Warning: This review may contain spoilers for the previous books in the series – The Gutter Prayer and The Shadow Saint.
Enter a city of dragons and darkness.
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 is the third installment in Gareth Hanrahan’s The Black Iron Legacy series and takes everything great about the series so far and runs with it. Quite simply it is a fantastic addition to the series full to the brim with plot twists, horrifying monsters, wacky inventions and unique characters.
One of my favourite things about this series so far is that each book is different. Yes, Gareth Hanrahan’s voice and writing style is obviously consistent throughout each book, but there is no getting around the fact that each book feels different. The first book (The Gutter Prayer) was fast-paced and frantic, a combination of a heist/who-done-it plot with crazy gods and magic mixed in. The second book (The Shadow Saint) was, on the other hand, a lot slower. It built tension as we discovered the twisting and uncompromising politics of Guerdon – the city these books revolve around. The Broken God feels like it strikes a superb balance between the two pacing. It’s certainly not as busy as The Gutter Prayer, but it still moves at a page-turning pace. Plot wise, it is also very different in that it feels like it is the closest to classic fantasy that we will get from Gareth Hanrahan – it kind of revolves around a quest and everything!
As with any quest, our characters have to do some traveling and encounter new threats. This gives Gareth Hanrahan the chance to do what I think he does best: world-building. This whole series has been jam-packed with the most bizarre and imaginative monsters, and this book gives us plenty more of this. We get to see some old favourites returning, like the Crawling Ones (pure nightmare fuel) and the Tallowmen, but we also get a good look at a true classic of the genre: the dragons of Ghierdhana (imagine the mafia, but with dragons at their back).
Possibly most interestingly, we continue the insight into the powers of the gods through their saints that has been central to the plot of the whole series so far. Though, what is especially fascinating here, is that we get to see a little bit about how the Godswar and the mind-boggling powers of their saints leave a land (and people) once the fighting has moved on. Which felt like a neat little continuation following The Shadow Saint – which showed the full insanity of the Godswar at its peak!
So, other than the plot and world-building, what else is there to talk about? Well, the characters, of course! Firstly, we get the return of Cari as a POV character and I couldn’t have been happier about this. One of the things that Hanhrahan is really good at is giving each character’s POV chapters a unique tone and voice, and I love the way he writes Cari. She is just so blunt and fed up with the world and it leads to some great lines that are brutally honest. Plus, we actually get to discover way more about her past, which has only really been hinted at in the previous books.
Our other three POV characters are Artoro (definitely the villain of the piece), Rasce and Baston (more neutral and morally grey characters). Rasce, a boss in one of the Ghierdhana families, and Baston, an ex-member of The Brotherhood (Guerdon’s Thieves Guild), mean we get plenty of insight into the criminal underworld of Guerdon and I was drawn in by both of them and the moral dilemmas that occupy their thoughts. Artolo, on the other hand, just didn’t quite work for me. He is completely crazy and consumed by his desire for revenge (which I have seen pulled off really well in some books) and is crucial to the plot of the whole book, but he didn’t capture my imagination the same way other characters have in this series.
Now, if I had one real complaint about this book, it would be the ending. There is so much build up and great plot work that the actual climax just felt a little lack lustre. It left me feeling like I wanted more to have happened and didn’t really feel satisfactory. Not in a way that meant I was put off by the book or felt frustrated, but it didn’t have the punch that the endings of The Gutter Prayer or The Shadow Saint had.
Overall, I definitely recommend this book – for those who have already read the previous books in the series, obviously! If you enjoyed those other books, I probably don’t need to convince you to pick this up, but I am confident that you’ll enjoy it when you do. I am looking forward to seeing where Hanrahan takes the series in the future as I am genuinely not sure. I finished this book going, ‘Hmmmm… I wonder what the end game is here?’ But I am sure it will be great!