The Gods of Ahman-Tahk, the Prologue is the first book in a series about Tuyouk, an alien warrior who has the misfortune of crossing paths with the evil empress, Belall. When Tuyouk betrays her domineering affection by leading her enemies in a coup, Belall vows to make him suffer. Told hundreds of years later by Tuyouk's younger brother, this story moves between Tuyouk's twisted relationship with Belall on Ahman-tahk to modern day Oakland, California where he continues his war with her faithful followers.
The far-flung premise and atypical elements—witches, aliens, and scientific experimentation—blend together surprisingly well, culminating into distinctive and well-constructed lore. The narrative momentum suffers, though, as the novel turns from the exciting timeline of Ahman-tahk back to Danny’s and Ernie’s interview, interjections that ground the story and offer novelty and character but also often are static. It takes a long time before the events of the distant past connect to the novel’s present. Fortunately, the crisp prose and energetic plotting otherwise keep things moving.
Mathis’s writing is witty and funny, and the chapters often end in cliff-hangers that pull readers in for more. An added plus is the focus on early black and brown societies, a welcome change for a genre dominated by white ones. This solid opener will likely lead to grander follow-ups, judging by the included excerpt of the second in the series, which takes off with the electric introduction of a new character. Though it has some way to go, this planet-hopping series has targeted its destination.
Takeaway: Fans of daringly eclectic genre fiction who like not choosing between fantasy, sci-fi, and detective novels will relish this series opener.
Great for fans of: Heather Graham’s Dreaming Death, Ivan Kal’s Broken Stars.
Design and typography: B-
Marketing copy: A