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Already a bestseller in the UK, Hannah Kaner’s debut, GODKILLER, is now available for American audiences who like their fantasy accessible, immersive and unputdownable. The start of this low-fantasy (as opposed to high-fantasy) trilogy is perfect for those looking to explore the genre, especially if they are already familiar with fantasy movies and television programs like Lord of the Rings and “Game of Thrones.”

When Kissen was a child, her family was favored by Osidisen, the god of the sea. Her father had fallen in love with the oceanic god; as a result, her family enjoyed favor and fortune in their coastal country of Talicia. But in a world where gods both old and new, powerful and fledgling rule, alliances and betrayals act as currency. One night, Kissen’s entire family is drugged, bound and left for dead at the hands of followers of the fire god Hseth. Kissen and her father manage to escape their bounds, but Kissen’s own leg is left behind and her father, gravely injured himself, makes a bargain with Osidisen: his life for his daughter’s. The sea god accepts.

"This is a spellbinding, creative and utterly invigorating fantasy. I encourage all readers looking for something new to give it a try, regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a fantasy reader."

Years later, the kingdom is god-free following a ruling by King Arren, who watched his own family be destroyed by the wars of gods and their followers and has deemed all forms of worship illegal. The ruling has been met with both praise and hatred. But for Kissen, who has no desire to return to the old ways, it has resulted in a new career as a veiga, a professional killer of gods. The work is dangerous, but she speaks survival as well as she speaks her own mother tongue. With the aid of her prosthetic leg, she is as strong and wily as any godkiller or knight.

But Kissen is not the only one whose life has been changed by this ruling. Elogast “Elo” is currently a baker, but in the early years of Arren’s rule, he was one of the King’s most trusted knights --- not to mention his best friend and almost-brother. Elo believes in and trusts Arren, but even he cannot accept the banishment of all things godlike. The elimination of gods has had unwanted effects on the kingdom, from miners forced to work in unsafe conditions without the protections of their gods to silent, deadly rebellions that have taken the wars between gods and laid them among the people. Still, he alone knows that Arren himself is kept alive because of a bargain with a god, and he is aware that saving his friend and his kingdom means picking up his sword one last time to kill again.

Our two godkillers are brought together in Lesscia, now the largest city in the kingdom and yet, surprisingly, the safest. Home to both honest tradespeople and those who hide secret renegade groups dedicated to bringing back the old ways, Lesscia serves as a border between the old ways and the new, a city where King Arren’s face is on every mantle, but you also can easily score a passageway to the old, wild, god-run cities like Blenraden. When Kissen and Elo meet in Lesscia, Elo is seeking one of these underground pilgrimages, but Kissen is on a not-so-legal mission as well.

On a recent gig in Middren, Kissen was approached by a mysterious young girl, Inara, clearly high-born yet hiding a terrible, dangerous secret: she has become entangled with Skedi, the god of white lies. Not only can she now see the colors of a person’s intentions and emotions, she also has become tethered to Skedi in such a way that parting causes each of them great discomfort --- enough to injure or kill them both. When Kissen attempted to return Inara to her home, the unlikely duo discovered that Inara’s home and noble mother had been burned, leaving orphan to orphan and godkiller to god-bound girl.

When Kissen, Inara, Skedi and Elo meet on the same pilgrimage, a monster attack forces them to accept a few uncomfortable truths: the gods are very much alive and ready to return, demon-like beings are after them, and surviving the pilgrimage ahead of them will mean revealing themselves to one another so that they can identify and utilize one another’s strengths. With one certified godkiller, one girl with unusual powers, one god, and one former knight whose training has taught him to observe each of these other beings with intense scrutiny, their journey starts to take on the tone of the very civil war that landed them all on this pilgrimage in the first place. The tension, intrigue and deadliness only increase from there.

GODKILLER is an intense, beautifully crafted low-fantasy, but don’t let the “low” moniker underwhelm you. Hannah Kaner is a skilled fantasy writer, and that label only means that readers newer to or less comfortable with the genre will be able to enjoy all the magic, mystery and mayhem of fantasy as easily as the most experienced reader. In addition to being a gorgeously written fantasy, it is refreshingly populated with diverse characters --- from one-legged Kissen to her queer roommates, Elo (who is written as nonwhite) and his PTSD, and even a few deaf characters who use sign language to communicate.

This is a spellbinding, creative and utterly invigorating fantasy. I encourage everyone looking for something new to give it a try, regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a fantasy reader. I know I’m not alone in saying that I’m anxiously awaiting the next book in this already epic trilogy.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on September 29, 2023

by Hannah Kaner

  • Publication Date: September 12, 2023
  • Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager
  • ISBN-10: 0063348276
  • ISBN-13: 9780063348271