I’m not sure I’ve ever been as conflicted about a book as I am about Dyrk Ashton’s epic slugathon of deities, PATERNUS: RISE OF GODS. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to talk about a bunch of things I didn’t like, and then I’m going to rave a bit, give it 4 stars and tell you to buy it. So please don’t get part way through, decide I’m slagging the book, and give up.
My issues with Paternus are mostly of the technical/editorial sort; it felt like any editing done was light and incomplete. That is not to say the book is one of those amateurish nightmares of the self-pubbed world with dozens of typos and piles of broken grammar. Overall the writing is quite good. But there were many small things that kept pulling me up short: comma splices, wrong homophones (e.g. peaked instead of piqued), use of interrobangs and multiple exclamation marks, and similar small glitches.
The author also made the (to me) puzzling choice of adding straight parenthetical translations to foreign language phrases. (In my opinion, if you’re going to have characters speak in a foreign language, you have several decent choices: make it clear enough from context that you don’t need a translation; or tell the reader it’s French/Latin/Persian/whatever but write it out in English; or trust your reader to look it up if they care. But simply adding parenthetical translations immediately following every foreign phrase jarred me out of the story, as though my urban fantasy novel had just become a textbook.)
That’s just one example of how the author needs to trust his reader more; he wastes time over-explaining and using redundant adverbs. (If I can easily tell from context that a character is being sarcastic, don’t follow up with a sentence explicitly telling me the character is being sarcastic.)
Paternus is written in the third-person present tense, which is fine, but the head-hopping between characters was so constant, it gave me whiplash. It often happens between short paragraphs without so much as a section break. And while there are a lot of characters in Paternus (and I love some of them and like most of them), the two lead characters, Fi and Zeke, felt flat to me. They seemed more like witnesses and people-to-whom-things-happen than interesting characters driving the action.
So… two stars and don’t bother, right?
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
I. Could. Not. Put. This. Book. Down. And I say this as a stickler for writing quality, as someone who normally would have little patience for a self-published book with editing issues. So, what did I like?
First, just to get this out of the way, the author knows how to write sentences to serve his action…and this book is almost all action. There are beautiful and evocative images throughout, and his ability to describe scenes is magnificent. So understand, despite my complaints, this is not by any means a poorly written book. Quite the opposite.
But the star of this show is the action. The pace of Paternus is so relentless, and the battles so entertaining and cinematic, no piddly little editing issues were going to stop me from turning the next page. The conceit of battling gods from multiple pantheons is absolutely brilliant. (Quetzalcoatl vs. Hephaestus and the Minotaur! Anansi vs. Galahad! Kali vs. Baphomet! Cerberus vs. the Devil!) As a 14-year-old D&D nerd reading the hardcover Deities and Demigods, I loved to speculate about who would win if (for instance) Odin fought against Cthulhu. Dyrk Ashton wrote a whole book about that kind of epic clash of titans, and it’s every bit as delightful as it sounds. The research and knowledge of world mythologies that went into his work is astounding, and the novel is just plain popcorn fun from beginning to end.
As such, despite my curmudgeonly nitpicking, I would recommend this to anyone who thinks an action-packed urban fantasy featuring battlin’ gods sounds like a good time. And while the book ends satisfactorily on its own, it’s clearly a long opening salvo in what’s likely to be an ongoing barrage of deific battles in further books. I can’t wait!
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