Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan
“When faced with certain death, running is sensible, but I think a man can make an unhealthy habit of it. Running can take on an importance of its own and become an excuse to avoid living a normal life.” – Age of Myth
If there is one truth in the world of Elan, it is order. The Rhunes eek out a meager existence in one side of the Nidwalden river, forever living in fear of the gods who live on the other side of the river. Across the Nidwalden, the beings known as the Fhrey lead a massive empire. Though they are few, the power some Fhrey hold to wield the magic known as the Art serves to keep the Rhunes in check. By Fhrey mandate, Rhunes are forbidden to cross the Nidwalden on penalty of death, keeping the lush land and wildlife of the region well out of the poor farmers’ reach. In Dureya, the poorest and most desperate of the Rhune regions, a father and son decide to secretly cross the Nidwalden in the hope of finding a better life. What they could never know is that this small act will spark a war that threatens the existence of every living Rhune, and perhaps the fate of their gods.
When Raithe decided to cross the Nidwalden in the night, he never dreamed that by morning he would have killed a god. But when a Fhrey patrol arrives, Raithe takes his father’s sword and strikes down their leader in self defense. Fearing retribution, Raithe and Malcolm, former slave of the now deceased Fhrey, flee to the village of Dahl Rhen, but even there the conthey cannot escape the gathering storm of war on the horizon. Meanwhile Perspehone, wife of Dahl Rhen chieftain Reglan, is grieving over the sudden death of her husband and son and her own sudden ascension to the throne. The last thing she expects is the appearance of two fugitives at the gates, soon followed by a mystic bringing prophecies of an apocalypse. Suri never wanted to leave the Crescent Forest. As a mystic she was happy with the thought of living out the rest of her days among the ancient trees with her mentor Tura. But when Tura dies Suri becomes sole mystic of the forest, and when Magda, the oldest tree in the forest, begins whispering of an apocalyptic war, it will be her duty to warn the chieftain of Dahl Rhen. As a Fhrey and practitioner of the the Art, Arion had no reason to doubt her comfortable and safe position as tutor to the prince. But when the fires of rebellion flare somewhere beyond the Nidwalden, Arion is summoned to put down the insurrection at any cost. As many stories intertwine, the people of Dahl Rhen come to realize that their actions, large or small, may ultimately determine the fate of humanity.
At its heart, Age of Myth reads like a history of a war that never happened. It is epic fantasy that covers entire civilizations in its scope, and the story it tells leaves room for complexity that spans a six book series, only 3 of which have been released. The unique thing about this series is that Michael J. Sullivan wrote all 6 books before the first one was released, allowing for plot lines of staggering complexity. This also means that books are released on a regular schedule, leaving no uncertainty for fans as to when they will get the conclusion to any particularly suspenseful cliffhangers.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
“People believe, thought Shadow. It’s what people do. They believe. And then they will not take responsibility for their beliefs; they conjure things, and do not trust the conjurations. People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine, and people believe: and it is that belief, that rock-solid belief, that makes things happen.” – American Gods
Why, wonders Neil Gaiman, doesn’t America have its own gods? Almost every country from every other continent has some form of mythology, whether it be gods, fairies, monsters, or heroes. Why doesn’t Lake Michigan have a monster? Why doesn’t America have a Mount Olympus? Because, American Gods says, America is a country of immigrants, and so the gods in America immigrants too. In this world every time someone tells a story, a tale of gods and heroes, every time someone believes in something, that something becomes real. People, American Gods suggests, create their gods by believing in them. So every time an immigrant comes to America, they bring their gods with them. America becomes home to thousands of gods; deities from every culture and continent wandering the streets of American cities unnoticed and weakened, stripped of their true power by a lack of true belief in their old stories. Because in the modern world Americans believed in new gods; gods like Internet and Guns, Media and Highways. In this strange new world, where old gods and new are forever in conflict, there is a war brewing on the horizon, and some gods may not survive.
When Shadow went to prison, he did not believe in gods. All he believed in was the promise of a return to his life as soon as his sentence was up. When a terrible tragedy destroys that life, Shadow’s early release is not enough to console him. On the plane home Shadow meets a strange and enigmatic man named Mr. Wednesday who proposes a deal. Shadow will come with him on his journey, serving as a bodyguard, a butler, a detective, and whatever else Mr. Wednesday requires. In return, Mr. Wednesday will provide Shadow with a staggering sum of money and a chance at a brand new life, one far removed from the grief he has left behind. So Shadow enters a strange new side of America, one where gods old and new roam the streets of cities like Cairo, Illinois and the strange inner sanctums of American landmarks like the House on the Rock. But America is a bad land for gods, and Shadow’s old life may be more closely intertwined with his new one than he could ever suspect.
Since publishing his first book more than 35 years ago, Neil Gaiman has emerged as one of the foremost names in Fantasy and Science Fiction across the world. With American Gods, he has created a book that combines the best elements of both genres to the point where almost no one can tell which one it is. When it was first published, American Gods won two awards for science fiction, a third for fantasy, and a fourth for horror. With this stunningly unique literary masterpiece, Neil Gaiman has crafted a world guaranteed to leave readers wondering at the depth of his imagination, while also skillfully weaving together elements of humanity’s oldest tales.