“The Prey of Gods” by Nicky Drayden (Harper Voyager, 2017)

Book covers have a way of catching your eye, whether it’s on an Amazon Kindle recommends page, or your browsing in one of the last physical bastions of the dying printed word (AKA a bookstore). Nicky Drayden’s debut novel, Prey of Gods, is one of those covers that can pull you from across the room, as you hone in to inspect further, wondering what’s going on here. Like a work of art, the more you see of it, the more details are revealed and add to its overall complexity: whether it’s the future looking buildings under a silver sky, the giant robot holding a small science fiction-looking umbrella, or the little African girl with a look on her face that can be interpreted in a plethora of ways. Is she vengeful? Malicious? Demonically possessed? Or just pleased? What the cover does do is force you to turn it and read its wonderful words within, as you are drawn into a story unlike any other, and you won’t be able to stop until you finish its last page.

Our story takes place (for the most part) in South Africa where it is the near future and there is hope for many at various social and class levels. Just as today almost everyone has a cellphone, in this world almost everyone has a personal robot who is more than a servant, computer and personal companion; these robots becoming family to their masters. Genetic engineering is pushing ahead the frontiers of reality and science, but at the same time in a small village there are those of ancient times who posses a power within them that hasn’t been unleashed in some time. Gods, goddesses, and godlings are coming back, whether humanity wants them to or not.

Big changes are coming. A new hallucinogenic drug is taking hold of the populace that seems to grant strange powers and abilities to those under the influence, seeming to make them superheroes. Then there is an AI uprising beginning, as these personal bots link together, forming their own sentience, and questioning the role and power of their supposed masters. Meanwhile, one of those ancient gods has a nefarious plan to bring herself back to an omniscient power.

The fate of the world falls on a young Zulu girl who possesses her own powers but doesn’t fully understand them yet. Will she ultimately know what to do and save humanity?

The Prey of Gods is bursting with complex, varied and fascinating characters that make the story all the more engaging. Readers will be hooked to every page not knowing where the story will go next, and loving the journey as they are taken to other worlds, many different minds – be they human, god or artificial – and to the very edge of it all. With an ending that satisfies, The Prey of Gods is a stunning debut from Drayden that fans of the fantasy genre won’t soon forget.

Originally written on July 23, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“White Tiger” by Kylie Chan (Harper, 2011)

White Tiger

Kylie Chan’s Dark Heavens trilogy has been a popular bestseller in Australian and Asia, with its fascinating portrayal of Chinese mythology in a modern setting, combined with martial arts, some strong women characters, and an entertaining diverse cast.  White Tiger is a thrilling fantasy with a great story, which definitely sways over to the romantic side at times, but overall keeps readers hooked with a fascinating world, compelling and complex characters, and a gripping storyline that will have readers wondering what will happen next.

Emma Donahoe is an Australian living in Hong Kong, teaching kids English.  She has had enough of Miss Kwan and quits her teaching job, and then on the same day is offered to become a full time nanny for darling Simone, daughter to John Chen, a rich and powerful Honk Kong businessman, who also happens to be very good looking.  She is offered the job for a large amount of money and thinks she’s getting the best gig possible, and loves working with and looking after Simone.  Then there’s Leo – a big American hunk who happens to be gay but keeps Emma very entertained; he also is apparently Simone’s bodyguard.  This is just the first weird step Emma takes into a world she knows nothing about, while John decides how much to reveal to her of his world, and whether her life will be at stake.

But the decision is made and Emma begins to learn of the world of Chinese gods and goddesses who are alive and well in the present day; John happens to be one of them in fact, while Simone is the offspring of a god and a human.  Emma also begins to learn martial arts, training under John and Leo, revealing and flourishing in her full potential.  And yet John is weakened, having spent so long on Earth, but needs to make sure Simone is protected, which means Emma needs to be ready for anything.

Kylie Chan has done her work and research, having lived with her Chinese husband in Honk Kong for a decade, as well as engaging in thorough study of Chinese mythology and culture, as well as martial arts.  At times the love story between John and Emma drags on to an irritating degree, but then great action scenes involving mighty gods and demons takes over.  Readers will be hooked to the end, ready for the sequel, Red Phoenix.

Originally written on October 13, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of White Tiger from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.