I try every once in a while to step out of my comfort zone and read something that for me, is different.
The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman filled the bill. It's a dark fantasy, set in a dystopian past.
Cale is taken at a very young age to the Sanctuary of the Redeemer to be trained by warrior monks to fight a holy war against the outside world. The thousands of boys inside the wall of the fortress have no idea of the world outside the walls - they've been indoctrinated to believe in the monks' cause. But one day, Cale and two of his friends (although friendship is discouraged) discover a secret door. They find that there are others - females,plentiful food, music and more. When Cale acts against the monks, he and his friends must escape out into the unknown.
What follows is a great adventure. I was intrigued by what would be beyond the walls. Hoffman's world is an odd mix of the past, drawing upon biblical references, philosophical views and historical works. Yet, his description of the impending and continuing wars among the peoples of this world parallels many of the conflicts happening in our present day. One ruler's plans to take all of one race to a remote island and be rid of them calls the Holocaust to mind.
This book somewhat reminded me of a darker Princess Bride as well. Cale is drawn to a young woman of the ruling cast of Memphis and much of his path is dictated by his attraction to her. Battles, escapes, miscommunication and odd characters populate The Left Hand of God. Hoffman has a sly sense of humor, injecting offbeat comments when least expected.
It's hard to say who this book will appeal to. The publisher has touted it as a dark Harry Potter, the protagonists are in their teens, but the audio book version is listed as 18+. There is cruelty and violence, yet love and hope as well. Definitely one for fans of speculative fiction. This is the first of a planned trilogy and the ending has neatly set up the second book. As there were a few plot lines that were never fully explained in this first book, I predict they too will be part of the sequel. Not my usual fare, but I enjoyed it and am curious as to what Hoffman has planned for Cale.