A review of The God Eaters by Jesse Hajicek
Self-published by Lulu Books, 2006
By REBECCA, April 20, 2012
Ashleigh Trine: Supersmart Empath Ash is imprisoned for “inflammatory writings” and meets Kieran, whose “gravel and honey” voice he can’t resist, but whose unpredictable temper frightens him. Especially since they’re stuck in a cell together.
Kieran Trevarde: Abused and taken advantage of his whole childhood, Kieran quickly learned to take care of himself, which means being able to kick anyone’s ass and never appearing vulnerable. When he meets Ash, who can do neither, Kieran learns his true capacity for power, and he learns it through love.
Imprisoned because the corrupt government wants to study their “talents” (powers), Ash and Kieran manage an elaborate prison break, evade their captors, survive for days in the desert, hop a train back to the city, and start to fall in love . . . and that’s only the first third of the novel. As the book blurb declares: when “shy intellectual” Ash meets Kieran, “a hard-hearted gunslinger with a dark magic lurking in his blood, Ash finds that necessity makes strange heroes . . . and love can change the world.” Through multiple shootouts, a run-in with creepy priest, some R&R at a friend’s brothel, and a true dream or two, Ash and Kieran both realize that together they are stronger than they ever imagined.
The setting of The God Eaters is a heavily policed theocratic society that reminds me of a kind of late 19th or early 20th century American West in which those of Kieran’s ethnicity, the Iavaians, are persecuted, forced onto reservations and into drugs and prostitution. Individuals have talents that the government fears and (of course) wants to control. Kieran’s rare talent is the most threatening of all: the ability to kill with his mind. Ash is an Empath (he can sense the feelings of those around him), but as the story continues we learn that perhaps Ash has a power that the government would care about even more than Kieran’s: the power to access and use the magic that the government uses to control the public.
The God Eaters is a delightful genre mash-up: it has the setting and adventure of an old Western, some cool science fiction elements that merge with magic, a mythic quality that I won’t spoil, but which has to do with the gods of the title, and the grand love story of a romance. The genre mixing makes for a truly unique story that satisfies all the genres. Also, Jesse Hajicek’s writing is spot on. In places it’s really beautiful and in others it’s snappy and moves the plot along.
“Icy, alien thoughts like blunt metal instruments battered at [Kieran’s] defenses, tearing his thoughts apart. The agony was nothing physical, but something worse; a pain like grief, like shame. Then the probing penetrated below the level of thought to a place in the mind that Kieran knew was never meant to be groped like this. The cold manipulation of a stranger’s thoughts dissected his selfhood; peeled apart layers, poked and squeezed, cut and bruised” (39).
Hajicek has created an amazingly rich world, complete with a full back story that reveals the history of the governmental regime and its persecutions, and an awesome sense of geography and regionality. And all of this is done without any infodumping or contrived exposition, which anyone who reads alt-reality knows is supremely rare. The God Eaters’ setting is kick-ass: it’s a dangerous world, with violence, drugs, and poverty, as well as complex political machinations of both the above- and below-board variety. My favorite thing about the setting, though, is that we get to be in urban spaces and deserted ones; on trains and on horses; in brothels and in caves; in shootouts and talking politics.
what was the book’s intention? did it live up to that intention?
The God Eaters is one of those books where everything works for me. As I mentioned, it’s like a delightful genre buffet. One of the things that makes it work so well, I think, is that while there are many well-sketched secondary characters, it’s a really small cast of main characters—indeed, for much of the book it’s only Ash and Kieran. This makes the story truly about the development of the relationship between two complicated and interesting people.
On Goodreads and Amazon, The God Eaters has been almost exclusively shelved as a gay romance, which I think has kept it off the radar of all its other genre readers. But it really is a great romance, especially for a reader like me, who likes stories about complicated relationships, but doesn’t want to read a story that is only characters angsting out about their crushes. Ash and Kieran’s relationship—from partnership against a shared enemy, to tentative friendship, to romance—unfurls through their adventures and reactions to all the messed up shit that they have to battle to stay safe after breaking out of prison, and, eventually, taking on a god. Plus, personally, I always like a romance where one half of the relationship is, for whatever reason, incapable of acknowledging it (within reason) because it ups the tension and keeps the sappy conversations to a minimum.
“‘I want to leave,’ Kieran said. He heard sullenness in the words, the useless petulance, and perspective opened for him. He’d known it forever: nothing matters when you’re going to die anyway. Why were they bothering to talk at all?
He reached, despite everything surprised that Ash didn’t flinch, and brushed a tendril of dirty hair away from Ash’s lips, which moved under his fingertips as Ash turned to chase the touch, eyes flicking closed. A hitch in Ash’s breath caught Kieran in the chest like a bullet. He swallowed hard, heart suddenly hammering. He bent and covered Ash’s mouth with his own” (128).
The God Eaters is a self-published book, which Hajicek first posted, chapter by chapter, on his website. This means that he clearly took a great deal of time working the book over; thus, it has none of the weaknesses that sometimes inhere to self-publication, like typos, un-edited repetition, or draftiness. In fact, Hajicek still has the whole novel posted, so you can read it all online, if you wish, or read the beginning to see if you want to buy it. The real problem with it being self-published is that a lot of libraries don’t carry it—although I was delighted to see that the Bloomington (where I used to live) public library has a copy (quick, Bloomington friends, get on it—there’s only one copy and I demand fisticuffs!).
Anyhoo, The God Eaters is a total must-read if you like genre fiction of any stripe or enjoy a good romance in the desert. There is sex in this book, so perhaps very young readers should know that? (Whether they would view that as a positive or a negative, I have no idea.) And everyone else should know that it’s a positive. Because it’s hot.
You know how when there is a book that’s super unique and yet every single element is totally to your taste then you feel like the author should maybe be your best friend? And by “you” I mean “I.” And by that I mean, Jesse Hajicek, I wish you were my friend!
Turnskin by Nicole Kimberling (2008). Tom Fletcher is a Shifter who wants to escape his small farming town and find others of his kind. One dangerous boyfriend and a murder later, though, Tom finds himself in the Turnskin Theatre, where he can display his Shifting under the bright lights—that is, if he can keep clear of those who are after him long enough.
Santa Olivia (Santa Olivia #1) by Jacqueline Carey (2009). After Loup Garrou’s mother dies, she lives with a group of orphaned malcontents, chafing under the exploitation of the nearby military base that controls them. They form a vigilante fighting group to avenge the town, and Loup learns of the powers that her father, a Wolf-Man genetically engineered by the government as a weapon, passed on to her.
procured from: bought