A darkly imaginative writer in the tradition of Joe Abercrombie, Peter V. Brett, and Neil Gaiman conjures a gritty mind-bending fantasy, set in a world where delusion becomes reality . . . and the fulfillment of humanity’s desires may well prove to be its undoing.
When belief defines reality, those with the strongest convictions—the crazy, the obsessive, the delusional—have the power to shape the world.
And someone is just mad enough to believe he can create a god . . .
Violent and dark, the world is filled with the Geisteskranken—men and women whose delusions manifest. Sustained by their own belief—and the beliefs of those around them—they can manipulate their surroundings. For the High Priest Konig, that means creating order out of the chaos in his city-state, leading his believers to focus on one thing: helping a young man, Morgen, ascend to become a god. A god they can control.
Trouble is, there are many who would see a god in their thrall, including the High Priest’s own doppelgangers, a Slaver no one can resist, and three slaves led by possibly the only sane man left.
As these forces converge on the boy, there’s one more obstacle: time is running out. Because as the delusions become more powerful, the also become harder to control. The fate of the Geisteskranken is to inevitably find oneself in the Afterdeath. The question, then, is:
Who will rule there?
In this disturbing and original fantasy, set in a dark world run by the Theocrats, perception is reality, and altered perceptions can alter reality. The most insane, labeled with Germanic diagnoses, are also the most powerful. Three adventurers a scary, lethal Kleptic thief; a preening Gefahrgeist (sociopathic) duellist; and a scarred warrior forced to violate his few remaining scruples stumble onto a Gefahrgeist Theocrat's plot to raise the first designed god, and they decide to kidnap Morgen, the boy who's intended as the initial sacrifice. Before the Theocrat's delusions can do him in, he unleashes his Hassebrand (a pyromaniac) and his assassin squads (including shape-shifters and walking dead) to kill the conspirators and ensure Morgen's ascension. Fletcher (88) populates the landscape with an array of mental disorders, turning a well-thumbed psychiatric manual into a dramatis personae. His protagonists worry about their fate in the Afterdeath as they commit their crimes, but they always keep their slim hopes for redemption. The dystopia and its victims never quite collapse under the weight of the horror, and their perseverance encourages the reader to endure the grimness until the thought-provoking conclusion.
Finalist for best book of 2015
When "Wow" is a reaction multiple times per page, on more pages than not, you have an incredible read in your hands. Ingenious insight into the human mind of those who feel the pull of failure and the hopelessness of redemption. Fletcher's worldbuilding and magic system is vigorously inventive, just as is his intricate unraveling of characters that are society's most vile or most hoped for. While reading their stories was at times difficult, my most engaged moments were when their shells cracked and we were shown hints of goodness within. There is far more death and depravity than light and hope in this story, but the little hope we're shown, combined with the masterful and unpredictable plot, kept me enraptured though to the last line. Book Two must be made. This writer is brilliant.