Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review: The Left Hand of God

Title: The Left Hand of God
Author: Paul Hoffman
Pages: 512
ISBN: 9780141042374
Series: Left Hand of God #1
Published: 2010
Genre: Fantasy

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The Sanctuary of the Redeemers is a place where children endure brutal cruelty and violence in the name of the One True Faith. Lost in the Sanctuary's huge maze of corridors is a boy. He is strange witty and charming, and violent. But when he opens the wrong door at the wrong time he witnesses an act so horrible he must flee, or die.

You know life is tough when you view rat meat as a delicacy. Life is extremely harsh for fourteen-year-old Thomas Cale. From his earliest years he has lived in the Sanctuary, a monastery run by the sadistic and brutal Redeemers who enjoy nothing more than inflicting pain. It’s a dark and forbidding place with one purpose, and one purpose only – turning young boys into brutal, remorseless killing machines to fight a religious war. Most of the boys taken there don’t live for long. When Cale makes a gruesome discovery he and his companions are forced to flee with the Redeemers hot on their trail...

The Left Hand of God starts out great, wavers in the middle and then ends on a reasonably high note with a large battle and a cliffhanger ending. The dark and brutal life the young boys have to cope with at the Sactuary immediately hooked me. The Redeemers are absolute bastards and their cruelty knows no bounds. You immediately empathise with Cale’s plight and want him to escape from the horrible place, which he duly does.

Religion forms the backbone of the story, but it is a blatantly twisted version of the Catholic and Christian faith. Hoffman repeatedly uses names and events borrowed from the real world even going so far as putting Jesus of Nazareth in the belly of the whale (in his version of Jonah and the whale). Crucifixion is replaced by hanging and various other religious rites are used in some distorted form. It almost felt as if this take on religion was intentionally intended to offend.

He also uses actual countries and regions (Norwegians, Dutch and even the Karoo) and tacks these on to the nations he has created. I read fantasy to escape from the real world, so these constant reminders of reality dispelled my sense of wonder and disbelief and detracted from enjoying what otherwise could have been an intriguing world.

Where the novel does shine is in the engaging character of Thomas Cale. I really grew fond of him and his broody, unpredictable and deadly nature. He is the epitome of an antihero. You never quite know if he’s going to do a good deed or if he’s going to rip someone’s throat out. His companions, Vague Henri and Kleist also have their own distinct personalities and their constant quips with Cale added some much needed humour into the mix.

There’s political intrigue, some daring rescues and even a love interest for Cale. The writing style is easy to read and fast-paced, but the omniscient narrator tends to overpower some scenes. The series shows promise and it would be interesting to see where Hoffman goes with the characters.

The Verdict:
If you can look past the religious overtones and constant borrowing from the real world this is an enjoyable read. It kept my attention and intrigued me enough to want to read the sequel. Fans of Brent Week’s Night Angel trilogy should like this, although The Left Hand of God is not nearly as well executed.

The Rating: 6/10


  1. Great review KJ!

    For me the references to the real world and the obvious link between the Redeemer faith and Christianity worked. But then I view this series as a strange blend between reality and fantasy, not really fitting into either.

    The Word Fiend

  2. I've started the second book now and as you said it helps to view it as more of an alternate reality setting. Makes much more sense that way.