The Unwanted Prophet by Carolina Cruz (The Creed of Gethin Book I)

 Quincy Sauer is in jail. As far as she’s concerned, that's where she belongs. Little does she know she won’t be there for much longer. A god is plotting to undermine his own priests, and she is his pawn of choice. Going from criminal to prophet would be a difficult transition under even the best circumstances, but Quincy’s luck is about to turn from bad to worse. Corrupt priests, cults, and threats unknown stand between Quincy and the answer to her greatest questions. Has the god of life and death made a terrible mistake? And if he has, who is going to pay the price for it?

The Unwanted Prophet is the debut novel of Carolina Cruz. If you enjoy low-magic fantasy, character-driven stories, and diverse fictional worlds, the Unwanted Prophet has something for you to enjoy!

COVER ARTIST: Lyrica Costello (Art), Fancypants Design (Design)
PUBLISHER: Self Published
YEAR: 2023
LENGTH: 532 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy

Queer Rep Summary: Gay/Achillean Secondary Character(s).

*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

THE UNWANTED PROPHET boldly asks the question: is it wrong to confine and torture a young woman who is the prophet of your god? The priests generally say yes, the prophet in question says no, who's to say? Regardless of who ends up proven right, they're on a long journey together to stop the group who is definitely (probably?) wrong... the cult killing in that same god's name.

This is more than robust enough to be a stand-alone story, but I'm quite pleased that it already has a sequel (which I will be reading as soon as I can). There's a distinct narrative arc, with some elements returning towards the end to wrap up some things set up early on which are meaningful for the characters, reinforcing the importance of the early chapters as more than just a way to get into the main story.

Quincy  is a self-sacrificing and pretty decent person whose reaction to being tortured and abused is to try and escape, but not to kill her captors. She is thoughtful and clever. While she has her flaws, none of them are treated by the narration as reasonable justifications for the priests' reactions to her elevation to prophet when they thought they would be her executioners. Her rapport with Gethin is wonderful to read, suffused with a combination of wit and seriousness which speaks of two beings trying to figure out a situation that has them each trapped in different ways. 

Quincy's interactions with the priests holding her captive range from tempestuous allyship to cool hostility, with peaks of terror and pain. Marlowe, in particular, is deeply fascinated with her situation and the theological implications, but this scholarly fascination isn't enough to keep him from hurting her for the order's goals. He's deeply invested in the idea of her, but doesn't seem to understand that she's a real person being hurt by him and the others. This means that there are long stretches where he and Quincy have meaningful conversations, but he still participates in her confinement and torture. The priests are traveling with Quincy to try and stamp out a Gethin cult whose leader keeps murdering people. They don't seem to notice any dissonance with their plans to murder Quincy when they arrive at their destination. 

The worldbuilding uses various real-world touchstones, seemingly from a smattering of Europe and East Asia, allowing for the setting to feel cohesive in each new location but also to convey cultural differences as the group travels a great distance. This is by no means unique in second-world fantasy, but it's done very well here. The references are generally confined to food and features of buildings, as the main religion in play is the Gethin faith and its various permutations. Many of the changes in language and behavior stem from what people think of Gethin, with various phrases as waypoints in conversation. I like the style, focusing on Gethin for the important things, but not trying to make the reader imagine fantastical versions of what is, ultimately, a generally unremarkable inn, village, or other mostly insignificant stop on their journey. It's also an efficient way to convey that they are traveling long distances, especially by using details from regions which are very far apart in reality.

I'd been starting to think maybe I didn't like very long books anymore, but I read this in under two days, fitting in long stretches between things I absolutely had to get done. It's languid, slow without being boring, and I'm very pleased with the ending.

If you like this you may like:

  • GODKILLER by Hannah Kaner (Incarnate divinities)
  • SAVAGE LEGION by Matt Wallace (Are we the baddies?)
  • THE SAINT OF BRIGHT DOORS by Vajra Chandrasekera (Strange divinity and abuse)

Graphic/Explicit CW for classism, religious bigotry, grief, confinement, drug use, emotional abuse, blood, physical abuse, violence, torture, murder, death.

Moderate CW for cursing, alcohol, ableism, vomit, injury detail, self harm, suicide attempt, suicidal thoughts, animal death.

Minor CW for sexual content.

Content Warnings from the Author: Some characters in the Unwanted Prophet experience symptoms of depression, including intrusive thoughts about self harm and suicide. these are not discussed at length or portrayed in graphic detail, but are still present. 

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A skeleton in dark robes with a golden halo behind its head. It stands in a dark forest with the silhouettes of corvids overhead.


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