Book Review: ‘The Left Hand of God’ by Paul Hoffman

Posted: 28 October 2010 in Book reviews
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I finished this one a few weeks ago, but it was absolutely amazing. It is 498 pages of pure fantasticness. All I wanted to do was get back to the book to find out what happened next.

It is a story set in a Medieval period in a pseudo-realistic world. The story revolves around Thomas Cale, a 14 or 15 year old boy who lives in Sanctuary, a enclosed city where young boys are brought to become soldiers and/or Redeemers, if they live that long. He has survived the last ten years having no friends and being the pet of Redeemer Bosco. The only person he remotely calls a friend is Vague Henri, a boy who acts dense but is in reality very sharp-wittedly reckless, which often gets him in trouble once they figure out he’s made a fool of them.

Life at Sanctuary is anything but a sanctuary. It is a brutal place to live where any infraction of the strict laws are greeted by harsh penalties ending in severe beatings, scaring and then in many cases death. While dealt with harshly by Bosco, Cale unknowingly is safe from any penalty which would cause his death. Not so would be for friend Vague Henri and unfortunate associate Kleist, an archery instructor of around the same age as the other two. While Cale is a smart boy whose arrogance makes him a bit cocky, which resulted in beatings, he was not ready for what he  stumbled in on when sent to the chambers of Redeemer Picarbo. The resulting answer was one thing: to run away.

No one had ever run away from Sanctuary and survived. But Cale had no choice but to run away and take with him Vague Henri, Kleist and new associate Riba. If he had left them behind they would have been killed for mere association with him. After Cale works everything out, they escape to Memphis.

And thus begins the epic journey of a violently clever and emotionally perplexing boy. You cannot help but love him as he struggles to undo the emotional destruction thrashed into him by the unforgiving, religiously twisted Redeemers. You also can’t help but be amused at the struggle between Cale and the arrogant royal Arbell. He is like a orange among apples. But that is what draws everyone to him, especially Arbell. Once she realises what horrors he’d been through, she begins to see him differently, not as the hardened killer who knows no different, but as a hardened killer forced to become so.

This book is so brilliantly written and developed. It is so brilliant how he takes typical religious stereotypes and makes them worse. The Redeemers are is essence priests mixed with fanatics of the worse kind. They are so in love with their ‘Hanged Redeemer’, that anyone who believes differently is a heathen and everywhere and everything is sin. In there century long fight against the Antagonists, their is no length they will not go to ensure their victory or get what their way. They are conniving manipulators with seemingly no morals.

Then there is Memphis, the capital on the outskirts of the Scablands (the desert between Memphis and Sanctuary). While it is resonant of a typical city with it’s rich sector and the sector resembling the Moulin Rouge, it seems to possess some sort of honour amidst the underhandedness of politics and the upper class. While everyone is out to cover their own necks, they are less violent and more emotion based, something the Redeemers do not value.

I am really glad that this book is the first in a series. I cannot wait for the remaining books to come out and I pray that they are as good if not better than the first one.

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