The Left Hand of God is a stunning first installment in a remarkable epic trilogy...
"Listen. The Sanctuary of the Redeemers on Shotover Scarp is named after a damned lie for there is no redemption that goes on there and less sanctuary."
The Sanctuary of the Redeemers is a vast and desolate place - a place without joy or hope. Most of its occupants were taken there as boys and for years have endured the brutal regime of the Lord Redeemers whose cruelty and violence have one singular purpose - to serve in the name of the One True Faith.
In one of the Sanctuary's vast and twisting maze of corridors stands a boy. He is perhaps fourteen or fifteen years old - he is not sure and neither is anyone else. He has long-forgotten his real name, but now they call him Thomas Cale. He is strange and secretive, witty and charming, violent and profoundly bloody-minded. He is so used to the cruelty that he seems immune, but soon he will open the wrong door at the wrong time and witness an act so terrible that he will have to leave this place, or die.
His only hope of survival is to escape across the arid Scablands to Memphis, a city the opposite of the Sanctuary in every way: breathtakingly beautiful, infinitely Godless, and deeply corrupt.
But the Redeemers want Cale back at any price... not because of the secret he now knows but because of a much more terrifying secret he does not.
©2010 Paul Hoffman; (P)2010 Penguin Audiobooks Ltd
"Good idea, poor execution"
Paul Hoffman seems to have come up with an interesting plot, but unfortunately never got past the drafting stage for this novel. The clipped dialogue and focus on distinct details convey well the grim mood during the first chapters of this book. Unfortunately, the writing style doesn't change much as the story progresses, leaving both the dialogue and the storyflow poorly paced and lacking in flavor. Perhaps for this reason, many of the characters were left feeling shallow and unimaginative.
The further the story progressed, the less polished it became. Characters were introduced, just to be completely forgotten a few chapters later. The author also became ever more obliged to explain (rather bluntly) characters' actions and reactions (no matter how obvious or uninteresting they are), as if he had a need to convince you with the logic of it, instead of trusting into his own storytelling. The events, first logical and tightly bound, soon became disjointed and artificial, feeling to be arbitrarily forced by the author rather than stemming from the world he created. Most of the events didn't seem to have much of effect on the overall story progression, as the characters were plunged into the next plot twist, without having any choice about it.
This book suffers from poor storytelling. However, my main complaint is about something else. It has a good deal of real-world references. Real town names, currency, nationalities, religious references and terminology are all used as-is. At first, this felt interesting and sometimes amusing. Soon, it started getting repetitive, making it difficult to immerse into the book. By the end of the book, these references seemed more like cheap and unimaginative placeholders, which no one bothered to replace afterwards.
That being said, I did buy the next book in the series. The plot really isn't so bad, it's just the writing which makes me cringe.
Well written book which kept me listening past bed time as well as an unusual plot, looking forward to the next installment
"Interesting story, let down by hollow characters"
"The Left Hand of God" tells the story of Cale, one of possibly several thousand boys imprisoned within the Sanctuary, a fortress controlled by religious fanatics whose purpose is to brutally indoctrinate the boys into the faith of the Hanged Redeemer, with often-times bloody and fatal results. Cale has become disillusioned by the the constant mental and physical punishments doled out by the redeemers and seeks an escape with the help of two other similarly dispirited boys.
The story has a lot of potential. Cale's seemingly invincible skills hint at some supernatural purpose. However we do not find out what it is until the closing chapter of the book. By that time, I had lost most of my interest in what was happening. The characters do not instill a sense of caring in the reader. Cale is particularly cold and lacking personality. Understandable given his upbringing. The other characters seem more light-hearted and I know I should care about what happens to them, but they are just as hollow. If any one of them had died, I wouldn't have felt any sense of loss.
