Let me begin by saying that I am not Catholic, and the doctrine of Purgatory is one of the main reasons why. I don’t want to argue the point here, but it’s significant because I am about to review a novel that is set mostly in Purgatory.
Since I believe that it is a fictional place, I have no problems with how it is portrayed in this Fantasy novel. A devout Catholic might find it offensive.
That having been said, Lost Gods is a fantastic novel, in nearly every sense of the word. It deals with religious matters–angels, devils, gods–realistically, without the smirking humanization of, say, Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett. The supernatural elements are, quite frankly, terrifying, older and more cruel than humanity. You won’t find any urbane socialite angels and demons here, discussing Heaven and Hell over wine and cigars.
What you will find is a nightmarish landscape inhabited by the souls of the dead and the stranger souls of dead gods–the titular Lost Gods who were cast into Purgatory by the resurrected Christ. Though decayed, they still wield vast power.
The story is a compelling and, so far as I understand the doctrine, fitting one for the setting. Chet Moran is a man who loses everything in the first chapter and then struggles to regain it through perseverance, fighting his way through Purgatory to seek his shot at redemption.
The characters, human and otherwise, are engaging and complex, nearly everyone has secrets and almost nothing is what it first appears. I don’t want to say too much about the plot because of spoilers, except to say that most of the real surprises are not “twists” in the conventional sense, but rather layers that are stripped away, revealing more and more details that eventually illuminate everything.
Very highly recommended.