Godkiller by Hannah Kaner (Fallen Gods #1)

Kissen kills gods for a living, and she enjoys it. That is until she finds a god she cannot kill: Skediceth, god of white lies, who is connected to a little noble girl on the run.

Elogast fought in the god war, and helped purge the city of a thousand shrines before laying down his sword. A mysterious request from the King sends him racing back to the city he destroyed.

On the way he meets a godkiller, a little girl and a littler god, who cannot find out about his quest. 

CONTRIBUTOR(S): Kit Griffiths (Narrator)
PUBLISHER: HarperAudio
YEAR: 2023
LENGTH: 300 pages (12 hours 54 minutes)
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Main Character(s), Bi/Pan Main Character(s).

One of my favorite things in GODKILLER is that all of the characters change in very significant ways, prompted by their interactions with each other, but no one changes into any other character's ideal. They bend without breaking, they fit in with each other on the road without wholly molding to one another. Inara is a little girl with a god, Skediceth, living inside her. She seeks out a godkiller to try and find a way to free Skediceth from her, to let them both live separately, no longer intertwined. Kissen, a godkiller, seems to have already changed enough by not killing Skediceth when she meets him, but as they journey together it becomes apparent that being a godkiller doesn't actually mean that she kills every god she meets. Instead, Kissen kills the ones who are making life worse for people, the ones she's paid to kill. Elogast is on a mission from his best friend and king, Arren, to go to a city whose gods he tried to kill, to get one of them to become the king's new heart. Publicly, the king wants all the gods dead, or at least no longer worshipped, so Elogast must keep this mission secret, for the sake of the king. All four of them and up in the same pilgrimage caravan, traveling together with a few others, braving the dangers of the road and the patrolling knights. Skediceth is a god of white lies, untruths that are meant to mitigate harm and make things feel better, even if reality doesn't change because of them. Because he's a god, he's able to affect how lies are perceived, how readily they are believed. This makes things much easier as they travel, deflecting questions and averting gazes, making some trouble never manifest at all.

There's a narrative focus on the way all of the characters have been marked by the gods, changed by them, for good or ill. Kissen has a prosthetic leg fashioned from leather and metal, replacing the flesh leg she lost as a child when the other villagers tried to sacrifice her family to a fire god. She uses the prosthesis when the situation calls for two legs (as travelling and fighting tend to do). Most discussion of her legs is logistical, such as when she's cut in the leg while fighting and just needs to repair or replace the prosthesis, instead of having been injured in her flesh. I like the matter-of-fact handling of it. While there was someone in her past who exploited her and other children like her, the narrative only briefly discusses that time of her life. Now, she has two legs, it's just that the lower part of one of them can detach from the rest of her.

As the first book in the series, Godkiller feels very complete, able to stand alone. It invites a sequel with the way that it changes the situations of the main characters by the end, and I want to know what they do next. It's more open than a standalone without giving me a cliffhanger, which is perfect. The main characters are all very different with competing motivations that have all placed them together for now, but they don't know if they can trust each other. The worldbuilding and characterization work together seamlessly to make an engaging story that isn't afraid to have a slow burn in the middle. Most of it takes place during this pilgrimage, complemented by a much slower story pace. It helps to create a sense of time, that this journey really does take a while, one measured in days or perhaps weeks though not months. 

The ending is excellent, with some information that makes sense in retrospect but managed to surprise me. I'm definitely interested in reading the sequel.

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Graphic/Explicit CW for religious bigotry, kidnapping, confinement, fire/fire injury, blood, gore, violence, murder, child death, parental death, death.

Moderate CW for ableism, sexual content, injury detail, self harm, war.

Minor CW for excrement, child abuse, trafficking, slavery, animal death.

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