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Aching God

Iconoclasts, Book 1
By: Mike Shel
Narrated by: Simon Vance
Length: 14 hrs and 7 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (118 ratings)
Regular price: $34.99
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Publisher's Summary

“Closer, mortal. You are here, finally, to feed the Aching God....”

The days of adventure are passed for Auric Manteo. Retired to the countryside and isolated with his scars and riches, he no longer delves into forbidden ruins seeking dark wisdom and treasure. But just as old nightmares begin plaguing his sleep, he receives an urgent summons back to that old life.

To save his only daughter, he must return to the place of his greatest trauma: the haunted Barrowlands. Along with a group of inexperienced companions and an old soldier, he must confront the dangers of the ancient and wicked Djao civilization. He has survived fell beasts, insidious traps, and deadly hazards before. But how can he contend with the malice of a bloodthirsty living god?

©2018 Mike Shel (P)2018 Podium Publishing

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Does the author play Darkest Dungeon?

This book is seriously dark, bloody, thrilling, and captivating. It transported me along side the adventurers as they delved into long forgotten and dangerous ruins and even I thought I was going to die. I listened to the book in 1 go. Yeah I didn't sleep

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic start to a new series

I was so surprised by this book. I listen to audio books exclusively, I hardly ever have the time to read them anymore. That being said narration is extremely important to me. Certain books that would otherwise be great, have been left untouched due to the narrator (::coughnickpodehlcough::) being completely unsuited and/or bad. After listening to the sample chapter I was pleasantly surprised by Simon Vance (this was the first time I've heard him), and boy, I'm so glad I bought this book. Simon Vance was spectacular. He's a narrator that doesn't just read the book, he acts the part of every character. He has a recognizably distinct voice for each character, he reads with emotion and realism. In fact, I'd go so far as to say he's the best narrator I've listened to (for this genre) other than Steven Pacey. That being said, not only is the narrator top notch... the book is surprisingly extremely well written, engaging, well paced, action packed, emotional and... realistic. I know that's an odd term for a book in this genre, but when reading it I couldn't help think that I was reading about characters and a universe in an alternate reality. Or a history from thousands of years ago that actually existed.

I say "surprisingly" because I was a little hesitant since this is a self published book and a debut novel, however, it reads like it was written by someone that's been established in the genre for 20+ years.

It opens with Auric (forgive the spelling if/when I get some of these names wrong). An aging warrior and adventurer, and also our protagonist, that was employed by the Syraic League for 30 years. The League is a militaristic order that's tasked by the regions nobility to search and explore ancient Djao ruins for lost and forgotten relics, and other items of importance. The Djao are an ancient race that worshiped demons and practiced dark, necromantic arts. Auric is old, weary and has some serious PTSD from his time spent with The League, holding himself responsible for a catastrophic failure of an expedition he led his team of fellow League members (and friends) on. Having lost his wife, son and having a strained and distant relationship with his only surviving estranged daughter, Agnes, we find him living in a small village outside the life of court, in retirement from The League. He's learned to enjoy three years of life after retirement here until nightmares begin, nightmares of the most harrowing event of his life. It is at the onset of these nightmares that he receives a summons from the Syraic Lector to come back to Boudan, the home of the Queen, Court and the headquarters of the Syraic League. The summons is vague, but mentions his daughter is in peril.

All these details are exposed in the first chapter, what goes on from here is simply a fantastic story of sword and sorcery, love and comradery between friends and fellow adventurers, nightmarish descriptions of horrible creatures and perhaps the best description of how a lifetime of "adventuring" and exploring these types of horrible places can scar the mind. I felt so much sorrow for Auric and the things he's seen and experienced, and the author does such a great job of portraying his genuine fear, anxiety, dread and guilt. It's the first time in a fantasy book that I've read a truly terrifying and accurate depiction of PTSD and it's effects on a character. Along with this, I also had such an extreme feeling of foreboding, dread and creeping anxiety myself while reading. Like I knew there was something evil in the shadows, something unknown waiting around the corner waiting to consume everyone in the book... but I didn't know what it was. Very Lovercraftian horror-esque in this sense, and I loved every second of it!

