Paternus: Wrath of Gods by Dyrk Ashton
(Note: this review is of a pre-edited ARC of the book; there may be small differences between the book I reviewed and the final published work.)
This is the second book in Dyrk Ashton’s self-published urban fantasy Paternus trilogy. You can read my review of the first book, Paternus: Rise of Gods, here. But here’s a super-brief summary of book 1, with some mild spoilers.
Fi Patterson and her friend Zeke are seemingly normal modern-day humans who get caught up in an ancient battle between factions of gods. And not just any gods, but ALL of the gods. It’s a huge God Slugathon where you’ll see Quetzalcoatl fight Hephaestus and the Minotaur, Anansi do battle with Sir Galahad, and Cerberus square off against the Devil, among other titanic clashes. Dozens of gods and figures out of mythology and legend have separated out into two opposing factions, and there’s gonna be a big rumble before too long…
…and that’s where Book 2 begins.
Where the first book needed time to ramp up to its eventual frenetic speed, Wrath of Gods fires itself out of a cannon from the very start. It keeps up a breathless pace for the first two-thirds of its length before throttling back for much of the final act, but by that time there are plenty of reasons to remain perched on the edge of your seat. For all the stellar action sequences (in which Wrath does the improbable and out-actions Rise), some of the best moments of the book are quieter, personal scenes.
In fact, Wrath of Gods is superior to its predecessor in almost every regard. It has a clearer and more interesting story arc, and Ashton’s ability to juggle such a large cast of larger-than-life figures—and make me care about them—is phenomenal. Most importantly to me, the characters of Fi and Zeke are markedly improved. Even if they’re still being tossed around by world-shattering events, they feel like they have more agency, more of a place in the story, and more development. As in the first book, Ashton’s encyclopedic knowledge of myths and legends lends the whole thing a kind of inevitable authenticity.
The writing itself continues to be solid, and Ashton shines when it comes to short, evocative pieces of sensory description. His prose is never going to be confused with Mieville’s or Mitchell’s, but his writing is well-suited to his story. You can feel the fun he’s having as he describes his gods, his set-pieces, his crazy-kinetic action scenes. The dialogue and interplay between so many different deities is masterful and constantly entertaining. I love Mrs. Mirskaya so much!
The story is straightforward – Peter and the Forces of Good™ (The Deva) are seeking out their scattered allies as they prepare to face Kleron and Forces of Evil© (The Asura). The entire book is pretty much that: the trials and tribulations of two groups of Deva as they travel the world collecting their last remaining allies. It sounds simple, but there is a metric ton of stuff going on, from skydiving escapes to modern day Templars to parallel worlds to quantum-powered weaponry to giant sword-wielding snakes. There are shocking betrayals, tragic deaths, gruesome dismemberments and laugh-out-loud moments. I’m being vague on purpose because so much of the fun of Wrath of Gods is the discovery, but I’m still going to tell you that Ezekiel’s Wheel is amazing, the Siege Perilous is terrifying, and HOLY CRAP THOSE SPIDERS.
My only reservations are similar to some I had with Rise of Gods. Ashton has some ticks in his sentence construction that drive me to distraction, most notably his profligate use of sentence fragments. I understand they’re a stylistic choice, but I thought they detracted from the reading experience. And the narration hovers, uncomfortably for me, in a no-man’s land between third-person limited and pure omniscient. There are tense, wonderful sections where we’re exclusively in one person’s head, but then the narrative will leap into the omniscient clouds for a jarring sentence or two before resettling. (The head-hopping that was present in Book 1 is also still here, but for whatever reason it bothered me much less this time around.)
Because I’m a pedantic stickler for prose-crafting, my brain wants to give this 4 stars, but there’s so much joyous action, so much great character work and lovely moments and GODDAMN THERE’S A DEADLY SCOTTISH GOD-CHICKEN, my heart wants to give it 5 stars. So, that’s 4.5, rounded up to 5 because HEART WINS.
Paternus: Wrath of Gods is released on July 10 2018. Pre-order it here.