Friday, June 1, 2018

Book Review: 'All the Gods Below' by C.M. Hayden

Michigan author Cameron M. Hayden, a young handsome new lad with a long-time love of fantasy and science fiction, made his literary debut with the REACH BETWEEN TWO WORLDS and interestingly enough he has designated this novel as Book 1 of The Arclight Saga – reassuring us that he is in the business for the long run. And from reading his first entry it appears he has a solid start in the realm of science fiction/fantasy writing. And with the release of THE STARS THAT FORM US and now ALL THE GODS BELOW Cameron’s literary future seems secure. This newest book includes an Author’s Foreword that allows us to better know Cameron: ‘When I wrote the first chapter of what would eventually become the Arclight Saga, I was quite literally destitute. I had no money, nowhere to live, and no family to help. This was the summation of a lifetime of poverty, both with myself and my family. My earliest memories, in fact, are of being in homeless shelters on the streets of Chicago. Then, another homeless shelter somewhere in Minnesota. Once, my family had to stay in an abandoned bank property in a strip mall simply because we had nowhere else to go. Eventually, we upgraded to the basement of my grandmother’s house. All nine of us. I was too young to truly understand the situation we were in; I trusted that my parents would take care of me, and that was that. Don’t take this as a slight against them. To their credit, they did their best, and I still love them both. When I was nineteen, I wrote the first page of the Arclight Saga while I was sitting, temporarily homeless, in the deli area of a local grocery store, contemplating the poor decisions I’d made in my life. In my backpack, I had a notebook and pens, and with them, I began to write about a poor beggar man that was actually a powerful sorcerer—eventually he became Aris.’

In a very accessible manner Cameron introduces his mindset in a well-scribed Prologue – ‘Era didn’t know how to be a widow. It was not the sort of thing you planned for. Not the sort of thing you dwelled on. In fact, when she’d first married Talthis, she made a point to not think about it. Being a warder was dangerous, after all. Now it was a reality, and as Era sat clenching the hem of her black dress, she wished she’d given it more thought. She’d arrived at the Warder Central Encampment less than half a mile from the Magisterium. The one-handed warder inside introduced himself as Sir Treytin Deridane. Despite his knighthood and title, his injury had left him as little more than a glorified file clerk. He sat on the other side of a wide birch desk surrounded by walls with crosshatched alcoves, each stuffed with parchments and scrolls. Sir Deridane’s eyes were fixed on a scroll he’d pulled from the fourth row, and he spoke to Era with profound disinterest. “What was your husband’s rank?” Era’s opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. “Ma’am?” the warder repeated, glancing up at her. Her second oldest son, Decker, was seated to her right. He held his younger brother, Enam, on his lap, and was trying to keep the boy’s sobs low. Decker wasn’t much past thirteen, but in all the unpleasantness that the last few weeks had brought, he’d risen to the occasion. Decker answered for her, ever respectful. “He was a captain, my lord.”

Quoting a Prologue hopefully will tempt readers unfamiliar with Cameron’s writing – it just gets better. The story is well considered – ‘Fear no evil. Taro’s journey continues in this world-spanning epic. Driven mad by the power of the Netherlight, Craetos decimates cities across Arkos. Taro and Kyra are given a special assignment: travel to the dragon city and plead for help in stopping Craetos before he turns his sights on Endra. Meanwhile, Vexis works to solidify her hold over Helia. With her siblings working against her, she turns to an old friend to navigate the political waters and bring her new empire under control.’

Adventure, intrigue, mystery and a hefty splash of science fiction make this book a pleasure to read. Cameron M Hayden is a writer to watch! Grady Harp, May 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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