It is a second opinion review I wrote after an ungodly row I had with my blogging partner on Tweeter; the impressions of my dear Rameau can be found here.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn’t make any difference…
On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there’s one thing everybody agrees on…
There’s not a chance in hell of ending it.
Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx’s ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war–but at what price?
The world is about to find out.
In the far-flung future there is a planet colonized by Muslims using insect-based technology and magic. Sounds not bad. The planet soon gets ravaged by a multi-sect religious war, in the midst of which a scrappy band of pansexual assassins try to scrap out a living (selling the occasional organ to pay bills). Oh, fine. All of them are women –yyippeee! What could go wrong?
One word: Nyx. The main character and a kind of protagonist of this story if such a thing exists in this case. In my opinion she was Conan the Barbarian put into a female body by a fairy godmother with a really twisted sense of humour. Nyx uses her physical strength and martial arts training to dominate and conquer. Her sexual conquests—because they are never amorous encounters, heavens forbid—encompass both sexes and (one presumes) every conceivable position; her aim is true and her insides gutsy. My problem was that she rarely (if ever) used her brain. Has she sold it along with her womb, without being aware of it? Probably.
I couldn’t force myself to care about her. I would understand it a bit more if the book was actually written by a male writer. Don’t get me wrong: I would still criticize it for roughly the same but then I would shrug my shoulder and sighed: “men and their delusional, immature, women-related fantasies”. It seems that certain women are as good in spinning delusional fantasies as men – an equality I wouldn’t be proud of. Yes, my standards for women writers are higher than that, go sue me.
I really regret the potential of the premise wasn’t explored better (remember it is still my skewed and completely personal opinion) because there was a great potential. Umayama possessed one hell of a backstory – the theater for a centuries-long ‘holy’ war between Muslims and different Muslims, the cause of which no one can remember but which has come to define the cultures of the planet, particularly those of arch-rivals Nasheen and Chenja. In Nasheen, men depart for the front in their teens and are allowed to return only if they remain alive till the age of forty. As you can imagine the number who make it are few so women have to fill in as the rulers, law givers and law enforces, not to mention breadwinners of course.
Still the gynecocracy described by Hurley is full of frank and graphic corruption. God’s War is no argument for the greater qualifications of the feminine to rule: Nasheen’s queen is as calculating and perfidious as any man, her legion of bel dames, government assassins who track down deserting males bringing home toxins from the front, as corrupt as the worst all-male mafia. “Nasheenian women had allowed their propensity for violence to pollute their beliefs,” we are told at one point (p. 19). I deeply disagree with such a fantasy vision; you might call it original, I call it primitive. There were a lot of implications about religion and race and gender, but hardly any of them were explored in depth – what to explore when your main character prefers brawling to thinking?
There was one saving grace: the slow-burning romance between Nyx and Rhys, a black magician she employed. It was done pretty well but it wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough.
You can have the coolest, most inventive setup imaginable, but if you don’t fill it with people readers can give a rip about, it’s just not worth the effort. From my point of view such a failure it especially painful as it is written by woman. The lower level of meh it is. Still the cover art is good.