February 1, 2015

Children of Chaos by Dave Duncan

Title:  Children of Chaos
Author:  Dave Duncan
Pages:  421
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  2006, Tor Fantasy
Series:  Dodec, Book 1

Synopsis:  On a dodecahedral world in thrall to the tyrannical, war-obsessed Hrag dynasty, no one could stop the Bloodlord from sending troops to Florengia, invading its major cities, and offering them a choice between strict colonial rule or immediate and total destruction. When the doge of Celebre was faced with this ultimatum, he gave his children up as hostages so that the rest of Celebre might live. Thus the four young Florengians were taken back over the Edge and scattered across the Vigaelian face.

Fifteen years later, when Celebre suddenly takes on crucial political significance, one of the siblings must return home to serve as Celebre’s puppet ruler and the others must be eliminated so that there are no rival claimants to the throne. It’s going to be tough enough finding each other, let alone deciding whether enough kinship remains after fifteen years apart that the siblings care enough to help each other out of their respective predicaments. If they’re feeling particularly altruistic, the Celebres might even take on the bonus round: trying to save Dodec from the culture of death and war imposed on it by its evil warlords.

One thing’s for certain: the Celebre children are going to have a lot of adjusting to do . .

Review:  This is a new author for me and I wasn't sure what to expect.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The characters are all well written.  The story line is unlike anything else I've ever read and, especially at the end, is hard to put down.  There are plenty of strong (and sometimes evil) women in leadership roles.  Although, I will admit, one of my favorite female characters is now a drooling idiot because she's fallen in love.  Other than that, the author has done a good job at creating believable people in his writing.

Life on Dodec is fairly primitive - think medieval times.  There is much of the worst of humankind:  war, slavery, torture, mistreatment of the poor and women, and an upper class with no real thought for the people who actually do the lion's share of the work.  The warrior class has completely taken over and cowed an entire civilization.  But then, there are the ones who see that things have gone badly wrong and are trying, against horrible odds, to remake their world.

The gods (and there are many) are evident in the lives of the people.  It is in no way a religious book, rather a civilization where each person has a direct relationship with their chosen deity or deities.  The gods are very, scarily real.  And the price the people sometimes pay for their chosen god is very high.  The religion has no real comparison in our world.  The story was not preachy by any means.  I wouldn't have finished it if it was since I cannot stand to be preached at in fiction, but the gods are so much a part of the lives of the characters that it is impossible to separate from the story.

The geography of the planet is something of a mystery to me, although the author promises this will be better explained in the sequel.  A world shaped like a 12-sided die is patently impossible.  The foreword did mention to keep in mind that our ancestors believed Earth was flat, so perhaps their beliefs about their world are equally incorrect. Whatever form it takes on, the twelve realms are separated by mountain ranges that make interaction and regular trade difficult.  We are only introduced to 2 of these realms in the story.  A map in the front of the book makes mention of the rest.  Perhaps the sequel will do more.  I plan to start finding out tomorrow.

Rating:  9 / 10

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