf genre. Think Pacific Rim and Transformers, or Armoured Core and Zone of Enders. But how many times have you come across giant robots trying to wipe out humanity Terminator style? Well that is exactly what the Rage of the Old Gods is, cue the low budget Hollywood straight to free b-movie channel adaptation, Wizards vs Robots.
Leha is a relatively unknown woman living in an Eastenhold town called Three Gates. She runs an antiques shop and dreams of travelling the world. Her brother, Drogin, is an engineer and a member of the town’s guard, tasked with the maintenance of the town’s Automatons. Automatons are humanoid shaped machines, running on clockwork mechanism powered a magic imbued matrix of silver. Their tranquil suburbia comes under attack from the neighboring empire of Tor, who have been quietly amassing a huge army and building new Automatons that are capable of casting spells. Three Gates is quickly crushed and its townsfolk evacuated to Heart, the military center of Eastenhold. Desperate to do something to save her fellow countryman from the onslaught of the invading army, Leha travels to the capital and dedicates herself into researching an ancient war against the Old Gods that was won by harnessing the power of two other worlds, Syom and Tyzu. Soon she works out a way of accessing latent energies to help transport her between worlds and finds herself on the ice planet of Syom, which exists within a low energy spectrum and possessing a higher level of gravity to her world of Barria. Failing to find an answer there, she is helped by the indigenous ‘Ice Creatures’ to send her to Tyzu, a tropical planet in a higher energy (lower gravity) spectrum then Barria. There she meets a tribe of the Lost Ones and is forced to undergo a transformation at a cellular level that gives her the ability to command her body to adapt to her environment as she wills and the ability to levy the energy spectrum of both Syom and Tyzu. She also makes another discovery that changes the entire nature of the conflict on Barria. The Automatons are the Old Gods, vanquished thousands of years ago, and unwittingly rebuilt by the humans as weapons of mass destruction.
The story is rightly epic in proportion and epic in size too. The pages are full of battles and reflection on the morality of war, the fraternal bond of humanity, and eminent destruction at the hands of the very things we have made ourselves. The characterization is good, and Edwards manages to make the various players in the story come across as emotionally sympathetic beings rather than a list of names. Despite the number of characters and length of the book, I hardly struggled at all to remember who they were and what their emotional drivers were.
The pacing is a little iffy in places and at times it seems that the author is just as confused as the readers to how much time has expired between scenes. I’m guessing the events of the book transpire over a single year, although it really feels more like a couple of years. The scale of the events probably has something to do with this sense of paradox as Leha struggles to unite the known world(s) and organize it into a resistance against the machines. There are structural problems too, with the action and the internal reflection happening in separate chunks and some key moments skipped out entirely. The jumps between POV also seemed to happen haphazardly within chapters, with apparently no consistent order to the switch between characters.
But despite these flaws, the author manages to pull together this sprawling epic and kept my interest throughout. Edwards has a lot of maturing to do as a writer and no doubt will bring us many more fine adventures to share in the future. Rage of the Old Gods feels fresh and original and despite the author’s lack of experience, still is a decent read, which earns it an optimistic score of three stars.