Chris Fox's Shattered Gods Series

C: Good read with flaws.

Fun action that doesn't make any sense, but it's still a great read, with a strong core dynamic between Xal and Saghir.

In the book, you follow the adventures of Xal. Xal is a child of the dims, an oppressed group of people feared by the ruling class and used as cannon fodder. Xal gets conscripted and sent to tie in the trash legion, and the adventures of this legion, plus the Academy afterwards, show him progressing in power and being inducted into the wider political landscape, wherein he has very few friends and a great many enemies.

Now, Xal is great. His ratman companion Saghir is even better. Xal refuses to limit himself in order to fly under the radar, and Saghir is intently focused on becoming an archmage. This, by the way, happens when one can catalyse (be given the power of) each of the different flavours of magic. Xal starts of with Void magic. He gains fire magic at the Fire Catalyst. You get the idea. Their dynamic, camaraderie, and banter is a high point to the series.

The secondary characters, Nef, Tissa, Erik, Darius, and a few others, I am pretty meh on. Truth be told, I don’t think they make sense. Xal is loyal to Nef, loves him as a brother. And yet interactions in the book portray Nef only as a vicious bully. Tissa and Xal are supposed to be loyal friends too, close like family. And yet this is all told to us from their perspectives, but the actions of the characters are at odds. Erik starts off liking Xal, but a spell from his mother (the ruler of the nation) causes him to intensely hate Xal. Which, fine, makes sense, but does make character development harder to get if you remove the independence of the character, to begin with.

After Xal and his friends manage to survive the trash legion, they get to go to the Academy. Now, why the trash legion is needed in terms of the political landscape also makes no sense to me, but let’s brush over that. The kids get to go to an Academy, in this nation that is critically struggling for fire mages. As in normal soldiers will lay down their lives without question to ensure the safety of their mages. However, the Academy features a cohort size of about a dozen (for their year level), and regular training and combat has a high casualty rate.

I don’t get it.

It honestly reads like the author wanted a cool magic Academy with high stakes, so they put that in. And then they put it in a world in which it makes no sense and didn’t try and iron out the wrinkles. Given that anyone can become a mage if exposed to the catalyst, why does the ruler not just flood the Academy and pump out mages? People are shown to pick up spells in days after getting a catalysation, so what’s the issue here? And then, if mages are so important, why does the Academy system kill so many of them?

In Cradle, we have Monarchs or Lords presiding over fights, to ensure that people don’t die. In Arcane Ascension, shield sigils and teleportation are used to remove combatants before death. In Shattered Gods, especially in the second book Fomori Invasion, people just up and die in the arena battles - which are a mandatory Academy training segment. It definitely pulled me out of the book a few times, but even with that, the fights, tactics, and magical problem solving were great to read.

In terms of progression, Xal purchases better loots, his weapons and gear evolve as he gains new magic, and his own power grows as the number of Catalysations he has increases. Uncle Saghir, Xal gets highly sought-after passive abilities from later sources of magic, which is less fun (the passive skills function to just keep him alive better and don’t allow him to improve his tactics a lot), but also simpler to keep track of. Some series go too far in presenting dozens of new abilities and powers and making a mess of it all. Shattered Gods might swing a bit too hard in the other direction.

It’s still fun though. I’ll be buying and reading the third book when it comes out, and seeing if the Fomori plotline starts to make sense to me, but at the end of the day, even if it doesn’t make sense, I’ll still enjoy reading about Xal and Saghir, the budding romance with Li, and will be rooting for them in the god-level conflict that is being slowly built up over the works. This review may come off as harsh, but honestly I did enjoy the series so far, I just wish there was more thought put into the super-structure.