A little later than planned but in the first of two reviews today I’m delighted to be reviewing Nectar for the God by Patrick Samphire, which is the second book in the Mennik Thorn series. I read and reviewed book one, Shadow of a Dead God (see here) last year and loved it, and I couldn’t wait to pick this one up and I wasn’t disappointed.
In the city of Agatos, nothing stays buried forever.
Only an idiot would ignore his debt to a high mage, and Mennik Thorn is not an idiot, no matter what anyone might say. He’s just been … distracted. But now he’s left it too late, and if he doesn’t obey the high mage’s commands within the day, his best friends’ lives will be forfeit. So it’s hardly the time to take on an impossible case: proving a woman who murdered a stranger in full view is innocent.
Unfortunately, Mennik can’t resist doing the right thing – and now he’s caught in a deadly rivalry between warring high mages, his witnesses are dying, and something ancient has turned its eyes upon him.
The fate of the city is once again in the hands of a second-rate mage. Mennik Thorn should have stayed in hiding.
This was a book that I was anticipating so much that I was sitting there at midnight the day it came out, waiting for it to appear on my kindle, and I devoured a good chunk of it on that first night. Shadow of a Dead God was one of the most entertaining books I read last year, and Nectar for the Gods topped that – it was just so much fun to read, that I didn’t want to put it down and simultaneously I didn’t want to reach the end.
There is just so much to love about this one.
Firstly, I love that we’re getting to see the unfolding consequences from the first book. Nik managed to rack up some nasty debts in the first book, and they’re coming due. The continuity is fantastic, but also just how everything is interconnected, from the new mystery that Nik finds himself in – and I have to say just how this case begins was just beautiful (and creepy and immediately had me on the edge of my seat) – to try to pay off that debt, to his relationships old and new with his found family and blood family. Samphire manages to balance and juggle all the threads and keep you guessing at every turn right up until the end.
And that bloody twist at the end!! I had to just sit there and absorb what had happened, and I think at the time I was torn between laughing and pure outrage, and I just love it.
“And it is when I am no longer able to use you that you will be truly useful to me.”
In my review of the first book, I said that I couldn’t help but feel that Nik should be arrested for his own protection, and I have to say that feeling not only persisted but grew in this book. Nik is a fantastic disaster of a character, and I honestly don’t think I will ever get tired of reading about his adventures, or maybe that should be misadventures because he is by no means a conventional hero. He doesn’t get into most of the situations he finds himself in intentionally. He’s a guy that tries to help – sometimes despite his common sense telling him not to, who just wants to earn a living, and keep those he cares about (and himself) in one piece if not safe and happy. I also think that is why he works so well as the main character here. In a world of powerful mages and cutthroat criminals, he’s an almost ordinary guy whose almost constantly in over his head and yet is doing his best, and trying to do better.
“Do better. If you’re not good enough, be better.”
We sure Nik grow a lot in the first book, but I feel like that reaches a whole other level here. He’s still somewhat – I hesitate to say impulsive because he does tend to think through what will happen, but perhaps lacking in self-preservation. Yet, there are times when he considers himself a coward, and where his actions might reflect that – but in Nectar for the God, it is clear that Nik in his own way is one of the bravest characters in the entire book. He doesn’t have the power of his mother or sister, or the Wren. Nor the same street smarts as Benny, or the deadly skills of Sereh (who I still adore and want more of please), and he’s carrying around more emotional trauma and baggage than the terminal at London Heathrow – and still he keeps moving forward. The storyline of Nik having to return to his Mother’s court, to face their shared past and what he had endured was some of the most emotionally devastating parts of this book, shocking in some places, raw in all of them and I loved how Samphire depicted that struggle, and how it had shaped him, and how towards the end of the book he was able to turn that into a strength of his own.
‘I had been broken before by my mother, by her mages, by my own mind, and I had survived. This? This came from outside me. It could never match the terrors my own mind conjured.’
Now that is not to say Nik isn’t flawed. In some places, he is an outright idiot, and you want to just grab him by the shoulders and give him a good shake. However, not only is it an intrinsic part of who he is, it isn’t done without consequences. The main one being that he doesn’t share the threat to Benny and Sereh with them, choosing to deal with it on his own and cutting very close, and understandably there is fallout when they learn the truth – and oh my god that hurt, because the three of them have some of my favourite dynamics in the whole book, and I am hoping that those cracks can be patched up in the next book. (Pretty please)
This turned into a review about Nik… I just love him so much.
As I said I hope that he is able to repair his relationship with Benny and Sereh. However, we do also see some other dynamics developing in this book. Nik’s sister Mica is one that I want to get to see more of, and we got some interesting clues about what she and her partner are working towards, and what it could mean for the city that Nik cares for so much – we also get to learn a bit more about their past relationship. Also, I just love how the sparks fly when they are together, there is common ground, but they’re struggling to find it, and it’s a wonderfully complicated and grounded relationship. It’s also a great counter and counterpart to the relationship between Nik and his mother. We get to see more of her here, and I have to say that she really is a piece of work, and I will admit that view of her might be more than a little skewed by Nik’s view of her. However, you do have to admire her guile, even as you’re rooting for Nik to break free of her and to be able to score something against her. The other major dynamic is with Captain Gale who we’d met previously, and yes Nik has one hell of a crush on her, but I really enjoy their moments together – she doesn’t take any of his nonsense, and yet at the same time, she is one of the few who really sees that he is trying, and sees his worth beneath the chaos.
I also need to touch on the worldbuilding and magic in this one. In Nectar for the God, we get to learn more about the city and its disparate regions and histories, and I love that we get to traipse through new areas and delve into the depths, and you have to appreciate how Samphire layers in the history and different influences into not just the physicality of the city, but to its stories and culture and history. The Museum was tantalising, and I would have loved to have spent more time there, seeing more glimpses of this history. We’re still in Agatos, and yet this book expands the world so much even within the confines of being set in a single city and it’s great.
After Shadow of the Dead God, I was left wanting to know a bit more about the magic, and Nectar for the God gave me that. We get to see more of the differences between ‘second-rate’ Nik, and the acolytes that tried to pull more magic from him as a child, and then between them and the high mages. We get to see it used in more varied ways – and I particularly enjoyed where it is used for warding. This book is also a wonderful reminder that we don’t need to know everything about the magic. We learn more, we see how Nik sees it, how technique can overcome strength, and the difference between controlled and natural magic, and the magic of the Gods, but we don’t learn everything and that works brilliantly here. Also, I loved just how creepy the ‘strange’ magic was in this book, both in its influence on its victims and also with the creatures that it related to – absolutely fantastic!
Nectar for the Gods was everything I could have ever wanted from a sequel to Shadow of a Dead God and more, it has taken everything I loved about the first book and turned the dial up. Nik is easily one of my favourite characters, and while part of me wants to wrap him up in a blanket and protect him from whatever else Samphire has in store for him, the rest of me is desperate to find out what happens next. This book (and series) is just pure entertainment, and if you like fantasy mystery, with an absolutely fantastic protagonist and a great cast of characters, with banter and adventure and sheer bloody chaos, then you need to add Nectar for the God to your shelf now.
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.