by Paul Hoffman
publication date: June 15, 2010
Pros: fascinating characters who develop a lot throughout the course of the book, interesting (if terrifying) religion
Cons: the ending makes it feel more like a set up for the next book than a novel in its own right
The Left Hand of God is an interesting book. It's packaged like a fantasy novel, but reads more like an historical fiction. It's not really either. The book takes place on earth - from what I could tell - but not the earth of our history. The religion of the Redeemers is similar to the Catholic church, if the Catholic church went to extremes that even the inquisition would find horrific.
Thomas Cale entered the Sanctuary when he was a child. Now, a few years from manhood, he understands how to avoid beatings and other punishments. That doesn't stop him from getting punished as the Redeemers who run the Sanctuary believe every act is sinful. He's been trained from youth to be a killer and he's the best at what he does.
When two non-friends of Cale's (friendship is discouraged, and if discovered, punished) find and open a sealed off door, their lives are forever changed.
There's a lot happening in the book. The only problem being that the ending makes you realize the entire book was simply to put Cale in a specific position in relation to the Redeemers. It's fascinating how he gets there (about half way though I started wondering where the book was going, but the characters were so interesting it didn't bother me that I couldn't figure out the author's aims). A few characters near the end also make choices that seem odd given the circumstances. These are minor points though, and don't marr the enjoyment of the story.
The narrator is slightly sarcastic, especially with regards to medicine, making the book a lot of fun. When things get too serious the narration itself provides a bit of tension relief. There's a lot of character development - much of it fun as the three boys have never seen a woman before leaving the Sanctuary and don't know how the world outside the Sanctuary works.
Bottom line, it's a great set up and I can't wait to see where the next book takes the story.