J. Gregory Keyes
The Blackgod (Book 2 of Chosen of the Changeling)
Del Rey 1997

Hezhi and Perkar together with their friends live among the Mang, but it's not easy to fit. The only work Hezhi has ever done before was in the library back in Nhol - but the Mang neither read nor write. For Tsem it's even worse. In a strange environment, with people speaking a strange language and a culture without servants or slaves, he feels completely useless. But for Perkar the situation is absolutely terrible. Living among a people his own people - because of him - is in war with, he is met with outright hostility by some, and he still hasn't done what he set out to do: free his beloved Stream Goddess from being eaten up by the River God, the Changeling.

And Hezhi finds out that she isn't safe even among the Mang far away from the river. The river sends his agents to catch her and take her back. One of them is Ghe, the assassin whose head Perkar chopped off, but who, thanks to the river, is once more alive. Kind of. And as if the river and his agents weren't enough, the Blackgod has got some plans of his own for Hezhi and Perkar. He might have helped them in the past, but he's definitely not a god to trust. Stuck between the gods, Hezhi and Perkar has to carve out a future of their own.

The story Mr. Keyes brings us is a strange one, mostly because of the strange nature of the gods. Not only is the world filled with strange minor gods (Perkar's got one in his sword!), the greater gods, the Mountain gods, are really weird (seen from a christocentric Westerner's perspective). The Changeling has left the other Mountain gods, but the Blackgod (who can be the Raven as well as the Crow, with different personalities), the Huntress, the Horse Mother and the one-eyed giant Balati are still all one, in some strange way. The Trinity doctrine suddenly feels quite easily understood... In a story where the gods are important actors, their strange natures and interrelationships, and of course the magic, all form the story, making this one very interesting. Especially the Blackgod is an interesting "person", a trickster always playing games, with plots in plots making his greater scheme obscure.

But while the story and the world in many ways are odd or unusual, they are at the same time rooted in the fantasy world of today. This is heroic fantasy, with a hero and a heroine and even some good old romancing. It's nice, it's well-written, and it's finished in just two books! Good work, Keyes!

Karl Henriksson

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