At the center of the narrative is the idea that mortals cannot live without a combination of Time and Chaos:
“Without chaos, mortals don’t possess free will. That’s what Corentine explained to me. That without chaos, mortals would be nothing but mindless husks. Slaves to their gods. The universe needs both forces—chaos and time—to balance each other out.”
“I don’t care for politics. I care for art, for music, for beauty. That is what Chaos represents. Without Chaos, there would be no creativity. No imagination. No art. Dor would create a universe built from logic and let art wither and die. But it’s art that gives mortals their souls. I wouldn’t expect a Diviner to understand.”
Quentin, a Diviner, represents Time, whereas Kayl represents Chaos and only when they are together do things make sense. The stakes are high in this novel as Quen and Kayl work together as partners once more - this time their aim is to persuade each of the gods to pitch in and provide energy to Chime so that Corentine can be set free from her prison. She and her mortals are currently slaves to the city of Chime, providing the energy that runs the city - and she’s pissed. Quen and Kayl’s mission will require much diplomacy and strength of character to succeed. Quen is skilled in this respect and Kayl is full of charm and persuasion, but has a much shorter fuse. It seems to be an impossible mission fraught with all manner of obstacles including death.
Since the mission at the core of this novel relies on Quen and Kayl visiting each of the domains in order to persuade the gods to work together, there is an opportunity for more world-building surprises. Each domain is unique and equally imaginative. Memoria, the domain of the Amnae is described as such:
“Single-story buildings in the shape of giant shells lined the canals. We passed water fountains that the Amnae sat in, trees made of coral, and grass made of seaweed. Actual bloody seaweed! Other strange plants were dotted between them that writhed as though alive. Even the street lamps were made of bulbous fish that glowed. The tang of salt in the air followed us. Above, glass tubes connected various areas of the city. These were filled with water, and Amnae swam through them at a much faster rate than us.”
The depth of the world-building helps to bring this story to life and flesh out each of the mortals and their domains. Chaos does not have such a domain, being locked up in the Clock Tower and the chaos mortals are understandably angry:
“Every god has their rules. What are yours?”
“CHAOS HAS NO RULES. NO SINS. IT EXISTS TO CONTRADICT. TO REBEL. TO BE THE FORCE THAT SPREADS DISCORD.”
The Children of Chaos is a truly one of a kind story and once again we have tongue in cheek nods to British culture with Mr Kipler’s cake shop and the age old discussion of how to pronounce the word “scone”:
“You know, mispronouncing scone is one of the unforgivable sins, which would explain why your soul is cursed.”
Quen is obsessed with tea-drinking and not too happy with the recent influx of coffee shops. These touches bring charm and quirkiness to the story and I loved them. I also noticed nods to Dr Who which is hardly avoidable with all the timey wimey stuff going on in this episode -“Spoilers”!
The Cruel Gods is a wonderfully inspired series which takes its reader on a thrill ride of emotions and leaves you teetering on the edge occasionally, with plenty of twists and turns and unexpected drops! I can’t wait for the next book!