Book Review: Gorel and The Pot-Bellied God by Lavie Tidhar

gorel-and-the-pot-bellied-god-hardcover-by-lavie-tidhar-choose-your-edition-signed-jacketed-hardcover-limited-to-100-copies-2445-p[ekm]298x447[ekm]Reading Gorel and the Pot Bellied God by Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing) felt like discovering Michael Moorcock for the first time. That sense that something has shifted in my world and I’ve been transported to a strange yet weirdly familiar place with an antihero who is strange, complex and … someone you want to be with as long as you possibly can. Though I’ve read some of Lavie’s shorter work, this novella-length work is something quite different and really took my by surprize.

There is only one truth Gorel of Goliris is interested in and that’s finding a way back home, to the great empire from which he had been stolen as a child and from which he had been flung, by sorcery, far across the world. On his journey to Falang-Et to find the mirror, he forms  an uneasy alliance—and ménage à trois—with an Avian spy and a half-Merlangai thief. And then things get complicated with rivalry between gods and the machinations of a rising dark lord bent on conquest. Not to mention sex and drugs . . . or guns and sorcery.

A typical hero’s journey? I think not. Let’s face it, Gorel is no saint. He’s a drug addict, killer, polysexual, amoral and not very pretty. In fact he epitomises the gamut of character flaws convention suggests will hinder you from investing in the story. And yet quite the opposite happens.

Aside from the terrific adventure story, coupled with dark humor,  the novella is also remarkable for its fairytale quality and the stories-within-stories. We hear, for instance, a bizarre variant of the princess and the frog, which resurfaces at the story’s denoument.

The world itelf is also multi-layered. With character and place evoking Thai and far eastern culture rather than the medieval Europe trope, the landscape of Gorel’s tale is evoked so beautifully one can almost smell it.

The writing is vibrant and visual, taking the reader through the narrative in a way that’s almost cinematic.

Over its relatively short span, Gorel is every bit as rich and riveting as a much longer fantasy.

Moorcock’s Elric may have been my first sword and sorcery hero, but I can now certainly put Gorel up there beside him in the winners’ circle.

I will be soon be reading and reviewing the Gorel collection, Black Gods Kiss (also PS Publishing), recounting events before and after this tale. I can’t wait.

 

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John Dodds Article by John Dodds

John Dodds is the author of The Kendrick Chronicles crime novels (Babylon Slide, Kali’s Kiss and Bone Machines, published by Blackstone Audio, Inc.). Among his other works are a YA steampunk novel, The Mechanikals, and novellas, novelettes and short stories for Kindle. Several of his short stories received honourable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Science fiction and fantasy luminary Michael Moorkcock said: “John Dodds is one of the most promising new writers I have read for some time. I highly recommend his work.” John is also a freelance copywriter and editor for both print and online media. You can find his publications or connect with him on Twitter at @jakk54.

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