I don't recommend books very often because it's rare that I find a title I really enjoyed that doesn't already have a lot of recognition.
But here's one!
Aching God by Mike Shel is a dark fantasy epic full of creeping dread and a fully realized world of adventure with deadly threats lurking around every corner.
If that sounds like your thing, go read it now.
If it doesn't, allow me a moment to convince you.
Right off the bat, let me start by saying that this is not a lighthearted book and it's obviously not intended for young children. It doesn't go overboard IMO, but it doesn't shy away from frightening or violent elements either. If that bothers you, then this might not be the title for you.
However, this is used by the author to the advantage of the story. The very first scene follows the main character, a retired adventurer, suffering from violent nightmares spawned by an old encounter with the undead.
This story reminded me that zombies used to be scary, and if I lived in a real world where I watched my friends being torn apart by the walking dead, I'd be scarred for life too.
I started off impressed by the life (pardon the pun) Mike Shel breathed into the undead, but as I kept reading, every new development in the story raises the stakes and adds a whole new dimension of danger to the main character's mission.
[Vague story spoilers from here on out! I try not to spoil anything that isn't mentioned in the synopsis or the first few pages of the book, but if you're completely spoiler-averse, be warned.]
You see, there's a cursed artifact that is spreading a plague in the capital. The protagonist, Auric Manteo, is brought out of retirement to return the artifact into the horrifying temple from whence it came. He's haunted by the gruesome death of his previous team and he doesn't want to return, but his only daughter is among those cursed. She will die if the curse isn't lifted.
That's just the premise, but what that doesn't communicate is how dire and desperate the situation feels. Auric isn't sure if returning the cursed artifact will even work, so he's confronting his greatest fear in what's essentially a gamble. But what else is he going to do? His daughter is dying.
Every new element adds realism, depth, and danger to the world. In order to leave the country and go back to this cursed tomb, Auric has to get the permission of the Queen, but the Queen herself may or may not be a god-cursed cannibalistic undead witch.
Traveling to the tomb is a harrowing experience on its own, and even if they arrive safely, they're delivering themselves into the mouth of a bloodthirsty demon-god.
If that doesn't sound awesome to you, then I don't know what to tell you.
P.S. This is a review of the first book, but the second book is also out and the third (and final) book in the trilogy is out soon! DON'T WAIT! HOP ON THE MIKE SHEL TRAIN TODAY!
This book has been out forever at this point.
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