I also loved the sub characters in this book. We have Belach, a staunch supporter that meets Auric at the beginning of the book and is tasked to help him get to Boudan to answer his summons. Belach is a friendly, warm and good hearted soldier around the same age as Auric, that is loyal to the bone. Sira, a healing Priestess of Belu that has a chance encounter with Auric, a girl with a lopsided smile that reminds Auric of someone near and dear to his heart. Del, a tattooed, menacing Sorceress with a vast knowledge of the Djao and a heart of gold. Lumari, an alchemist that is a bit OCD and perfectionist and lastly, Nais, a young and brash swordsman that's a bit reckless, vain and condescending although extremely deadly with a blade. Watching these people grow to know each other, rely on each other, protect each other and care for each other was really great. These aren't the most fleshed out characters in fantasy, in terms of their backstory, but they all feel REAL. I grew to care about them all, and was genuinely worried when they were in peril.

The author does a fantastic job at world building as well. Instead of dumping chapters of information on us with long drawn out descriptions of insignificant details, he seamlessly weaves in details throughout the story, mainly using character dialogue. The world slowly and naturally unfolds for the reader and we begin to envision it, and it seems like just when we are a little lost and wondering about something, the author does a great job at tying up the loose ends.

I'm beginning to ramble so I'll just say a few more things here. I can't write the review without giving a shout out to the chapter that introduces The Queen (long may she reign!). Just remember that when you read the book, that when you reach the chapter with her introduction, you're in for a treat! The authors description of her is truly chilling.

The book isn't perfect and does have a slow chapter or two near the beginning, but that's nothing compared to how good the book is overall. This was also one of those books that I was dreading the ending so bad, simply because I knew it would be over. I wanted more, and when it ended I just felt lost, even though the ending was solid and wrapped up the story of the first book, while still leaving plenty of possibility and intrigue for the second and third book.

For any fans of classic sword and sorcery, dark fantasy, Lovecraftian horror... this book is for you. It's not quite as polished as something on the level of Martin or Abercrombie, but man, for an authors first novel, it's truly something special. I'll be buying the second book (titled "Sineater", scheduled for an early 2019 release) on day one. Mark my words, Mike Shel is one to keep an eye on people, he's going to be big if he continues down this road.

23 of 26 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful sense of dread and comradery.

This book really surprised me with how many feelings it juggles and how well it executes them. The characters are great, generally well flushed out, and interesting. I really cared about them by the end, and that made the final conflict all the more moving. Aulric, our aging adventurer protagonist. came out of it one of my favorite characters of the year. The actual logic they employ for venturing into the dungeons could have easily come off as cheesy or ham-fisted. It ended up being neither. There was a great sense of dread, mystery, sadness, and hope all wrapped together and it all worked. There were twists and turns and the final climax felt both satisfying and surprising.

Simon Vance does the narration and he's one of the best in the business. Very strong narration performance.

I cannot recommend this book enough. I didn't know what to expect and enjoyed every second of it.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Keeps you on the edge of your seat - Fantastic!

This book is for those who crave fantasy without tropes, without coming of age, without young teens becoming heroes. It's a dark read with a mysterious being that's called the Aching God, so evil that it's worshipers were wiped out by the races 10,000 years ago. When a plague-like illness befalls a city, a middle aged knight is brought out of retirement to investigate the illness. The knight has memories of terror and heartbreak when he last ventured into an underground temple of that long obliterated race, which was full of the undead, traps, and pure dreadfulness that killed most of his party. The knight wants nothing to do with the evil of what he faced previously, but his young daughter is a victim of the illness and faces certain death if nothing is done.

Simon Vance is prefect in setting the tone of this book, and the mystery and anticipation that builds makes the book difficult to put down. There are surprises, holy #$*% moments, and you'll cheer and be saddened as the story charges ahead. There's no cliffhanger for those who hate them in a typical 3 or 4 book series, but there is a definite mystery that remains, pulling the reader to want book 2 to see where it goes. This is an excellent, grim and dark fantasy from a debut author!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An Excellent Book Read Well

Give it a chance - I was surprised by how much I liked this book. It's neither saccharine nor overly gritty, but a nice middle-ground high fantasy book. The story is well paced and leaves enough unanswered questions to truly encourage the reader to look forward to the next book without feeling like you've been ripped-off.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent new series!!<br />

I bought this based almost totally based on the title. I'd never heard of the author, and no one I know had, either. I was not at all disappointed.

The story is engaging and well-written. The characters are ones you can care about, and the main character is one of my favorites.

