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The Goddess Project by Bryan Wigmore

The Goddess Project by Bryan Wigmore
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Book Name: The Goddess Project
Author: Bryan Wigmore
Publisher(s): Snowbooks Ltd
Formatt: Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: January 2, 2017

One of the quieter entries into the Best of 2017 list here on Fantasy-Faction, The Goddess Project by Bryan Wigmore, is a unique venture into a complex fantasy world. It combines some traditional fantasy tropes (magical artifacts, all-powerful wizards, and sea monsters) with some less common elements that make it a really interesting mix. And, it’s a #smallpressbigstories book, too!

My favorite component of the story was the complicated relationship between the two main characters, Orc and Cass. They can’t remember anything before they woke up on a beach two years before, and they look so similar, they might just be siblings. To make matters worse, Orc loves Cass. He wisely keeps it in, afraid she might be his sister, so there’s a really interesting internal conflict that goes on. (If you’re anti-incest, this isn’t the book for you. If you can handle Jamie and Cersei, dive right in.)

Throughout the book, Orc and Cass search for hints to their past, to find out one way or another what they mean to each other. In the two years since losing their memory, Orc has worked hard to develop his strength in the psychosphere, and through his excursions there, learns there might be a stone that is powerful enough to give back their pasts.

While I was really on board with Cass and Orc and invested in their hunt to figure out the specifics of their relationship, I was less connected to the magic and fantasy elements at work. Between the long list of characters (including a soldier, a monk, a wizard, a slave, a sailor, a captain, a thief, and a witch), the less-than-clear workings of the magic system, and some pretty extreme stakes (the END OF THE WORLD!), I found it difficult to care about each and every element. There was simply too much going on.

Orc has a small focus stone hanging around his neck that he can use to enter the psychosphere where he meets his animal guide Otter. A literal otter who can talk, Otter helps Orc explore the world within the world. The worlds are layered on top of each other so that Orc can see other places in his mind (and obviously snoop in cabinets) without physically visiting them.

As they work to find the larger focus stone that will reveal their pasts, Orc and Cass dive sub-marine temples full of ancient artifacts. As a diver, I really enjoyed the dive element of this book and how all the science behind diving was dead on accurate. However, the dive aspect was really dominated by the other conflicts.

For more than half the book, Cass and Orc are on a big military ship that promises to take them to the focus stone in exchange for their diving expertise. They don’t know the evil bad guy is aboard and looking for them, and they don’t realize he wants the focus stone to enact his evil bad guy plan. He’s one evil cackle away from cliché.

I have to admit, the scenes that took place on the boat didn’t interest me much. It seemed obvious the villain and the hero would meet in such enclosed space, and since my only real investment was in Orc and Cass, reading scene after scene of fighting got old. They trusted strangers easily but trusted each other not at all. It was frustrating to watch.

The only really interesting secondary characters were Hana and Tashi. Hana is a self-taught magician much in the spirit of Orc, while Tashi serves a monk and has sworn his life to servitude on a mountain. Hana wants to prevent the villain from enacting his evil plan, while Tashi wants to see the danger pass so he can go home. They come from pretty different backgrounds but they end up allies in a really interesting way.

I have to give the author props for the depth of his creative world. There are definitely readers out there that would appreciate the volume of magic and fantasy more than I did. It’s just not necessarily a story that will appeal to everyone. And with absolutely spot on editing, it definitely earns a few more points from me.

Unfortunately, the nail in the coffin was the lack of resolution at the end. I won’t spoil it here because I’m not totally heartless, but I really wish the ending had been addressed in a different way. Yes, there is a sequel, and no, it’s not a cliffhanger. But still I found it unsatisfying and asking myself why I had bothered to read all these pages if there wasn’t actually going to be any answers given.

All in all, I would call The Goddess Project a cross between Inception and Portal of a Thousand Worlds by Dave Duncan. It has a truly original premise, interesting characters, competent writing, and stellar editing. I just wish it had a little less going on in the story so that it had more focus. Oh, and somebody get this dang book a map!

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