The Godborn is certainly a book full of surprises for Erevis Cale fans. For those new to Paul S. Kemp's famous shadow warrior, you're in for something different. As the title implies, divinity plays a large role in this dark, dramatic adventure. Some characters seek it out, while others try to avoid it. Yet within this book of fantasy, there's an interwoven thread of horror that's sure to play on reader's emotions. It's rather fitting considering one of the antagonists in the novel is a ruler of Hell.
If you are new to the Erevis Cale series, The Godborn serves as the long awaited climax of the Twilight Wars Trilogy. In those books, Erevis Cale, Drasek Riven, and Magadon the half-devil mind mage try to stop a shade named Rivalen from bringing about the end of the world. Rivalen is a Shadovar prince and a worshiper of Shar, the Lady of Loss. Shar is a goddess who seeks to bring sweet oblivion to the universe by destroying one world at a time. Through the Twilight War, Erevis and his colleagues waged a war against shadows, end up with a piece of a god's divinity, and do battle with the ruler of the eighth hell...Magadon's father.
In The Godborn, the story mostly follows Erevis Cale's son, Vasen. Through dreams and guidance from characters like Riven, Vasen must save his father from the eighth hell. Along the way, he makes some friends who become very enjoyable new characters. Long time fans may be disappointed that there isn't much of Erevis or Mags in this book. However, Riven and the Shadovar prince Brennulus play key parts with some very nice scenes. Some gigantic battles take place, along with some highly personal ones. There's a lot to enjoy.
One of the surprising elements, though, is the horror story twisted within the plot. Two new characters, Sayeed and Zeeahd, take part in the most violent and repulsive scenes in the book. They enter as mysterious wanderers in search of something. But it quickly becomes evident that something is not right about these two. Horrors follow in their wake and Paul S. Kemp gives Stephen King a run for his money. I have to admit I wasn't expecting the horror elements and they seemed a little out of place and over the top. However, the things these two characters do certainly provoke strong emotions. It got to the point where I couldn't wait for them to be punished or better yet killed.
Aside from the horror scenes, divinity plays a big part in the story. From the events of the Twilight Wars Trilogy, Rivalen, Riven and Mephistopheles (Magadon's father) are all part divine, having consumed a piece of the god Mask. Riven finds divinity to be a burden and wants to get rid of it. Mephistopheles simply hungers for more and wants to kill Riven and Rivalen to get it. Then there's Vasen who is the key to releasing the divinity and fulfilling Mask's ultimate plan to avenge himself against the goddess Shar. Yet Vasen posses no divinity. He's not even as powerful as his dad was in most of the series. But Vasen has faith. His faith in divinity, in the divine Amaunator, god of the dawn, is his strength. Balanced with shadows in his blood, he walks the darkness and the light.
For casual readers, this is a fantasy story with intriguing characters and a significant touch of horror. For the longtime readers such as myself, this is the culmination of a great story arc. That also means there's a lot riding on this story. Does Erevis Cale come back to life? Does Mask triumph over Shar? Can the new characters compete with the likes of Erevis, Riven, Jak and Mags? Is there a payoff? Well, I won't spoil anything suffice to say that yes, the new characters are really good and the payoff is well worth it. The Godborn tackles a lot and Kemp gets it done. There is closure at the end, as well as new beginnings. Having read all of the Erevis Cale books, I was very satisfied with the ending. All the twists and turns and emotional pitfalls led to some great scenes, great characters, and a great story. I give it a five out of five.