REVIEW: Lies of Lesser Gods by LGA McIntyre

Birthed from out of a nightmare void, Gralyre’s only memory is that of an execution – his own. Thrust into a war between the last of humanity and the tyrant who rules them, Gralyre struggles to survive a world where his name is forbidden and to carry a sword is a death sentence. In a land where madness and tyranny rule, is Gralyre a weapon of the evil usurper, Doaphin, or the last hope of mankind? Doaphin has infiltrated with spies before, but the rebel sorceress Catrian easily exposes the evil staining their souls. But Gralyre’s hidden past tells no tales. Could the taint of the usurper be lurking within his missing memories?

Pursued by evil creatures, mistrusted by the Rebels and plagued by his mysterious nightmares, Gralyre must find a way to survive when his past could be a dangerous viper that will awaken to poison those he has sworn to protect. Catrian would kill him for the danger he poses, save that Gralyre has magic, a resource desperately needed in these dark days as Doaphin wages war against the last bastions of Humanity. Can she find a way to trust him?

Warnings: Violence, Rape (off-screen), Abuse, Violence against women, Animal death

Category: M/F

Lies of Lesser Gods is an indie fantasy novel series. As of this review there are four books out, with a final fifth instalment on the way. It is a series that, for all that it is a fantasy war story, is filled with gripping drama, and a focus on relationships and interpersonal dynamics.

WRITING
It’s a very engaging story with well done writing and a fast moving plot. This is in a lot of ways a collection of well known fantasy tropes; there’s a dark lord that has taken over the land, the people are being oppressed, there’s a prophesy of a heroic figure to return, etc. But the way that it is written brings these tropes out very well, and keeps the story interesting with interesting characters to follow. I loved Gralyre, and his wolfdog Little Wolf, and was invested in following his journey. At the start of the story he has amnesia, and that is used to create a lot of tension in the narrative. The character dialogue is all written with a kind of Scottish brogue, which sort of prompted me to read the rest of the prose my brain in that accent as well. I also really enjoyed the peeks into the villains as there are several chapters sprinkled throughout from the perspectives of either the main villains or their henchmen, and these interludes were very fun.

EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT
Emotionally these books can be frustrating, especially if you are sensitive to depictions of abuse or bullying. This is at its heart a story about abuse survivors, and the author has filled the series with various women who have been abused or are currently being abused who react or survive in various different ways. This is a positive for the series in my opinion; I like having a broad representation of women and survivors, and the explorations of their traumas are very well handled. However not all of the bullying and abuse in the text feels believable; when it comes to Gralyre’s experiences being harassed and bullied it could often feel like the characters motivations were all over the place. Why some characters formed immediate and intensive dislike for other characters, or why some of the abuse perpetrators ended up being cartoonishly evil caricatures while others were portrayed as still being sympathetic felt a little strange. The story focuses so strongly on trauma and healing that it is indeed a very emotionally engaging narrative, but I wish that it had had a little more nuance to its portrayals of abuse. That said, I really do applaud it for working with such troubling themes.

WORLDBUILDING
The worldbuilding feels like it could have been a bit more than it is. There isn’t much in the setting that isn’t typical high fantasy; from the dark lord to the magic lessons to the prophecies and quests, the whole setting is permeated by standard tropes that might have been more interesting if it had been fleshed out a little better. Instead, the story seems to treat the setting as shorthand. There is a group of people known as Dream Weavers and there is little descriptions of their appearance or culture aside from their magic, so I wasn’t sure if they were intended to be this setting’s version of elves or if they were Indigenous-coded. The country the story is set in has been so ravaged by war and oppression under the dark lord that there’s little culture for the characters to interact with left, and frankly all we get of the rebels, who were abysmally awful people, left me feeling like maybe the dark lord should just kill everyone. The Bleak was an interesting concept; although a patch of land smothered under a supernatural total darkness in which monsters lurk has been done before, it still made for a very intriguing part of the story and was well explored.

STEAMINESS
While there is little amounts of sex in the book, there is a budding romance and a few steamy scenes between Gralyre and the sorceress Catrian. I really appreciated their dynamic, it’s a tumultuous relationship at first as they go from mutual distrust and bickering to a growing love affair. The intimate scenes are lovely, and the author is at her absolute best when she’s writing intimacy and intensive interactions. McIntyre is fantastic in fact in not just romance scenes but also in negative or aggressive intimacy. There are some very nice hero/villain moments, especially in book 1, where there are these incredibly chilling interrogations or threatened tortures, and I was at the edge of my seat with the tension demonstrated here. The only real issue is that I wish the author committed more in both cases; the sex scenes are tasteful rather than explicit, and the threats of torture never get the chance to be followed through on. But that’s more or less just my personal preference here.

I really enjoyed these books and found them quite engaging. Their flaws are counterbalanced by the author’s good writing skills and flair for character interactions, as well as their continual exploration of trauma and survival. I can’t wait to eventually pick up book 5.

Have you read Lies of Lesser Gods? Let me know what YOU thought by leaving me a comment!

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