I am a very lucky human in that not only did my fabulous aunt attend San Diego Comic Con, she happened to be attending the day Del Rey Books gave away free ARCs of Plague of Giants. This is the first time I have ever been able to read a book before it was officially released. *squee!!*
I have to say the novel is spectacular. I loved it. I laughed, I cried, the book had it all. And I’ll be honest, I had my doubts. Well, OK. I didn’t necessarily doubt that the story would be good. I do love Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles. When I saw Hearne speak in Philly a few months ago, he told us about Plague of Giants. He told us it had something like 11 different POVs. I was intrigued, but had serious doubts I would be able to keep everyone straight. And while I did have to cheat and check the character list and (brief) description at the beginning of the book once or twice, each character spoke so eloquently with their own voice that it was not hard to keep track of who was who. And it was a masterful way to tell the story – hearing the same event from multiple perspectives, including battles… But I get ahead of myself.
In brief, Plague of Giants is exactly what it sounds like – a novel about a land that is invaded by not one but two sets of giants. One group of giants, the Hathrim, are chased from their home by a volcano, and they settle in a land governed by humans without asking permission. Definitely not the best way to win friends and influence people. The leader of this group of Hathrim, Gorin Mogen, is one of the voices for the story. The giants, the Bone Giants, are even less friendly. They destroy everything they encounter, no one has ever seen them before, and no one can speak their language.
The rest of the characters are citizens of the six countries the giants invade. Each country worships a different god, and each god can grant a specific kenning. A kenning is a type of magic connected to an element. The Hathrim’s kenning allows them to control fire. The Brynts can control water, including the water in the human body. The Fornish are particularly cool – they live in the trees, and their kennings can do things like allow them to move silently, or help plants grow. Not everyone has a kenning – those who do are called blessed. In order to become blessed, a person must go through a trial they will either survive to become blessed, or die in the attempt. Seeking a kenning is not for the faint of heart.
Here are a few of my favorite characters:
Fintan, the Raelach bard – Fintan’s kenning allows him to have perfect recall. He tells stories to a city full of people who have survived or fled attacks by the violent Bone Giants. When Fintan tells a story, he becomes the storyteller – he looks like them, and speaks in their voice.
Dervan, the scholar – Dervan does not have a kenning, he is a historian and a scholar. The pelenant, or leader, of his homeland Brynt asks him to keep a written record of Fintan’s stories. Dervan and Fintan become friends as the novel progresses.
Gondel, scholar of language – Gondel is the first person able to translate the Bone Giants’ language, making him a valuable resource in the battle against the invaders. He is the type of scholar who gets so involved in his work he forgets about his husband for weeks at a time.
Tallynd, tidal mariner – Tallynd’s kenning allows her to work with water. She can breathe under water and swim really fast, to describe it in the most simplistic terms possible. She is the first person to discover the Bone Giants’ invasion, and she warns as many cities as she can at great personal sacrifice.
These are just a few of the many speakers Hearne uses to tell the story, each with their own voice, personality, and opinions. There were of course some humorous (almost Iron-Druid-esque, if that’s what you are reading for) moments as well. I hesitate to quote any of them, as the book had quite a few warning not to quote anything until the finished book is published. I suppose you will have to take my word for it that though the book contains a dark subject matter, including tragedy and war-related death, the Hearne humor we have come to know and love does sneak in occasionally, lightening the mood and makes the characters more interesting and relatable.
I did miss having a map, which is apparently a drawback to getting an Advanced Reader Copy. I was kinda amused by what I got instead though. I’m sure the map will be lovely in real life. There was quite a bit of traveling in the novel, and that is the sort of thing I am not good at visualizing. Ah well. The important thing is, I got an ARC!
There was a lovely moment towards the end of the novel when Dervan realizes he is not going to be able to return to his old job as a teacher and scholar. He has a moment of crisis in which he contemplates the question, “If I am not a teacher, who am I?” This resonated with me, since I recently lost my job as a music teacher. Watching Dervan, along with many other characters, figure out their place in their new world helped me get through a few rough days. Cliche? Probably. But reading and becoming part of their stories made me feel better, and that’s what reading fantasy is all about, isn’t it?
A rare five out of five stars from me for Plague of Giants. It is an amazing piece of high fantasy, with deep, well-developed characters, detailed world-building, and an exciting, involving plot. If you are a fan of authors like Brandon Sanderson, Mark Lawrence, Joe Abercrombie, or Robert Jackson Bennett, you will love this book. If you liked the Iron Druid Chronicles, you will most likely enjoy this book as well, though it is much darker and more intense than Attitcus and Oberon, and of course lacks the pop culture references that Atticus loves to sprinkle into conversation. Plague of Giants releases October 17th. If you can’t pre-order it, ask your local libraries to buy it for you!