Elemental (The Godslayers Book 1) by Tam Chronin: Absorbing Characters, Fantastic Worldbuilding

I was just a child.
A wizard came to my town. He came to find me. In a fiery blast I lost my home, my friends, my family. The entire town was obliterated.
I grew up a fugitive, surviving on the charity of others. As I hid, my powers grew. The nightmares grew as well. Something was welling up from within me. Something that could not be contained.
As an adult I took my place among the wizards. I ruled my country as a figurehead, a puppet of those with greater power or experience. I wasn’t to be trusted, or even talked to, for five long years.
The other wizards decided my fate. I was to be imprisoned, watched, guarded by the very wizard responsible for the death of my parents.
I had to lose everything, even my sense of self, before I found out who I was, and who my real enemies are.

In this first book in The Godslayers series, Elemental is an engaging and fantastic book, the beginning book by Tam Chronin. I read it because I’ve met and worked with Tam but also love fantasy, especially with unique and diverse characters. The main character, Agrad, is one of the most distinctive and interesting characters I’ve read in a long time and reminds me quite fondly of when I read the first Herald Mage book by Mercedes Lackey. Agrad’s adventures are immersive and incredibly fun at the same time.

What makes the novel so good is two fold. First, the author has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about the world and her character, understanding exactly what she wants her character to be and what she wants the world to be. The concept of the magic is unique and different, wizards who’ve gained god-like power by killing the gods themselves, but there are consequences, as there is with any system of magic and no power comes without responsibilities or weight. Tam does a fantastic job of exploring how the magic works in the world and the impact of each person’s choices, including the gods themselves. I’ve rarely seen such in depth world building.

The other aspect that really makes the novel shine are the characters, especially Agrad. Agrad has a traumatic event happen and while that impacts his choices, one of the interesting aspects to the character is his choice to wear female clothes. Does this reflect his sexuality? Really, the author does a great job of exploring those questions, including whether Agrad identifies as female or not. I choose not to give away the answer to that, since it is such a big reason why the character will resonate with both those questioning their identity and those who do not.

If there is any aspect that could use fine tuning, it is the pacing. The voice is in first person, which is used to great effect to tell Agrad’s story but there are points where this drags, mostly because of a tendency to share too many of the tiny details of what is happening around Agrad. That said, it is an epic fantasy and in order to so, the world and character must be built and a bit too many details is way better than not enough.

If you are looking for a new epic fantasy with an interesting twist on magic systems and interesting characters that explore sexuality and identity in a fantasy setting, giving LGBTQ youth and adults the opportunity to identify with those like themselves, then this first novel by Tam Chronin might just be what you’re looking for. I enjoyed it, finding myself immersed in every page as much as if I was reading an experienced author.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.

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