Aoife's Reviews > Once Walked With Gods

Once Walked With Gods by James Barclay
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's review
Jul 06, 11

bookshelves: fantasy, everybody-you-love-will-die
Read from June 13 to July 06, 2011

First of all: It would have been great if OWWG had had a cast-list like Barclays other books. It has at least as much characters as the Ascendants and if possible the names are even more strange and exotic. It makes sense for them to be that, as the elves are portrayed as very different from humans, but it just confused me a lot and I often needed some time to place the names corectly.

Now for the book: I really liked the premise: Elves not as a big unified mass but -at least in that aspect- a lot like humans. There are different races (with different life-spans) and there is distrust and even hate between the races. Lots of hate. But of course for Barclay simply a full-ranging civil-war with betrayals, rape and murder isn't enough. Humans being humans (and bastards) decide that this is the opportunity to conquer Calaius and enslave the elves.
And here we come to an issue that bothered me a bit. There aren't any scenes set in Balaia, but from the discussions, the humans on Calaius have, you can get a vague impression about how Balaia is. And I got the impression that the Balaia here isn't very different from the Balaia in the Raven-books, but as I understand, OWWG is set about 3000 years before the Raven. So in this time there was no developement at all? The only thing that is different is that there still was the One Magic (though the split of the colleges already seems to be starting), but they even already seem to have most of the spells that are in use in the Raven-books: ShadowWings, FlameWall, IceWind...with all the research-magic going on in the books, I had perhaps expected that they had much fewer spells at that time, or perhaps weaker ones.
Admittedly, Barclay isn't the first author to fall into that trap (I'm looking at you George Martin), so overall it didn't bother me that much, but now that I've started complaining I can es well get my list off:
It took me a while till I really liked the characters, yes I did eventually, especially Katyett and Pelyn, but it was no 'love at first sight' as with the Raven. In a way, of course they have to be, because Barclay makes the point of elves not just being humans with pointy ears and also both have a job where they can't afford to show to much emotion, but it just made it difficult to get into the book at first.
Then they're the TaiGethen. Yeah, Rule of Cool, and I don't deny that they are awesome but their fighting-skills almost seem to be a bit to phantastical...a group of them seem to have little problems with taking out a group of humans more than three times their number. It wouldn't have hurt to beginn with a couple more TaiGethen-warriors, they'd still been just as awesome.

Now I spent quite a lot of time complaining, but overall I liked it very much. As said, it took some time, but eventually I grew very fond of the characters, especially Pelyn. I also think that Takaar might be one of the most fascinating characters Barclay ever created, the way he is dealing with his past and the guilt, or perhaps rather with the fact that he can't deal with it, not all the time is just impressive, and his speech towards the elves towards the end was really awesome.
Talking of awesome: Auum obviously continues to be so (or rather begins, as it's before his appearance in Elfsorrow) and I quite enjoyed his interactions with Takaar.

Now I can't wait till the next book appears.

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06/16/2011 page 42
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