“Even myths have legends. And not all legends are myth.
When a local hospital is attacked by strange and frightening men, Fiona Patterson and Zeke Prisco save a catatonic old man named Peter–and find themselves running for their lives with creatures beyond imagination hounding their every step.
With nowhere else to turn, they seek out Fi’s enigmatic Uncle Edgar. But the more their questions are answered, the more they discover that nothing is what it seems–not Peter, not Edgar, perhaps not even themselves.
The gods and monsters, heroes and villains of lore–they’re real. And now they’ve come out of hiding to hunt their own. In order to survive, Fi and Zeke must join up with powerful allies against an ancient evil that’s been known by many names and feared by all. The final battle of the world’s oldest war has begun.”
First off, I should let you know that the version of Paternus that I read was an early copy with the old cover (I won it in an r/Fantasy charity raffle), so keep in mind that everything I say might not be 100% accurate regarding the current version – hopefully Dyrk can let me know if I mention anything that has since been revised!
Paternus has to be one of the most ambitious debuts I’ve read. I don’t typically read a lot of Urban Fantasy, as I tend to be drawn pretty heavily to secondary worlds, but in this case the use of mythology got me intrigued. The basic premise is that all of the gods and mythological creatures of the world (known here as Firstborn) are real and living amongst us in disguise, locked in an eternal war that rages on while humans sort of blithely go about their lives without really noticing. It would be easy (and obvious) to compare it to American Gods, and while there’s an influence there, Ashton takes it in a different direction and it’s definitely its own thing.
Our main protagonists are Fiona and Zeke, both of whom are hospital workers dealing with everyday problems – they have been on a couple of dates and they’re having those early relationship insecurities, trying to gauge how interested they are in one another and generally being a bit self-conscious. Fi works with an elderly man named Peter at the hospital who is very dependent on his carers and unable to communicate – she’s a nice person who takes her duties seriously, so she goes above and beyond to give him the best care she can. When the hospital is attacked by monsters who seem to want Peter, she and Zeke are the ones who step up to protect him.
What follows is a fast-paced cinematic adventure in which Fi, Zeke and Peter are largely on the run from all manner of fearsome mythical creatures, each of which appear to have been thoroughly researched and imbued with their own personality. Zeke is conveniently a bit of a mythology buff, so he acts as our guide and gives us a little bit of information about each new creature we run into as the larger picture begins to unfold. The mythology is really what drives the story and it’s always lovely when you get to learn a thing or two from reading fiction, so if you have any interest in world religions this is for you. The very cinematic, movie script nature of the novel is unsurprising given that Ashton has worked in the industry, and I think largely it works well but it might not be to everyone’s taste. The pacing is a little muddled in the first third so I’d say it requires a little bit of work from the reader, but past that point it evens out and gets exciting. There’s a strong sense of danger and dread, good chemistry between the characters and some amusing dialogue to keep everything trundling along.
It’s not without a couple of issues, however. Once the action begins, it’s so breathless that the character development doesn’t get much wiggle room. As a result they end up a little patchy in places, and lacking in agency – this latter part makes perfect sense given that these are humans up against inconceivably powerful gods and monsters, but some readers don’t enjoy passive protagonists and that may be a problem for them. There’s also a shift in identity from being a rather relatable human story with some YA elements to being on the more adult side, and flirting with grimdark in its violence and disturbing imagery (the leech, yegods!) so it will require a bit of patience, but that’s to be expected from a novel that is so ambitious both in its scale and ideas. I’d say overall I’m not the target audience (being a secondary world fantasy/character development kinda gal who isn’t usually into action focused novels), but I found it to be well written, engaging and extremely promising. A strong debut, and I’ll be curious to see how the author develops.
Bingo Squares 2018
- Reviewed on r/Fantasy
- One Word Title
- Features a God