This summer I discovered the publisher Angry Robot, which has a variety of science-fiction and fantasy books listed in its online catalog that piqued my interest. Lost Gods was one of the books that I felt compelled to read.
This novel by Micah Yongo tells the story of the young warrior Neythan and the men that he grew up with. They have all been trained to join the Shediam, a brotherhood of assassins, but just when they are finally ready for their first mission together, one of the men in the brotherhood kills another. Neythan, framed for the murder, sets off to search for the truth behind what happened.
Some of my favorite components are the dream sequences in the book. There are numerous occasions when Neythan falls asleep and has dreams that play a significant role in his journey. The first time this occurs, he stands, disoriented, between the world of being awake and the world of being asleep. He meets a woman who says that she called him by the river where he stops to rest with his comrades; after being confused about this, Neythan makes the realization that she called to him through his dreams. Then he sees confusing images: “In the distance, at the point from which the pulses seemed to be spreading across the sky and sea like ground there was a small dim light sitting on the horizon, each ripple moving outward from it as though from a dropped stone in the lake.” When he asks what it is, he is given a cryptic message: “the shadows tell you of what is to come.” It isn’t until someone wakes Neythan up, demanding his attention, that he comes to. “The forest was dark. The moon was three-quarters full, the same as it had been with the woman in the . . . where? Where had he been? Had it all been no more than a dream?” This is the point at which he realizes that he had been dreaming but not sleeping.
That sequence is the first thing in the book that really captured my attention. It succeeds in setting stage for the importance of dreams throughout the book. I am a sucker for having magical dream imagery in fantasy novels, so I really enjoyed not only the role that the dreams play but also the descriptions of the dreams themselves. These descriptions really drew me into the moment and brought a strong magical component to this story, which uplifts a more mystical world that cannot be seen and is a very powerful force in this story.
I also really appreciate how this sense of magic influences other parts of the book. When Neythen is talking about the nature of the soul, he describes it as “the smoke that lingers when a flame dies. Like incense, he said. Lingering shadows, he called them. Every soul known truly by another will have on.” Later when Neythan is reflecting on meditation, he concludes, “They say there are moments, when they come, that you can expect to remember thereafter, moments that are made memory before they even arrive, through imagination, through daydreams, or what the elders call foreshadows. They are the reason for meditations.” This reflection on meditation builds more detail into this unseen magical world. This element of magic helps with the mythic quality of this book.
Despite the strength of the dream elements, what the book lacked for me was enough plot points to keep the story engaging. I would have thought that a murder occurring at the beginning of the story would have made it a difficult book to put down, but it took another 50 pages before I was really pulled in. And throughout the entire book, it seemed like Neythen was wandering around a lot on his journey without anything really happening. Still, I appreciate Yongo’s attempt to bring in the reader a sense of the African myths and legends he says inspired the book.
If you like a story about a warrior quest with a lot of magical elements that veer more towards the realm of mystical magic, you might enjoy Lost Gods. When I approached the ending, I felt it was clearly set up for a sequel I felt like I could pass on; however, despite it requiring some effort to make it through the ending, I enjoyed the book and Neythan’s mystical dreams.