Textbook Wasted Potential: Hannah Kaner – Godkiller

These new, shiny special editions of books can sometimes trick you into thinking a book is better than it actually is. Because with sprayed edges and lovely foil, some artwork, and gorgeous endpapers, I really wanted to like this book. And it’s not that I hated it. It just didn’t hold up to my scrutiny.

by Hannah Kaner

Published: Harper Voyager, 2023
Hardback: 290 pages
Series: Godkiller #1
My rating: 5.5/10

Opening line: Her father fell in love with a god of the sea.

Kissen kills gods for a living, and she enjoys it. That is until she finds a god she cannot kill: Skediceth, god of white lies, who is connected to a little noble girl on the run.

Elogast fought in the god war, and helped purge the city of a thousand shrines before laying down his sword. A mysterious request from the King sends him racing back to the city he destroyed.

On the way he meets a godkiller, a little girl and a littler god, who cannot find out about his quest.

It’s such a shame when a book comes along that seems to have all the right ingredients only to falter and trickle through a lack of plot that leaves you utterly emotionless at the end. I was very much looking forward to Hannah Kaner’s debut novel, and not only because of its stunning cover.

In a world that used to have lots of gods in it but is now, for the most part, godless, we follow a Godkiller named Kissen. People such as her are needed for when gods creep up again every now and then. When people secretly worship them, pray to them, offer them gifts or sacrifices – that’s what gives gods their power. And some folk just won’t let go of the old ways, no matter how many times the King forbids worship or even mentions of gods.

Kissen’s dark past is dealt with in a fantastic prologue, the height of which later chapters sadly fail to reach. When Kissen’s entire family is killed, with her the sole survivor, the first step is taken for her to become a god-hating, ruthless loner/mercenary. But she also happens to have a soft spot for people like her, like the Kissen she used to be. A young girl, lost in the world with nobody to take care of her. So when young Inara comes along with a very big problem that has to be kept very secret, Kissen accepts that she is going to help the girl.

Inara’s problem comes in the shape of a bunny-with-wings-and-antlers companion who happens to be the God of White Lies, Skediceth. He’s not a very powerful god because people don’t pray to him or offer gifts, but he is strangely tied to Inara – so much so that it hurts them both when they are physically too far apart from each other. What they want is to be separated so Skedi can try this whole godhood thing (illegal, schmillegal), and Inara simply so she doesn’t have to hide this epic secret any more.

Fourthyl, as far as POV characters go, is Elogas, a former knight who fought in the god war and has now turned into a rather depressed baker with nothing but regrets. But he also knows of a secret, one to do with the King, and when he is asked to go to Blenraden – a city where gods may still exist, a city where pilgrims secretly go to, a city that no sane person would go to – he cannot refuse. This also happens to be where Inara and Kissen are headed, in order to find help separating girl from god.

So you see, it’s all there, the stuff of an Epic Fantasy TM . The problem is that what follows is mostly travelogue, a tiny bit of world building (although not nearly as much as I had hoped) and a lot of clumsy dialogue and exposition. The characters don’t really get to shine, they are merely what we have been told at the beginning, and don’t show much depth or anything surprising. The way they slowly become friends may be nice in theory, but was so boring to read. Their travels are not very interesting because whatever happens is either predictable or emotionally meaningless – like you know ahead of time that some random side character has only been introduced so they can die dramatically in order for Elo or Kissen to show off their skill. Except if a side character has a useful gift (say, healing), then they get ot live and serendipitously show up when needed later in the story. It’s just all done so obviously and with so little style that it makes me sad.

At the end, there is a fair bit of action and at least one surprise that I didn’t see coming. That didn’t keep it from leaving me unfazed as I still hadn’t grown very fond of these characters. But the problem with this book in its entirety is that it doesn’t even go anywhere. Sure, it’s book one in a series (because of course it is) but I would expect a little more from the introductory tome than showing four characters, introducing them, and then have them do nothing of consequence for 200 pages. Kissen may go through a tiny amount of character growth when it comes to her view on the gods in general and Elo learns some dramatic truths about the world, but other than that, they are exactly as they were at the beginning, and there hasn’t really been a story to tell. People travel a little bit, have some battles, talk, thing about the god war, reminisce about their pasts broodily, and then it’s over. Okay, fine, I’m leaving out the actiony part because spoilers, but essentially, that’s all it is. And that’s just what I said in the first sentence of this review: a damn shame!

I don’t know that I’ll read the sequel to this. Maybe if the reviews are over the top positive, but otherwise, I just don’t have the time for mediocre books anymore.

MY RATING: 5.5/10 – Meh

Magic portal artwork by Tithi Luadthong

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