How do you kill a god? As her father's chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: to win back her honour, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year or die trying.
Lot of hit & miss here. First the premise is intriguing but kinda heavy-handed... and ridiculous. A bunch of local villages have little to no contact with each other yet have so much in common: customs, language, traditions & their subjugation to the will of a powerful being. It's explained Peruxolo just showed up one day, brought everyone to their knees with his powers & it's been downhill ever since. They still venerate the goddess they've always prayed to- who never intervened in any of this- but this one's here, now & wants stuff.
The idea of a girl leading a village is unthinkable, yet Rasmira's father finds himself in just that situation what with having no sons in all of his brood. His wife even feels the brunt of his disappointment for her role in all this and responds by both shunning her precocious child and seeking what she considers redemption in a very un-motherly way. Fortunately, Rasmira's sister is a master healer who's created a poultice that heals wounds almost immediately- based on properties of some of the local monsters- and packs a whole bunch of them for her before leaving. Oddly enough, these come in pretty handy later on. Whew- glad we dodged that bullet.
During her exile, Rasmira meets an unlikely pair of likewise exiled boys- Iric & Soren- who've been surviving in the wild for about a year now, via their partnership. After the usual getting to know you/can we trust you process, Rasmira convinces the boys that by working together on their mattgurs, they can all go home- especially if they complete theirs first. Luckily, Iric happens to be a master at smithcraft to make their weapons & armor and Soren's a pretty darn good hunter himself with a heart as big as the world, the kind of heart a girl could learn to appreciate in a guy. Wow- what are the odds of all that happening?
Being a YA novel, the three teens with skills & reasoning far beyond those of the adults bond together and manage to do what the adults failed to even attempt in hundreds of years- including bonding together just to survive in the first place. Go figure.
The concept of the mattgurs is almost incomprehensible. You failed your Rite of Passage- now go away and die. We'll assign you a challenge to make it look like you've got a chance to come home but, seriously- fuck off. Why? With almost no contact between villages, monsters all over the place and a god who demands so much tribute you need every able-bodied person on hand to meet quotas you're having trouble meeting... why would you do that? Finding, trapping & killing the monsters to complete their quests took some work, but it's nothing anyone else couldn't have done if they'd ever so much as TRIED! Granted, solving the mystery of Peruxolo takes some effort & daring, but that's the worst part of the book: making everyone else dumb so the main characters seem smart by comparison. It's made clear that no one's ever even attempted to before just so these three can save the day.
It's also LGBT-friendly, as Iric's open homosexuality isn't even an issue & his primary motivation is to get back to his village to reunite with the boy he loves. The social commentary subtext feels forced seeing how same-sex relationships are normal yet women can't be warriors or leaders.
There's plenty of stuff to like here- the mystery of Peruxolo never really is one, but unearthing the details will hold your interest. And there's some character moments & insights that are clever and the world itself is interesting. It just all feels like set pieces that never really fit together.