Title: Tomb of Gods
Author: Brian Moreland
Publisher: Flame Tree Press
Publication Date: May 21, 2020
I find myself of two minds over Tomb of Gods, having devoured the first half with absolute enthusiasm, only to struggle my way through the second with varying degrees of curiosity.
Brian Moreland captured my attention from the first page, convincing me to throw caution to the wind and join this dark, dangerous journey of discovery. That first half of the book is pure pulp horror and archaeological adventure, full of tomb raiding, museum antiquities, strange curses, madness, and monstrous murder. I loved the atmosphere of the dig and the curious subterranean maze of excavated tombs, full of dead ends, hidden passages, and deadly pitfalls. Best of all, it had a strong, courageous heroine in Imogen, who is just as capable as her contemporaries, but more admirable in terms of her personal and professional values.
As Caleb, the dig’s photographer, descends through the impossible liquid quicksilver barrier, however, my curiosity began to give way to trepidation. In all fairness, the blurb did speak of “a technologically advanced relic,” but I was hoping more advanced for the ancient Egyptians than the early twentieth-century explorers. But then, as Bakari, their Egyptian guide, begins to explain about the maze, the doors, and legends of the underworld, that curiosity returned. I loved how the story played with history and fabricated this weird physical connection between mythologies. And while I initially struggled with what I’ll call (for the sake of avoiding spoilers) the Stargate elements, I was willing to keep an open mind. I didn’t love that aspect, but I didn’t hate it either.
Where that trepidation began warring with exasperation, though, was with the psychological horror of repressed memories, guilt, remorse, and loss. We’d come all this way, solved all these puzzles, fought through all these monsters and obstacles, just to come face-to-face with the terrors and traumas of our pasts. It felt like it snatched the story out from under the characters, turning active protagonists into passive subjects. I just wasn’t that interested in their personal stories, and I struggled with the muddy morality of how and why they were punished. Worst of all, Imogen’s story became Trammel’s, and that narrative usurpation irked me.
I wish the second half of Tomb of Gods could have been as much fun as the first. It did have its moments, but the shifts in theme and focus pulled me in too many different directions. With a great first half and an okay second, I’ll meet in the middle and call it good.
Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2
My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.