- Inexperienced young hero in possession of great power of which he is initially unaware – check.
- A world familiar enough to be comfortable, but strange enough to be intriguing – check.
- A pantheon of gods unique to this world – check.
- Magic – check.
- Talking animals (not strictly necessary, but always a plus) – check.
- Big, shadowy bad guy amassing a huge army to destroy (or takeover) the world – check.
- A heroic group of quirky companions out to thwart the aforementioned big, shadowy bad guy’s plan of world destruction (or domination) – check.
- Roadtrip! – check.
- A map of world in the front of the book – chhh…. HEY! Where the HELL is my MAP!!!!???
If you are a fan of Narnia, The Golden Compass, Walter Moers’ Zamonia books or The Hobbit (and who isn’t???), then I can pretty much guarantee you’re going to enjoy The Gamble of the Godless. It contains all the tried and true standards of great fantasy, and adds some new twists to keep readers on their toes. David Maine has created a new world, where the gods have made man and beast equal but – because of some of man’s past behavioral issues – placed them on opposite sides of the world with a massive mountain range forming the geographical border between their two lands.
The Gamble of the Godless begins when a lone survivor of the Emperor’s army makes a midnight visit to our hero Avin’s farm. He tells the frightening tale of an unprecedented ambush by an army of wolves who have crossed the mountains. Sixteen hundred soldiers, brutally massacred. When the news reaches the human cities men are called to muster for a counter attack on the great wolf cities Alpha & Gamma. Avin’s older brother rushes ahead of the army looking for payback… but we soon learn that the wolves were not responsible. Someone is working hard start a war between this world’s two greatest military forces – wolves and men. Avin and his new friends find themselves on a quest to figure out who is behind the plot, locate Avin’s brother before he gets himself killed and stop a war that will leave all the human kingdoms & animal territories vulnerable.
This is a fantasy novel, and all fantasy plots follow a formula. Harry Potter or George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire – strip them down and the difference between the two series is negligable. Bad guys intent on world domination; shadowy armies forming in the North/East/West/South; a courageous band of heroes rushing to save the day. Authors like Tolkien and Martin go for a more epic scope (usually accomplished by adding more characters) but the fundamentals of the storyline always remain the same. And that’s how it should be. Because fantasy novels are character driven. Which is why true fansare willing to wait years (sometimes decades) for an author to finish a series. Sure we love the stories… but what keeps us coming back is our attachment to those central characters and to the world they inhabit.
David Maine has created a wonderful cast of characters and a elaborately detailed world – one of the most engaging I’ve experienced. Avin the farm boy, Ax the soldier and Jocen the one armed sorcerer might not be all that unusual. But add a brave little owl, a cheetah in search of her next chuya grass fix, a horse and a raccoon working for Equine Intelligence – and things quickly get interesting. Their journey will take them from the great wolf cities of Alpha and Gamma, into the underground serpent city known as the Net, across Cheetah Run ruled by the Feline Sisterhood and eventually to the Barrens… where the mysterious Godless and their army waits.
It’s all about the details. Each species of animal has its own dialect – wolves speak in metaphors, apes can only use the present tense, cats refer to themselves in the third person. Their cities are distinctive and a large portion of The Gamble of the Godless is spent on world-building. All these establishing scenes can become tedious in the hands of a less skilled writer, but Maine does such a good job I found myself glued to the page. I read this book, cover to cover, in two 3-hour sittings. If Book 2 were available, I’d have downloaded it immediately and kept on reading.
And that’s the catch. The Gamble of the Godless is only available in e-book. David Maine decided to release the book electronically, rather than going the traditional publishing route (which is what he did with his earlier novels). He gives some of his reasons in his interview with Rena Rossner, which is the next stop in the David Maine Blog Tour. So if you don’t own an e-reader, this could be that excuse you’ve been looking for to go get one. The Chronicals of Avin is as addictive as chuya grass. Just ask the cheetah.
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Oh, and David, if you’re reading this…. you’re just one map away from achieving Fantasy Novel GLORY!!!! 🙂