Review: Servant of a Dark God

Posted: October 12, 2009 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: John Brown, Epic Fantasy

Here at Elitist Books Reviews, we are always on the lookout for that next series that will get us (and in turn, you) excited. What makes a series exciting for us? Well, if you’ve been paying attention to our reviews, you know that we feel the first book in a new series is extremely important. It starts with the cover of the book. Is it awesome? Does it make you want to pick up a copy of the novel just to read what it is about? Then, with the actual book itself, do we as readers feel interested in the new world we are presented? Do we get a sense of newness and wonder at the world, magic, characters, and story? Does the story leave a ton of room to grow and expound on the ideas introduced in book 1?

You see, we ask for a lot. (You better give it to us when we ask too. Or so help us, we might… uh… be mean.)

So, does John Brown‘s SERVANT OF A DARK GOD (Amazon) meet these criteria? Does it fall flat? Or is it somewhere in the middle? Before we tell you (See what we did? We led you on like the results portion of a bad reality show. So sneaky of us!), John told us what he was going for when he wrote this novel.

“With any story I write, I want to give the reader a great experience. In this one I hope to plunge the reader into a cool and dangerous world and then take them on a journey that would leave them thrilled. I love monsters, magic, and mayhem. I love interesting characters, poignancy, and a bit of humor for leavening. I hope my readers experience all that.”

Just to prove to you that we don’t draw the suspense out forev–oh wait, did we mention this is John’s first novel? Not only do we have high expectations of novels in general, but first novels by authors are very make-it-or-break-it for us, and for most readers. You only get one chance… (insert Eminem song lyrics here. If you know what we mean, then we are proud of you. Kinda.)

Where were we?

In SERVANT OF A DARK GOD, people’s days of life can be harvested, bought, or stolen. In the history leading up to the events in this story, humans were nothing more than cattle who were branded, ranched, and then slaughtered for their remaining days of life. Suffice it to say, there is a dark and fearful tone to this novel. And we like it. As John mentioned, he wants his created world to feel dangerous to the reader. He succeeded. Easily.

One thing we want to make clear is that the beginning of the novel may feel a tad slow, and you may start to get worried that it is going to fall into the “young man leaves to go on a heroic quest” cliche. However, our buddy John Brown avoids the early cliche by giving us important plot twists early on. There is NO EPIC QUEST in this epic fantasy. Everything is nicely focused and localized. If this break in the formula isn’t enough of a reason to read the novel, you haven’t been paying attention to the fantasy genre. In addition, while reading you will be asking yourself, “which lie is actually the truth.” Nothing is clear-cut, or black-and-white. As for the slowness factor? There is enough “new stuff” to keep you interested–though we do recommend you read the glossary in the back of the novel before beginning.

In SERVANT OF A DARK GOD, John Brown has created a dark and detailed world that has us salivating for more, and is a great first novel in a series.

Our main character, Talen, is entertaining to read. He borders on being whiny at times, but it is easy to overlook due to his actual progression through the novel. He takes the “coming of age” archetype and makes it a tad more violence-ready. And to be fair, his concerns throughout the novel are legitimate. After all, the baddies in the story want to do some pretty nasty things to him and his family. The supporting characters are all interesting as well, and they lend a measure of believability to the story. We consider it a measure of John’s writing ability that we were able to feel attached to his characters with limited “screen-time.” In fact, there were some truly heartbreaking moments with these characters that only worked because of the attachment we felt. Well done, Mr. Brown. In addition, he succeeded in bringing out some mild humor to offset the grim tone that was prevalent through the novel.

We did have a few nitpicks. After all, no book is perfect, and John wants to know where the short-comings are just as much as his readers do. There were a few times that we had a hard time placing people’s ages in the novel. Also, as we mentioned, the slow beginning can be a deterrent to impatient readers. Lastly, this book is obviously setup for the remaining two novels in a trilogy. While this can be a huge problem for impatient readers, this last point in our opinion, leads to another positive for the novel.

In the world created by Brown, and in this first novel, we were left feeling as though we had barely scratched the surface. There are so many unique elements here that have us excited to read the second book. In addition, there is a subtle undercurrent of the western ranch-style setting here that just makes everything here feel…right. No, we aren’t giving you specifics. Seriously, in the case of this book, specifics would ruin your initial impression. Trust us, you will love it. It is Epic Fantasy that is focused in a single geographical location, and like we mentioned earlier, it is ridiculously refreshing.

So what does all this rambling mumbo-jumbo mean? We’re glad you asked!

In SERVANT OF A DARK GOD, John Brown has created a dark and detailed world that has us salivating (literally) for more. This is a fantastic example of how to make a splash with a first novel in the fantasy genre. In all seriousness, everything came together for this novel. From the visually stunning Raymond Swanland cover, to the the terrifically grim tone and entertaining characters. We loved it. If you are a fan of the works of Brandon Sanderson and David Farland, you should immediately buy this novel, and submerse yourself in the stolen life, twisted lies, and focused epicness (yeah, we just made that word up) of SERVANT OF A DARK GOD.

SERVANT OF A DARK GOD is officially released tomorrow. You better have some money set aside.

  • Recommended Age: 15+. There is a bit of a learning curve here.
  • Language: Nope
  • Violence: Yes, but non of it is over-the-top. We fully expect book 2 to go nuts in the violence department, and we look forward to it.
  • Sex: Some light innuendo, nothing more

Go take a peek at John’s website. You can read the first bit of his novel, and tell him how awesome SERVANT OF A DARK GOD is. Do it now.

And just because he is becoming our favorite artist, go check out the art gallery at Raymond Swanland’s website. This guy is seriously one of the most talented artists in the game.


  • Kaz says:

    I already read the first couple of chapters…there is a link on and after chapter 8 it really does look like it is set up for traditional Epic Fantasy.

    (How is it Epic Fantasy with out the Epic Quest isn't that vital to the sub genre? Sounds like dark fantasy.)

    • I think that the term “Epic” is misunderstood. People mistakenly interpret it to mean “a long and arduous journey”, when really Epic is a definition of great achievements or events that are narrated in elevated style. An “Epic Quest” will be in Epic Fantasy, but Epic Fantasy shouldn't need an “Epic Quest.” See what I mean? It is the scale of knowing what is to come that puts it in the “Epic” area rather than the “Dark” area. A battle can be Epic without it traveling. A character can have an Epic arc without wandering for a few years. Events can have Epic consequences without our main characters traveling to Mt. Doom.

      No, the Epic Quest most assuredly does NOT need to be in Epic Fantasy.

      And this where the first chapters of SERVANT are misleading. You are given the impression of traditional Epic Fantasy when really this isn't present at all later on. There is a somewhat traditional “coming-of-age” arc here, but in reality, it is a coming-of-age for an entire people, where they begin to realize the deception that has been wrought on them.

      That make sense? This was actually a difficult book to review, because there is a lot here going on under the surface.

  • Brett says:

    I'm less than halfway through, but this is only one of two books I've read for the last year or so that have made me constantly wanting to sneak more time to read it (the other was Rothfuss' Name of the Wind). I didn't have any difficulty with early pacing, I actually thought things moved along nicely (lots of danger). Expectations are high, I hope the rest comes through.

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