A hollow bleakness permeates the whole book, reinforced by Sean Barrett's depressing rattling narration. The narration does fit with the tone of the book though, and Barrett does try to liven up the characters, but it's Hoffman's writing that loses the cause. Even once outside the Sanctuary and in the bustling city of Memphis, the depressing vibe is still there. It doesn't make me want to go back and read the second book. It's just too damn bleak! I understand this is what the author intended, but there are limits. It's a shame, because the next book could very well be fantastic, as Cale realizes what he is destined for. I might even consider it if he wasn't such a callous bore of a character.
"Wonderful start to this series"
I'd recently stopped reading fantasy, but this was recommended to me. I grudgingly accepted, and was more than pleasantly surprised. The story moves along at a superb pace, and Paul Hoffman's characterisations are sublime.
Definitely give this a go!
Although I acknowledge this book is not particularly great literature and that there is nothing terribly original in it, it is a really entertaining fantasy book. There are elements of it that are contrived and other parts which make you roll your eyes, but on the whole it is fine and keeps going at a great pace and compels one to read it to the end. If you take your fantasy seriously (to me 'Serious Fantasy' is an oxymoron) then you will probably be able to quote lots of better books and authors, but if you want an easy listening experience without taking it all too seriously, then this is as good as the next.
In a nutshell, if you are a 3rd Dan 'Dungeons and Dragons' Master who has memorised everything that Terry Brookes ever wrote and go to LOTR conventions dressed as an Orc, this is probably not the book for you. For everyone else who has realistic expectations (look at the cover illustration, for goodness sake!) of what this book is going to deliver, give it a try.
I for one am looking forward to the sequel.
Really enjoyable book, with great narrator, perfect pairing as few books seem to have the right narrator for the job! Great listen, engrossing story and looking forward to the next part!
"Excellent and weird!"
I didn't remember reading the blurb about this book so found myself very confused for the first few chapters. It was quite unlike something I thought I would have chosen but it was so interesting that I continued to listen. And I'm glad I did, it's brilliantly written, very tense and also very weird! For a while I couldn't figure out if this was set in the real world or a fantasy and I'm still not sure, lots of made up words and places and people but all so believable. If I'd read a hard copy I'd probably have found it 'unputdownable', the fact that I was listening I guess makes it 'unturnoffable'?! Now where's the next part?!
An epic fantasy. Unlike anything I've read or listened to before. As other reviewers have said, the narration is perfectly suited to the story. A very well told story- the characters are deep, and the storyline unique. Highly recommended. I've just downloaded part two, as there's no way I can leave the story where this book ends........
Great story, performed brilliantly.
"Exceptional and utterly engrossing..."
This audio book is a must for anyone keen on well written fantasy or historical novels. It creates a sort of nineteenth century/medieval composite world which, incongruous as it may seem, is beautifully realized. I delayed getting my head down to work for five hours because I couldn't bring myself to turn it off. As another review says, the narrator perfectly matches the story. Good narrators like this are hard to find and this is frequently the undoing of an otherwise great audio book.
I do not usually read this genre and bought this by mistake. I admit to being surprised and genuinely gripped by the book. I have consequently broadened where I look in the bookshop and found the whole experience enlightening
"Engrossing but not exactly light hearted."
I genuinely enjoyed this book. It is not for the faint hearted, the Sanctuary of the Redeemers is not somewhere you'd want to take the kids for a day out. This book is consistently grim, it doesn't let up on the oppression of its subjects for a moment. But it has real appeal, a dark fascination that draws you in to the finely detailed setting inexorably. Well written, well narrated, well worth your time!
The story is excellent and I love the characters; the reading is also excellent. The best thing is that it's part of a trilogy (which I have only just realised) and I cannot wait for the next installment!
"Superb. Cannot rate highly enough"
It seems wrong to label this book as a work of fantasy, as it reads almost like a work of historical fiction, so realistic is the world.
The performance is perfect, with the subtle characterisation and the impassioned performance lending a huge amount of gravity to the story.
I cannot wait for the next part of this story, and will be making a point of getting the Audio book, as opposed to the novel, so strong was the performance.
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