Hello again, everyone! I’m making up for lost time and participating in another blog tour today. That’s right! Two tours in two days! Today I’m participating in The Write Reads tour for The Thirteenth Hour by Trudie Skies.
When the saints fail, the sinners step up.
Cruel gods rule the steam-powered city of Chime, demanding worship and tribute from their mortal subjects. Kayl lost her faith in them long ago, and now seeks to protect vulnerable and downtrodden mortals from their gods’ whims. But when Kayl discovers powers that she didn’t know she had—and destroys a mortal’s soul by accident—she becomes Chime’s most wanted.
Quen’s job was to pursue sinners, until the visions started. Haunted by foreboding images of his beloved city’s destruction, Quen hunts soul-sucking creatures made of aether who prey on its citizens—and Kayl is his number one target.
To ensure Chime’s future, Kayl and Quen must discover the truth of Kayl’s divine abilities before the gods take matters into their own hands.
For a city that bows to cruel gods, it’ll take godless heathens to save it.
The Thirteenth Hour is the first book in The Cruel Gods series—a gaslamp fantasy featuring magical portals, gothic cosmic deities, quaint Britishisms, and steampunk vibes. This is an adult book containing strong language and mature themes that some readers may find disturbing. For a full list of content warnings, visit Trudie Skies’s website.
***Thank you to The Write Reads and the author for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
Put simply, I loved this book. I didn’t really know what to expect going into it because I’d never heard of gaslamp fantasy before, but I quickly became enamored with the wonderful cast of characters, fascinating setting, and mysteries surrounding the characters and history of the world. The pacing of the book was fairly steady throughout with only a few slow spots in the first half, and the writing was engaging and almost conversational in style, which I really enjoyed. The plot was interesting with lots of twists and turns that kept me guessing about some things until the very end.
I’m going to get the one (sort of) criticism I have out of the way early, and then spend the rest of this post gushing in more detail about everything I loved. The societal structure was extremely confusing at first and figuring out the different factions and how they all related to one another was a task that took at least half the book. Pro tip – make sure you read the informational blurbs at the beginning of each chapter. They were very well-written and interesting while also providing key information that helped me make sense of the world the characters were inhabiting. Despite being confused about how everything went together, I didn’t hate not understanding everything right away because it was kind of fun to piece it together as I went along.
Why would anyone reject a parent? Hate those who’d created them?
Because we saw the truth; the gods were cruel.
They owned us. They dictated who we were, how we were meant to live. They’d given us free will and punished us for using it. They toyed with our lives because to them, we were little more than simple playthings. Pets.The Thirteenth Hour
This book honestly felt like it was written specifically for me. It had almost all of my favorite tropes (enemies to allies/friends, prophecy, found family, secret identity, amnesia/memory problems) mashed up in a unique way with excellent commentary on theology and systemic inequality. The LGBT representation was also fantastic, and the commentary and representation felt authentic to the world the author built while also providing things to think about in the real world.
That’s what so many of these gods were.
Captivating in their beauty. Rotten underneath.The Thirteenth Hour
The world-building was incredibly fascinating. The author created 12 different species of mortals and 12 different domains. Each domain was ruled by a god that set its own rules for its mortals, which created some interesting dilemmas when characters from different domains had to work and live together. That’s a lot to pack into one book, but the author managed to do it while also keeping the story moving forward even if some of the particulars were a bit fuzzy for most of the book. My favorite thing about the world-building was the society of Chime, which was the city where mortals from different domains can live together outside of the domain of their god with some semblance of freedom. The city felt gritty and lived in, and it embodied a real steampunk feel that I loved.
Gold didn’t buy freedom; it only enshrined it with gilded locks.The Thirteenth Hour
The character work in this book was amazing. The two main characters were well thought out and equally mysterious. I can’t really say a lot more about them without going into spoilers, but I really enjoyed getting to see the events of the novel play out via their different, and oftentimes opposing, perspectives. I enjoyed the snarky dialogue in this book, and the characters played off one another wonderfully. The supporting characters were diverse and colorful (literally, lol) and acted as good gateways into understanding the different domains. They also each had quite well-defined personalities, many of which I found quite endearing, and they created a wonderful found family that was the heart of this novel.
But even the Godless were owned by their god.
Unless they could truly become free.
What meaning would such a life hold then?The Thirteenth Hour
I loved the settings and character work, but the thing that made this a new favorite of mine was the theological commentary. The conversations within this book were eerily reminiscent of ones I’ve had in real life as an agnostic person, but they also felt true to the lives of these characters. I’ve always found the idea of a god that can see everything you do and think to be invasive, creepy, and controlling, and this book illustrated my thoughts on that perfectly while also balancing that with the alternative viewpoint of the comfort, purpose, and fulfillment that can come from having a close relationship with one’s god. I liked that the two opposing views were utilized and analyzed throughout the book, and I’m curious to see what the author does with the topic next given how the book ended. I also really liked the deconstruction of the idea of sin that the existence of the multiple gods provided. The inequality in Chime and throughout the domains also made me stop to think about how any system based in the belief of a god will likely have inequality of some sort built into it. The existence of the gods themselves as beings set above mortals inherently implies inequality among beings, which is probably why so many rulers have claimed the divine right to rule throughout the ages. Overall, there was just a lot of really great stuff in this book about religion that worked great for the story and left me thinking about a lot of things after finishing it.
It should come as no surprise that this is my favorite book of this year so far, and I’m really looking forward to hopefully getting the next book soon. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars!
About the Author
Trudie Skies has been living inside fantasy worlds ever since she discovered that reality doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Through the magic of books, she wishes to share these worlds of hope and heroes with other weary souls. Living in North East England, Trudie spends most of her free time daydreaming about clouds, devouring whatever fantasy books or video games she can get her hands on, and chasing after her troublesome dogs, who would like to reassure you they are very good boys.
Her debut YA fantasy series, Sand Dancer, was published through Uproar Books. Trudie is now writing adult gaslamp fantasy with her new series, The Cruel Gods.
Author’s Website and Social Media Links