The Godswar has come to Guerdon, dividing the city between three occupying powers. While the fragile Armistice holds back the gods, other forces seek to extend their influence. The criminal dragons of the Ghierdana ally with the surviving thieves – including Spar Idgeson, once heir to the Brotherhood of Thieves, now transformed into the living stone of the New City.
Meanwhile, far across the sea, Spar’s friend Carillon Thay travels towards the legendary land of Khebesh, but she, too, becomes enmeshed in the schemes of the Ghierdana – and in her own past. Can she find what she wants when even the gods seek vengeance against her?
The Broken God’s a sequel that forms itself upon the carcass of books one and two; it’s the new growth upon well set roots. And I ate it up like a ghoul to a corpse. The foundation had been laid well and truly before now, what you get here is what I feel like’s the start of the rest of the story. It’s Guerdon in all its strange glory, with buried secrets and old monsters about to unearth themselves. Of sleeping, and broken gods, of warring factions and – most importantly – gangster dragons. It is a book you really should read, and I’m going to try and distil why in this review. Reader: I am a Black Iron Legacy fanboy.
The focus in this book is on the Ghierdana, the dragons of Lyrix and their pirate/gangster-styled families – the dragon Taras wants to make a permanent mark on Guerdon, wants to plant his feet for good. He orders Rasce – a new POV character and Chosen of the Dragon – to destroy any yliaster stores in Guerdon, so when they ship their own over from Ilbarin they’ll have monopoly on the sale of an ingredient the alchemists so covet. The by-product of warring gods. Within this, Rasce hires Baston and Karla, members who were close to Heinreil in the Brotherhood – who also become embroiled in a plot led by Eladora Thay and Sinter. Meanwhile, Cari, our lovable, knife-wielding (and still very stab-happy) heroine is on her way to Khebesh, to find a cure for Spar, to stop him from fading into nothing. Along the way, the Ghierdana’s reach is known to her, as well as her weakness to stop their wrath now she is no longer the Saint of Knives. The dragons are coming for Cari, they want her blood for her part in keeping them out of Guerdon until they were needed for the Armistice. Overall, I – loved – this – book. It is everything weird and wonderful about the world that Hanrahan has crafted. But now the crafting has settled, and all the game pieces (or most, perhaps?) are in the fray, it’s about them clashing; from the strange, deadly miracles by the Kraken and the gods of the Sacred Realm of Ishmere, to the focus on the dragons and their divine and evil presence in the plot, it’s so on brand for the Black Iron Legacy, and so damned awesome.
While I missed Guerdon, and not having all the characters run around its streets for the whole book, I enjoyed how expansive this book was. We get a bit of a sea-faring adventure, insofar as travelling by sea over water that’s been scarred by the Godswar can be an adventure and not absolute mayhem. We get to see Gissa, Ilbarin, mention of Ulbishe, there’s a lot we get to see here because of the clever working of POV. There’s more gods, new gods, and old gods added to the fray and generally the world is explored in a way that left me hungering for more, but glad when we landed back in Guerdon. It’s like that feeling you get when you come home from a good holiday. The sights were good, but home is home, and Guerdon is Guerdon.
What was great about this book, and new, that perhaps the other two hadn’t yet delved into too much, was how gods work, what they are; I know back in book one we got an explanation from Ongent, but we go further into that here. We look at gods-incarnate, saints and explore how these differ. It is all very cleverly veiled in wonderful prose and intriguing plot points, but there’s certainly an underlying current here of information. Which is why I got to the point that this book would be the foundation for the final part of the series. If the rest of the series presented plot threads and things to explore, the Broken God tied them together and set them off in an exciting direction.
We also explore human sorcerers and their magic – and the cost of such magic – which was cool. We looked at what Spar has become and whether he is a god, also how him and Cari made their initial god-saint relationship, which was cooler still. And then the damned Crawling Ones are back and … urgh … Hanrahan had plucked a personal nightmare of my own and crafted it into this series as type of sorcery-wielding hive-mind monster. I thought they’d bit the dust in the first book, but here they are again to haunt me … thanks, Gareth.
If Cari and the Alchemist Guild were the focal point of the first book, Haith and Ishmere the second, then we finally got a huge introduction to Lyrix and the Ghierdana in this book. And what an introduction it was. The Ghierdana are a group of gangster pirates that – to me – give the impression of mafia families, each one led by a dragon. Having these mythical beasts that are usually grand, noble, and mystical that are actually the heads of criminal families, that are brutal, evil and calculating is great. They do guard their own hordes of dragon gold and treasure, but this is blood money that’s been stolen, plundered and pillaged, or scammed, from others. I absolutely enjoyed this subversion of the dragon trope. It refreshed what is an overused mythical beast and made it new and intriguing.
A special mention has to go to the absolute mastery of POV that Hanrahan has on display here. And by that, I mean in the way that he’s a wizard of finding ways to show you what’s going on elsewhere that isn’t jumping into a random character’s head. The way that Spar works for Guerdon in a fantastic use of third person omni that keeps it fresh and doesn’t necessarily rely on an omnipotent narrator that just knows because … they know.
As the book boils down to the last twenty percent it is absolutely unputdownable. I mean, life got in the way of my read through this one at some points, but I certainly didn’t move an inch when the last part hit. It didn’t let me. It was one of the most exciting, heart-breaking, wince-inducing, and action-packed ends to a book that I’ve read in a long while, whilst at the same time keeping that cool intelligence that Hanrahan plots with. It keeps the promise of mystery and intrigue until the end … some things are solved in unexpected ways that just work; others are left wide-open. That I need the answer to now … I must know how it continues, what happens. So, it’s going to be a long wait. MORE, I NEED MORE, I want to cry. But that makes me sound like Rat and I’m no ghoul, man.
Overall, just read the book, or start the series. Do it.