Welcome to the third stop of Dave Maine’s blog tour. It all began Sunday with Lori Hettler over at The Next Best Book Club. And yesterday Steve Himmer hosted the author over at his eponymous blog. Today I’m going to write a bit about Maine’s newest literary pursuit, an epic fantasy series he started writing 15 years ago and finally got around to sharing Book I. Although big publishing houses have taken on several of Maine’s novels, his newest is an indie production and available strictly as an eBook.
Dave Maine had a lot of fun writing THE GAMBLE OF THE GODLESS. I can tell he did. It’s the kind of story that makes me think ‘rollicking’ is the perfect descriptor. I wonder if he visited the zoo on a regular basis when he was plotting Avin’s six-week journey. Each species is so fresh and distinct, even their language is singular. By far my favorite is Summon the Wind, the articulate cheetah who reminds me of my tiny Honeyed Cat if she were much bigger, more talkative, and addicted to chuya grass.
But Summon the Wind isn’t the only memorable character. Each species is handled with great detail and a compassionate understanding of what it would be like to live in their society.
The wolves speak in metaphors. They’re also the only other species, apart from the humans, who feel it’s necessary to build and support an army. The cats are poetic and serene. The bears are bawdy beer guzzlers. The snakes are sibilant sorcerers. The sharks, like their fins, attack in triangular patterns and are not below eating their own kind. The owls are honest. The horses ornate. The rats are enterprising.
Traveling through the various territories, dealing with the trials and tribulations that come with running into a new species on their turf, expanded the purview of my imagination. I felt like I was revisiting The Jungle Book, learning again that us humans aren’t the only species capable of communication and organization.
Maine begins THE GAMBLE OF THE GODLESS after the humans have destroyed themselves and all creation. The gods are gathered around wondering what to do next, and it is clear to all of them that they have to return to “the way things were meant to be, with none seeking dominance over the others.” This means no greed, no ambition, no intrusive interference, this means living with your own kind and being happy to be alive and see sunrise. But, for some reason, this is unattainable. Something always makes everything go dreadfully downhill. But what exactly is the impetus this time?
Dave Maine takes this parameter of none seeking dominance over others and runs with it, exploring what could possibly go wrong. What he offers is reasonable at first glance: The begrudged will always spoil a good thing, the begrudged will be seduced by the idea of power and usurping the throne, at least that’s what happens in THE GAMBLE OF THE GODLESS after the gods hit the ‘reset’ button.
What’s unclear to me after reading this novel is why any species would feel cheated in this New World. Are the gods themselves flawed? Are they incapable of designing peace? I probably missed something somewhere along Avin’s journey, and this is inexcusable since Maine makes a point to include a healthy dosage of exposition, but when I finally closed the book I was left wondering why this species — and I won’t mention which — held a grudge?
Apart from this minor question that still looms in my brain and is probably easily explained by another reader, everything else is accounted for in THE GAMBLE OF THE GODLESS, and it’s done using fully wrought battle scenes and epic language first seen in Beowulf.
What I mean is, kennings are everywhere, i.e. “cheetah-bearing shark,” as are a lot of alliterations, i.e. “Overhead the sky glowered and gloomed.” Maine also peppers the narrative with some great turns of phrase and word choices, i.e. “Avin squinted past his wind-swept bangs at the gray rollers of the Swelling Sea hurling into the rocky shores below.”
THE GAMBLE OF THE GODLESS made me more aware of creation and how easy it is to disturb the balance of things. As in Dave Maine’s previous novels, there are some biblical twists — brother pitted against brother, sacrificial altars, illegitimate princes, evil snakes, messenger birds — that lend the epic fantasy some depth while adding tension. Like I said before, it’s a rollicking read.
P.S. Be sure to check in tomorrow over at Bibliophiliac for the fourth stop of Dave Maine’s blog tour.
My Rating =