02 July, 2010

Review - The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman

The Left Hand of God is the story of sixteen-year-old Thomas Cale, who has grown up imprisoned at the Sanctuary of the Redeemers, a fortress run by a secretive sect of warrior monks in a distant, dystopian past. He is one of thousands of boys who train all day in hand-to-hand combat, in preparation for a holy war that only the High Priests know is now imminent. He has no reason to think he's special, no idea there's another world outside the compound's walls, and no hope for a life any different from the one he already knows.

And then, Cale opens a door.

What follows is a daring escape, an unlikely alliance, a desperate pursuit, a journey of incredible discovery, and an adventure the likes of which Cale could never possibly have imagined, culminating in Cale's astonishing realization that he alone has the power to save his world- or to destroy it.
While I agree with many reviewers lately that The Left Hand of God [US] [UK] by Paul Hoffman has its weaknesses, one of those being over-hype, I didn't think it was quite as bad as many were making it out to be.

I think the main problem reviewers were having had to do with expectations and since mine were relatively low given the numerous less than stellar ratings, I didn't start The Left Hand of God with any preconceived notions. Well, I guess I have to admit, those preconceived notions weren't very positive.

This should be your first step in approaching this book. Goodreads compares it with the Inheritance Cycle and Twilight and while I think the publishers were attempting to say, "Hey, this is the next phenomenon in reading!" What should actually be taken from this is that while better written (slightly), it is still along those same level of book, i.e. entertaining but don't expect much more.

Yes, I did actually say that I enjoyed it and I'm getting there...in just a bit. One of the main things I thought The Left Hand of God struggles with is its audience. It mainly follows a teenage boy, so you think "YA". Then there are a couple grisly scenes that he witnesses and you think "adult".

I found this a bit confusing and unsettling, but maybe that was what the author was going for.

While the prose has its moments, it is a bit unsettling itself. The First line of the book is Listen and not in quotation marks. Is there a narrator talking to the reader? Is someone thinking this? There are other points where the prose is jerky and altogether confusing as to where the author's picking up and leaving off.

After all that said, I did still enjoy the book. Even through the problems that, as you can well see, are not minimal, I found myself looking forward to reading further. The characters were entertaining and Cale could just be really cool at times.

Cale and his friends grow up with a sect of Redeemers at The Sanctuary where they are cowed into submission through daily beatings, whippings, and even outright murders. The Redeemers are raising an army and anyone who even remotely steps in their way will be thrown to the wayside in no time.

Although friendship is frowned upon, Cale finds like-minded souls who do what they can to resist the tirade that is the Redeemers. While Cale is constantly pushing the Redeemers' buttons, Vague Henry finds his own way to get under their skin by acting extremely slow-witted; both pushing the bounds of their captivity, but not enough to get themselves killed...although they're not far from it.

Because of their brutal upbringing, the youths from The Sanctuary have talents and willpower far beyond those in the outside world. It was really entertaining to read about their escapades in this world where everything is new to them, even women whom they've never seen before.

Add to this the fact that we begin to learn throughout the latter half of the book that there's more to Cale than we thought at first. His powers and skills are slowly revealed especially as he takes on bullies and others whom Cale makes as enemies.

When Should You Read The Left Hand of God?

I'm really happy I wasn't the first to read The Left Hand of God after all the hype that surrounded its initial release, so thanks Niall, Yagiz, and a few others who weren't particularly impressed with the book because you made it much more enjoyable for me.

While not without its flaws, overall I enjoyed The Left Hand of God and would recommend it as a fantasy without much in terms of magic, but with an intriguing story and setting. I look forward to the rest of the series.

3.5 out of 5 Stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher


bloggeratf said...

Being first to review something is always tough. You have no basis for comparison and always wonder if you are just totally wrong. Then again, it puts you into the mindset of questioning PR copy instead of relying on the opinion of others.

I was definitely in the "what just happened" club after I put down this book. Had potential but most definitely not my cup of tea, although I can see how a younger less experienced audience might dig it.

Jamie Gibbs said...

I read through the free chapters that came with the iPod app, and I thought it was quite good. But then I heard the string of bad reviews about it and so I gave it a miss. I might pick it up if I've got a shortage of fiction to read one month. At least the overhyping meant that it's had plenty of coverage in the review area, so I won't feel obligated to give it my two pennies worth :)

Bryce L. said...

@Alec - As you well know, being a recent first reviewer. I agree that a less experienced audience would really enjoy this and I think I mainly enjoyed it because of the reviews saying how horrible it was. I had zero expectations, that were good.

@Jamie - Thanks for stopping by. :)Yeah, I'd recommend it. It's not the best ever, but it's a cool world that's traditional with its own twist.

Yagiz said...

I'm glad that my negative review had some positive effects :). Thanks for the mention ;).

Simcha said...

I've pretty much only read one positive review of this book and therefore decided to not even bother giving it a try, despite the fact that the summary sounds pretty interesting. But you are right that with such lowered expectations I'm more likely to enjoy the book than others who read it before me. And seeing that you did actually enjoy it makes me think that perhaps I should give it a try. Thanks for the review!

Bryce L. said...

@Yagiz - Yeah, thanks for that and no prob. :D

@Simcha - Definitely if you have a lot on your plate already, don't even bother. If you're ready for something that's just decent, then give it a go. :)

Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

I am (well, have been) working on my review for this book as well. I didn't think it was as much of a plop as some did, as I too didn't go in with all the hype in mind. And I am sorry this book should not be compared to Twilight or Inheritance. It is a book of its own, and the people reading Twilight I don't think will feel the same for this book. I am looking forward to the next book though. :) I am hoping to have my review up here in a day or so.

Bryce L. said...

@Melissa - I had a really hard time writing this review what with the split thinking on the book, but I definitely enjoyed the book while at the same time I can see the flaws people found in it. I'm thinking the next book can be a lot better though.

Anonymous said...

I read this about a month ago and was thinking about how I was going to write my take on the book, which has to necessarily include the hype that was generated and some of the less than stellar reviews. Bryce does it, again. I won't be able to put it any better.

Bryce L. said...

@PW - I'm really glad you felt the same and thanks, that means a lot coming from you. :)

Unknown said...

My thoughts on the book as well. Good by not great, Bad but not horrid. Couldn't have summed it up any better.

Bryce L. said...

@Ty - Thanks man, I do what I can. :)