Late in September of this year, I had the pleasure to attend FenCon in Dallas, TX. The con itself was a great time. One of the best sessions I attended was an overview of Pyr Books catalog hosted by their Hugo Award winning editor, Lou Anders. Mr. Anders quickly gave an elevator pitch for many of the books Pyr currently had in its pipeline to be released as well as a few currently in production. One of the ones currently on bookshelves nationwide was Blackdog by K.V. Johansen. When I got home, I went to my local B&N and hit the shelves. There was Blackdog staring back at me.
So on to the review.
Synopsis: Long ago, in the days of the first kings in the north, there were seven devils…
And long ago, in the days of the first kings in the north, the seven devils, who had deceived and possessed seven of the greatest wizards of the world, were defeated and bound with the help of the Old Great Gods…
And perhaps some of the devils are free in the world, and perhaps some are working to free themselves still…
In a land where gods walk on the hills and goddesses rise from river, lake, and spring, the caravan-guard Holla-Sayan, escaping the bloody conquest of a lakeside town, stops to help an abandoned child and a dying dog. The girl, though, is the incarnation of Attalissa, goddess of Lissavakail, and the dog a shape-changing guardian spirit whose origins have been forgotten. Possessed and nearly driven mad by the Blackdog, Holla-Sayan flees to the desert road, taking the powerless avatar with him.
Necromancy, treachery, massacres, rebellions, and gods dead or lost or mad follow hard on their heels. But it is Attalissa herself who may be the Blackdog’s—and Holla-Sayan’s—doom.
Setting: In physical features, Blackdog takes place in a world much like our own. Each physical region is accompanied by its own God. The land Ms. Johansen creates in Blackdog is in many ways pivotal to the story and she crafts a landscape that becomes vivid as the reader progresses through this fairly large novel.
Plot: Blackdog is a multilayered story with all threads built around the central character of the Blackdog and his goddess mistress. Each thread is intelligently written and allows the reader to become a sympathetic co-traveller. The plot is complex and a bit different from each characters point of view. Some just want to survive and be happy. Others have agendas that wou.d make a megalomaniac look boring in comparison.
Characters: Naturally, some characters will appeal to you more than others. My personal favorite was the title character, the Blackdog. The Blackdog is enlisted to help the goddess completely without his acquiescence. He remains a reluctant guardian of the goddess while becoming increasingly fond of the child incarnation that he rescued on the side of the road. This kind of complex characterization was well done throughout the book and I expect many readers will become enamoured with one or more characters.
Odin’s recommendation: I like large books when the story is well told. The better the story, the longer I want the book to be. Blackdog was almost 600 pages long. It was much too short.