I am very much looking forward to listening to book 2, Sin Eater; there is a preview after the credits for this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Outstanding

It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to a book that has both poetic prose and engaging characters. Highly recommended for those who like old school fantasy.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Well written with plenty of twists!

This is the story of Auric Manteo, who is a retired member of a league of relic hunters and adventurers. With his wife and son dead, all the family he has left is his daughter, and when he receives word that there is a plague caused by a cursed relic rampaging in the city and that his daughter is a victim of it, he agrees to a mission given to him by the queen to return the relic to whence it came – a tomb in the Barrowlands inhabited by a being only known as The Aching God.

Auric is a really interesting character. He is flawed, and definitely suffers some PTSD from his last foray into the Barrowlands. He blacks out at the sight of blood. He relives the deaths of his friends that occurred during his last mission frequently, in waking dreams sometimes as well as sleeping ones.

The band of adventurers that accompany him on his mission were also interesting and unique. There’s a sorcerer, and a healing priest, an alchemist, and a couple of fighters, one who uses a mace and the other a sword. These guys really gave the story the feel of an intricately crafted D&D session, in a way. It was a dungeon crawler, in its way.

The book was very well written, and had plenty of twists and turns in the plot to keep it engaging enough, but I found that I had a very hard time getting engaged with it in the first place. There was nothing that was outright repellent about the book at all, but I just couldn’t stay interested in it, and found my attention wandering away from the book a lot. This required a lot of rewinding in order for me to keep up with what was going on. By about halfway into the book, I was finally hooked into it though. I listened to the last quarter or so of it in one sitting, so once I got there, I got there.

This audiobook is narrated by Simon Vance, which was a huge draw for me listening to the audio rather than sitting down with the book. Here’s the thing though… and I can’t believe I am saying this… but I… didn’t love Vance as the narrator. I liked his narration of Auric, which I suppose is what carried it along to the end for me… but overall, the narration just felt kind of… just alright to me. However, that said, other friends of mine who have listened to the audiobook found the narration to be amazeballs, so this is entirely subjective. Give the sample a listen, and you may just love it. :)

All told, it was a very good book, but I wasn’t in love with it. I certainly enjoyed my time with it enough that I finished it, and I have to say that the last half or so of it was a lot more engaging than the first half for me.

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a blast

Awesome story. Only niggle is that, coming from a pathfinder book author you can tell that he still thinks about the roles of different characters in terms of that kind of class system. It's not a big deal tho.

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captivating

do not listen to this before sleeping. it will keep you from sleeping at all. well done all around

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  • Lachlan Kendall
  • 09-13-18

Great Story, Amazing Worldbuilding!

The Aching God was a fantastic book. I'd heard some really good things about it but hadn't had a chance to read it, so when the audiobook released last week I jumped on it straight away. First off, Simon Vance does an amazing job with the narration. Second, Mike Shel does a fantastic job writing the book.

The Aching God is set in a world where people frequently visit ancient temples to find treasure and ancient artifacts. One such expedition bought back an ancient artifact which is now causing a plague. A retired adventurer, Auric Manteo, is called back to return the artifact because basically everyone else is deathly ill, and thus begins the journey.

The world itself seems to be against Auric and the band of adventurers. At every turn, something or someone fights against them, and the journey to the ancient ruins is long and difficult. As such, the plot pretty much follows the adventurers on a quest sort of story, but there are plenty of twists, turns, and intrigues to keep the reader very interested in the book.

One of the really amazing parts of The Aching God is the worldbuilding. Mike Shel does some really great stuff here. Most people have a patron god who they call on to give them strength, magical abilities, healing powers, and a multitude of other things depending on which god they follow. There are some very interesting political machinations going on in the background: churches vying for more power, insane royals, and plenty more.

The characters are also really interesting. Some have previously experienced horrors in the tombs of ancient gods and it has seriously changed the way they view the world. It's quite evident how the characters change over the duration of their journey.

I really enjoyed The Aching God, and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys:

* Quest fantasy
* Worldbuilding
* Tomb Raider
* Grimdark fantasy

I also highly recommend listening to this book if you enjoy audiobooks. Simon Vance is an amazing narrator and my only issue with any of the narration is that it would occasionally remind me of characters from Lightbringer which Vance also narrates.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful