God Stalk by P.C. Hodgell
God Stalk, first in the Kencyrath series authored by P.C. Hodgell in the early 80s, opens with Jame stumbling into Tai-Tastigon, which is apparently deserted, after being so long on the run that she’s delirious with exhaustion and fighting off her race’s healing dwar sleep. She chances upon Penari, a famous thief, as he’s trapped in a doorway by a couple of footpads. Jame rushes to the rescue and Penari offers her a job as recompense. Too weak, confused and lost to comprehend, Jame wanders the maze of Tai-Tastigon until she collapses just inside the doorstep of the Res a’Bytrr, one of the few taverns open on the eve of the Feast of the Dead Gods.
Jame is adopted into the hearts and hearth of the tavern owner and his staff. She recovers rapidly, but is stalked by nightmares of her life before arriving at Tai-Tastigon, home to thousands of gods, their temples and followers. Jame, a Kencyr, believes in only one god, the Three-Faced God: Torrigion, That-Which-Creates; Argentiel, That-Which-Preserves; and, Regonereth, That-Which-Destroys. Honor-bound and honest to a fault, Jame finds Tai-Tastigon strange and dangerous.
Unable to continue her journey to Kencyr lands due to the closing of the mountain passes and storms on the seas, Jame takes Penari up on his offer of an apprenticeship. She seeks the approval of her god through the high priest, Ishtier, in residence at the Temple of the Three-Faced God in the Lower Town. Arrogant and hateful, Ishtier is about to refuse her request, when the Three-Faced God speaks through him and gives a limited blessing to Jame.
Jame spends the rest of the story learning her craft, remembering her heritage and mastering a martial art similar to dancing, which can also entrance her audience and through which she can channel unseen forces and powers. She also seeks the answer to several burning theological questions: How can so many gods exist? Has her race, the Kencyrs, been duped for three thousand years? She stalks the gods, even managing to kill one, and resurrect it, before she comes to terms with her beliefs.
God Stalk had moments of poetic prose amid the heists, action and intrigue. I struggled with some elements of Jame’s persona that stretched the logical side of my brain: She has amnesia, but seems to remember her name, her family, her culture and its history and, despite her personal integrity and strong moral compass, she joins a Thieves Guild (yet refuses to steal anything). The character development suffered at the altar of action, but the adventure kept me turning pages to the end.
FanLit thanks Jon Moss for contributing this guest review.