The Godson’s Triumph, by M. C. A. Hogarth – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Godson’s Triumph, by M. C. A. Hogarth. Illustrations; map by the author.
St. Paul, MN, Sofawolf Press, June 2014, trade paperback $17.95 (viii + 227 pages), Kindle $5.99.
Besides being the sequel to Flight of the Godkin Griffin (reviewed on Flayrah on 14 June 2012), this is The Godkindred Saga, Book 2. Collect ‘em all; they are very good reading.
Flight of the Godkin Griffin introduced Mistress Commander Angharad Godkin, a middle-aged griffin (but totally unlike traditional griffins) and her furry world. Angharad is a military commander in the army of her semi-divine sovereign, the Godson, ruler of the greatest (but unofficial) empire this world has ever known. She is also distantly related to the Godson. She expects to retire after a grueling career of conquest. Instead, she is appointed as the new provincial governor of recently-conquered Shraeven. To quote from my review:
“In just the first two pages, Hogarth establishes that this is another world (with three moons), that Angharad can fly (her wings were injured in the battle for Glendallia; also, “A warm breeze presages spring and sweeps my fine hair off my shoulders, tickling my wings.” – Angharad wears a backless blouse with breeches), that the creatures of this world can interbreed and do not look like each other, and that the royal court is REALLY anxious for the politically inexperienced Angharad to take command of the large province of Shraeven (until recently an independent kingdom) as soon as possible. She is promised all the additional troops she wants, a new support staff, an almost unlimited expense account – but she, personally, has to be the new Governor. Angharad suspects that the “newly pacified province” is in fact a hellhole, and that she is expected to fail – but who wants her, personally, to be a scapegoat?”
Expecting “only” political trouble, Angharad is nonplused to discover that Shraeven’s local gods are apparently genuine divinities supporting Shraeven’s rebellious underground; and that the Godson’s court is more corrupt than she expects – if “corrupt” is the right word; the Godson may be going mad, believing himself a real god and on a collision course with Shraeven’s genuine gods. Still, Angharad is a very distant relative with no political ambitions or support, who is not personally familiar with the Godson and his royal court. So why is he, or someone among his closest advisors or the royal church hierarchy, determined to set her up to spectacularly fail? The book’s back-cover blurb ends, “Angharad quickly finds herself the central piece in a game being fought on too many levels, all of them very foreign to her nature and background. But if she’s being forced to play, she’s going to play to win; and everyone may come to regret having gotten her into the game.”
The Godson’s Triumph begins with Part 4, Chapter 27; but there is a pithy prologue by Angharad herself that summarizes the first book nicely. Angharad’s personal company of troops is loyal to her, but the majority of the Godkingdom’s army in Shraeven is loyal to the corrupt former governor – or does he secretly have the Godson’s tacit backing against her? She has a risky plan, but even her closest assistants, who know that her forte is blunt battlefield action and not subtle psychological maneuvering, do not believe that she can bring it off.
The action begins almost immediately:
“I’ve sometimes heard people described as exploding but never witnessed it until Silfie flies off her bench, arms flapping open and the words leaping from her nearly frothing mouth. ‘You’re insane, Angharad! They’ll know! They’ll kill you!’” (p. 14)
Angharad might be legally appointed the new governor by the Godkingdom, but her plan amounts to treason against her nation – which she is not sure she supports any longer, anyway.
“They all stare at me. I wonder why until Silfie says, ‘What…did you just call us?’
‘Us?’ I ask. Then realize. I tuck my white forelock behind that silvery ear: not affected nonchalance, but baring my face. A symbolic acceptance of the obvious. ‘We might as well call a pear a pear. We’re no more a kingdom than I am a temple virgin. A country that conquers and annexes other countries, denying them their sovereignty, is an empire, plain and simply said.’” (p. 17)
The Godson’s Triumph features more Roman-era political scheming and intrigue than battle action:
‘‘And yet you will go,’ she [Ragna] says.
‘Of course,’ I say. ‘I want to know what he’s thinking.’
‘Even though,’ she says, ‘killing you would stop this entire conflict before it is born?’
I shake my head slowly. ‘I am important,’ I say. ‘I am a useful figurehead. But the sentiments are already roused in the people. If I live, I will lead them. But if the Godson kills me, I will become their symbol. …” (p. 52)
This world’s unusual nature of its peoples’ different intelligent species being able to interbreed, with their offspring not looking like each other, means a fantastic variety of furry and feathery characters who do not know for sure what their own children will be like:
“‘When will the baby come?’ Ragna asks.
‘I don’t know,’ I say tersely. At her look, ‘I’m Godkin. I’m part bird, I’m part cat. I’m part many-things. I might give birth in six months … or lay an egg tomorrow.’” (p. 20)
This is not done at random, but in an attempt to improve all of this world’s peoples and achieve godhood. There are many genealogical studies and arranged marriages to improve bloodlines:
‘[Nedwin] moves with a ponderous grace … and I can’t tell what he is. Short-muzzled, tall-eared, tailless, black-pelted, his hair cropped short. His eyes are a startling turquoise. I wonder how many times past ‘Godkin’ his family kept intermarrying to produce such a mélange of features.” (p. 53)
Hogarth’s interior illustrations show some of these. But it doesn’t always work out as hoped:
“‘I’m done with the Godson, yes,’ he [Rei] says. ‘I was done with him when he sent us to this dishonorable duty. But just because he’s insane doesn’t invalidate his aims, Angharad. To make gods! To bring their promise of peace and enlightenment to the land! That’s still a worthy goal, isn’t it?’
‘Did you notice the insanity?’ I say dryly. ‘If he’s the closest we have to godhood and he’s insane, what do you think that bodes for the gods themselves?’” (p. 48)
Readers who like a variety of furry characters will certainly love these two books. So will those who like complex plots with intelligent adversaries trying to outguess each other. If you haven’t read either, you should definitely start with Flight of the Godkin Griffin.
Like the first volume, the Sofawolf Press edition and the Kindle edition of The Godson’s Triumph have the same cover illustration, but different title lettering. The Kindle edition was published in October 2013, many months ahead of the paper edition, if that matters.