Joel Spriggs’ debut novel contains a detailed magic system to rival his Hemlock & Burns books, as well as a mixed pantheon of gods and an obsession with genitalia.
Starting as it means to go on, Over a God’s Dead Body opens with an intimate moment between a professor and a Sasquatch, before introducing us to the main protagonists – Loki, of Norse mythology, and his great grandchildren, Esmy and Jake – as well as the main antagonist, Seth of Egyptian deity fame.
It turns out that the god of the title is Seth’s nephew, Horus, and Seth is eager to get his remains before his sister does. Apparently that’ll be a bad idea, so Loki and kin attempt to thwart Seth’s plans. Involved in all this is Baldurs college, where Jake and Esmy work, and where the remains of Horus are housed in the preternatural sciences department. Add in a Canadian with a penchant for gross anecdotes, and a pornographic mural on his van; a voodoo practitioner helicopter mom, several more mythological figures, and you have an idea of what this book is like.
There is no doubt that the author has a knack for world building. As in his other series, the detail and imagination poured into his magic system is a joy to read about. It makes sense, and it grounds his characters in a world that is not only fun, but which has the reader dying to reach for a spell book and join in. Likewise, the characters shine from the page. Their traits might be pushed for comic effect at times, but there is genuine heart in all the characters, and it is easy to hear them speaking from the page. I particularly liked Esmy, and I applaud the author for writing such strong, realistic female characters.
Unfortunately, the plot meanders through the middle, and the stakes are too low to invest in the action set piece at the end. Played too much for laughs, the fact that the rather dire consequences of the finale roll off the main characters backs like water off a zombie duck cheapens the world that has been established and weakens Esmy and Jakes characters.
I enjoyed a lot about this book. I loved Baldur college and it’s department of preternatural sciences. It’s a place I’d like to enroll in. The idea of a world of magic existing unobserved by the majority of folk is always fascinating, and the author once again crafts a realistic and absorbing world. I liked all the characters, especially Esmy. Some of the humor worked for me, especially with the character of Seth, who I found amusing.
However, there was a lot of comedy that fell completely flat for me. I found the obsession with genitalia very off putting, and the repeated jokes about beastiality completely off putting. There is a rule in screenwriting that you only repeat a joke three times, as after that number of call backs you face diminishing returns on laughs. I wish the author would have taken this rule to heart in regards to Kyle’s pornagraphic van. I was also disappointed by how the Judeo-Christian religions were handled.
Unfortunately the negatives detracted from the positives, so I award Over a God’s Dead Body…
Over a God’s Dead Body is available for ebook $2.61 and print book $12.99 on Amazon.
This book completes the Jolly (comedic) square of my Indiecember Reading Challenge.