P.C. Hodgell – God Stalk

After starting P.C. Hodgell‘s fantasy series with the third book Seeker’s Mask I was hesitant to pick up the first novel as I didn’t want to remember too many references when I did. In the end I simply couldn’t wait and fortunately the references had barely gave things away. Instead God Stalk (1982) contained a lot more than expected.

Although the story is mainly told from one viewpoint, the main character quickly gets involved in multiple intrigues which are elegantly woven within each other as it all takes places in a single city. The fast pace and the main character being a feisty young woman gave me the impression I was reading an urban high fantasy, albeit that it lacked the typical clich├ęs of vampires, faeries and spirits and alike, or the romantic triangle that tormented her. What was mainly different was the attitude of the story. Instead of dark and haunting, it had a more good-natured tone an at times it was even fun. This doesn’t mean it was easy-going. Plenty of bad and nasty things were happening; they were just presented in a different style. And that is probably the effect of it being a 30 year old novel. It inherits more from Fritz Leiber‘s Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories or Michael Moorcock‘s Elric tales. It is a very early urban fantasy that lacks many predictable components of today’s mainstream urban fantasy. So that automatically makes it a very refreshing take that I very much enjoyed.

As the story is set in a city it is very much different from the other books of the series, in which cities are pretty much absent. Because of this is has a very different atmosphere. Another contribution to this is a lack of people from the main character’s own people who dominate the other books. They behave differently, to an extent, as some similarities were notable. This I think is quite remarkable as Hodgell’s six current books of the series span a period of 30 years and her style and story writing has hardly changed at all. Anyways, another contribution to the difference was also the plot, which contained different elements as the society of the city stand in stark contrast to that of her own people. I can only make these comparisons because I’ve already read the later novels, except the second, so my comments here provide a story of pre-review for the later novels.

So can I add any negative comments? The only thing Hodgell has trouble with at times is the narrative. Occasionally she picks a side character to tell the story from for a few pages. Usually the character encounters the main character and this causes the narrative to switch suddenly as Hodgell apparently thinks the usual viewpoint suits her better. She still did this in the later books. It’s not very annoying as most reader probably will adapt naturally.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s even more of a pageturner because of the many intrigues and the fast pace. There are plenty of mysteries and there are many interesting characters of which some have deeper background stories that have an effect on the bigger picture that is slowing unfolding. Highly recommended. This series has not disappointed me for a moment and is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

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