I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve been chomping at the bit to get at this one. In the Claws of the Indigen is the second novel in Steve Rodgers’ Spellgiver series. You can check out my review of book one here. Warning: spoilers ahead if you haven’t read book one. I’m only covering the first quarter of book two, so if you’ve read book one, read on.
When we left Larin and the rest of our merry band of heroes, his lover from the first book Onie had been hauled off by the Morphasti worshipers in his home city. The book opens with Larin righteously pissed off at the head servant of Emja, Korrin, for having allowed that to happen.
This book is interesting because it gives some point of view scenes to characters we haven’t spent time with before. Larin and Kemeharek are back (and Kemeharek’s chapters are consistently inhuman and fascinating), but so is Queen Relena, who is mounting a resistance at the palace while our heroes search for the cure for the king’s sleeping sickness.
The heroes journey in this piece has three main foci. The first is Larin training for his inevitable showdown with the evil wizard Emderian in a desperate attempt to learn how to control his power. The second is Larin’s attempt to overcome the influence of Haraf, who throughout the book is trying to drive his servant into the pits of madness alongside him. I would argue the journey to find the king’s cure is tertiary to the other two, as though the outward plot pushes us there and the stakes are never low enough to lose sight of the pressure, the inner journey is really the core of this book.
Similarly, Kemeharek’s subplot centers around his struggles with the newfound knowledge that is God is not all it seems. Through his uneasy friendship with Theralle, who we met in the last book, his struggles to liberate his people from Eldegod tyranny are suitably inhuman and yet deeply moving and fascinating. The way Rodgers portrays indigen psychology is just phenomenal.
The greatest strengths in this book, apart from the character growth we see in our protagonists, lie in the imaginative world he’s crafted in the Swamp when they get to it. Some truly original imagery and (spoilers) fascinating magical system and reasoning behind the conflict between gods, demons, and the Eldegod. The discoveries related to this really kept me riveted and engaged with the world.
I have a few nitpicky gripes about the early parts of the book, namely Laniette’s propensity to scream Aiieeee constantly in the first few chapters, the somewhat stiff dialogue in the castle scenes, and Akul’s strange love affair with two different women that seems to start and stop with the plot and not as naturally as I’d like, but these are, as I said, minor nitpicks.
Overall the writing is strong, the world is fascinating, the characters intriguing and realistic for the world, and I ended up binge reading until the end. Heck, even the cover art is beautiful! Rodgers made a fangirl out of me, and I’m sure anyone who dives into this wonderful fantasy series will wind up the same. I can’t wait to see how he ties everything up in book 3 next year, and I noticed there are hints of side stories in the same world coming out later this year.
4.5/5 because of the nitpicks, still a must-read.