Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review: The Left Hand of God

The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman

(For review from Dutton/Penguin)


Paul Hoffman's novel of astonishing scope and imagination, featuring a darkly gifted teenage boy at the center of a brutal holy war, grabs the reader from its incredible opening lines and refuses to let go. The Left Hand of God is the first novel in an epic, ambitious trilogy that will prove irresistible to the readers who have turned the Inheritance Cycle, Twilight, and the His Dark Materials series into publishing phenomena. The Left Hand of God is the story of sixteen-year-old Thomas Cale, who has grown up imprisoned at the Sanctuary of the Redeemers, a fortress run by a secretive sect of warrior monks in a distant, dystopian past. He is one of thousands of boys who train all day in hand-to-hand combat, in preparation for a holy war that only the High Priests know is now imminent. He has no reason to think he's special, no idea there's another world outside the compound's walls, and no hope for a life any different from the one he already knows. And then, Cale opens a door. What follows is a daring escape, an unlikely alliance, a desperate pursuit, a journey of incredible discovery, and an adventure the likes of which Cale could never possibly have imagined, culminating in Cale's astonishing realization that he alone has the power to save his world- or to destroy it.


This is a highly anticipated new trilogy by Paul Hoffman. It is his first North American release and starts the series off with a bang. The book tends to defy classification. It could be considered dark fantasy, or dystopian, it's not historical fiction or science fiction. It's certainly one of a kind and will appeal to a very broad audience including teenagers.

The story begins in the Sanctuary which I would describe as a cross between a monastery, an orphanage and a dungeon. Young boys are recruited from a very young age and brought to this place to learn combat techniques and to use weapons in an upcoming holy war. One of the recruits is Thomas Cale. When the reader meets Cale he is 16 years old and has no idea what the outside world is all about. His life is full of training, beatings, and survival. Cale unexpectedly gets himself into a situation where he not only doubts what, the Redeemer's have taught him, but his own idea's about himself as well. He escapes along with some friends and makes his way to the city of Memphis, where he meets Arabella.

This book has a lot of different themes. It is a coming of age novel, where Cale not only comes into his own as a man and a hero but also has his first love. Cale's character seems almost reluctant to take on the hero status, but we do see him grow as the book goes on, through the eyes of the other characters. Another theme would be learning what you believe in yourself and not just what you are told by other people. Cale finds that everything he has been taught may not be true and he struggles with his own ideas of God and the afterlife, as many do today. The book also focuses on how Cale was able to make something of himself or almost reinvent himself once he escapes from the Sanctuary. There is a lot going on in this novel. There is a huge cliffhanger ending that sets up for the next novel in the series.

This book is fast paced and the reader is thrown head first into the action. I found it somewhat confusing, and had to go back a little bit to get the gist of some of the things that were happening. There are some asides in the novel that kind of take away from the overall writing of the book and remind you that it's not quite what you think it is. Definitely, an interesting writing style. I thought the characters could have been developed a little more thoroughly but I believe there is room for more development in the series. I don't read a lot of fantasy, but always enjoy the world building aspects of it. This book was no exception. This was a very dark and interesting world.

Based on the world building and fantasy aspects of the book I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from by book bag!

Check out the book trailer!

The Left Hand of God is now available from your favorite bookseller!


Shy said...

Wow! Wow! Wow! This surely is an amazing read. I've seen the same book being read across the blogosphere but this is the first review I read on it! Truly adventrous and something I really want to read.

Llehn said...

I love it that this book defies classification. Books should be allowed to be what they want to be instead of being pigeon holed into what they should be.