Godly Heathens Review
Special thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC copy they provided.
What’s the best way to describe Godly Heathens?
OH MY F@#$ING GODS!!!
Like literally, that is going to be your reaction to SO many parts of this book as you read it. If you’re not prepared to scream at your screen (or actual, physical book, if you’re lucky enough to have one of those), you are not prepared for this book.
Where to start with this book… From beginning to end, Godly Heathens feels like a rollercoaster, the highs just setting you up for the sudden drops that make you want to scream. (And potentially throw your phone or physical book.) Everyone is mildly feral, has something to hide, and plays both hero and villain.
Rather like life, if you think about it.
To make things simpler, I’ll say the main character, Gem Echols, happens to be a god.
They just also happen to be a god everyone hates, and to be stuck in the body of a human teenager. The ultimate in existential horror…
The games begin early in the book with Gem plagued by intense dreams of an alluring demon and the bloody crimes they committed together. While still processing THAT, the goddesses of Death and War show up at Gem’s school with scores to settle and zero trust for the god they blame for destroying their world and their places in the pantheon.
Luckily for Gem, the goddess of Earth and the god of Things Forbidden just happen to love them for who they are, bloody hands and all.
And that is one of the points of this book I am extremely happy with. Almost every book that features a love triangle forces the characters to choose. Someone has to win and someone else has to lose. Godly Heathens has as little thought of choosing as Gem Echols does. Gem Echols loves both their god and their goddess, and they have no intention of picking just one of them.
The sweet and accepting polyamory is one of my favorite pieces of this wonderfully queer, and utterly undomesticated book where “there are no cis gods.” I was fully able to see myself in many of these characters, especially Gem, and that is a gift for any queer reader who has ever felt they were “bad at being human.” Too often when reading books by cis authors, queer readers can feel non-existent and unseen. Godly Heathens has none of that. Queerness permeates the pages, and I was so there for it.
In addition to the queer identities and sexualities being everywhere, Godly Heathens doesn’t fall into the trap of making every single one of its queer characters a saint. They are as real and multi-layered as any person on the street. No one is all “good” or all “bad.” They just are, and they play the villain in other people’s lives as much as they play the hero on their own.
That’s life, and that’s one of the major themes of Godly Heathens. “Sometimes evil is just a person whose needs are at odds with yours.”
When that “evil” is coming at you with every intention of destroying you and making you suffer for what you’ve done, it’s hard to remember the fact, but the fact is no less true. And if we’re not careful, we become “evil” to other people.
Gem figures this paradox out as Godly Heathens unfolds, and at the penultimate moment they make a choice that spirals the end of Godly Heathens off into the second book in the Ouroboros Duology, Merciless Saviors. I’m not going to say too much about what that choice IS, but you can bet it’s one poor choice and they’re going to be dealing with the consequences all through the upcoming book.
I very rarely pick up a first novel and find myself interested enough to read a sequel, but for Godly Heathens I’ll make an exception. I am SO looking forward to book two, and all the OH MY F@#$ING GODS!!! moments it’s sure to have.
One hundred percent recommend this book for anyone who loves queer dark fantasy.