I’m so excited to have the extremely talented Max Gladstone visiting Books, Bones & Buffy today. I had originally asked Max to write a post about the role that gods and idols play in his books. But what I got back was something much more interesting, an endorsement, if you will, from a character who’s been to the island of Kavekana (from Full Fathom Five) and has partaken in their particular trade. He’s going to explain what’s going on there, and why sacrifice isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…(and keep reading, because there’s a giveaway at the end of this post!)
Sacrifice is rough on a business.
Let’s be realistic about it for a second: there are gods all over the world, and wherever there isn’t a god it’s because something godlike took its place. What’s the practical difference between a voice speaking out of the wilderness demanding you bleed out a dozen aurochs (aurochses? auroxen?) on a particular stone and a necromancer in a pinstriped suit stretching out his skeletal hand for a cut of what’s yours? The distinctions are cosmetic. They both want something.
It used to be reasonable! People didn’t travel as much, and if they did it was an event, you know, long caravans and legions of guards, so big they seemed like cities on wheels or water. A merchant might have to sacrifice to a few local gods on the way for protection, but most of the business was done at origin and destination. Serving two masters sucks, but it’s manageable.
These days, though.
I mean, don’t get me started. Let’s say we have a concern that makes something really simple—paper, maybe. It’s cheaper to grow trees in one part of the world, mill them in another, and of course we want to sell paper everywhere. We can’t settle for making paper to serve one city, or even ten. It’s a business of scale. We want school-age kids in the Shining Empire taking notes for their high-stakes tests on paper with our watermark. We want the Dread Lord of Zur signing treaties with steppe-lords on high-bond You And Me brand extra strength eggshell white, now imbued with real griffin blood! (Which means, shit, we have to go find griffins, which are native to the highlands in the Southern Gleb, so that’s another set of gods we’ll have to deal with.)
Every place we go, every place we sell, someone wants a sacrifice. How can you live like that? Let alone do business.
This is where godhavens come in. See, gods have a good thing going—they respect one another, more or less, and now the God Wars are over, while they might not actually trust or like human wizards, there’s at least some grudging tolerance between the sides. Or whatever it is you call that wavy truce you get between two bare-knucks boxers trying to catch their breath in round 37. Gods don’t ask other gods’ priests to sacrifice to them.
Yes, I know, you don’t want to get ordained. I mean, the whole idea here is to give you fewer obligations, right? Seems priesthood would be the last thing you might want.
You would think that.
See, what if you could be a priest of something that just looked a lot like a god? No faith, no distortion of behavior, no precepts or confession. Just a sort of bloodless obligation that meant you never had to sacrifice anything again.
Check out these guys. Kavekana’s a little island in the Skeld Archipelago, sent their gods to the Wars and they never came back. They just—vanished. Shit like that happened a lot back then. Gods’ disappearance, as I’m sure you can imagine, puts the local priesthood in a tizzy. What’s a priest to do without gods? They started celebrating ancestor spirits at first, as a kind of stopgap—then they got good at building rituals, telling consistent myths, praying to stuff they’d never prayed to before. And somewhere along the line, a bright kid saw the future.
Idols made to order, for folk like you and me. Salt of the earth, engines of trade, just trying to enjoy our profits and prophets both without bad guys taking them from us. Go to Kavekana. Talk with a priest about your problems. Hang out on the beach sipping those little, whatchyacallm’s, drinks with umbrellas in, sorta pink. They’ll give you a few prayers to say, some salt you and your employees have to scatter before bed or whatever, and bam. Some goddess wants her cut? Tough. You’ve got a Lord and Master already. Convenient for you he only, you know, sort of exists.
I’ve done it a couple times. Lots of people in our line of work do. It’s not just sacrifice avoidance, either—it’s easier to operate this way, less paperwork, fewer demon uprisings. Really good for estate planning, too, if you ever intend to die.
Trust me. You’ll love it.
About Full Fathom Five:
The third novel set in the addictive and compelling fantasy world ofThree Parts Dead.
On the island of Kavekana, Kai builds gods to order, then hands them to others to maintain. Her creations aren’t conscious and lack their own wills and voices, but they accept sacrifices, and protect their worshippers from other gods—perfect vehicles for Craftsmen and Craftswomen operating in the divinely controlled Old World. When Kai sees one of her creations dying and tries to save her, she’s grievously injured—then sidelined from the business entirely, her near-suicidal rescue attempt offered up as proof of her instability. But when Kai gets tired of hearing her boss, her coworkers, and her ex-boyfriend call her crazy, and starts digging into the reasons her creations die, she uncovers a conspiracy of silence and fear—which will crush her, if Kai can’t stop it first.
Thanks to Tor Books, I have one finished copy of Full Fathom Five to giveaway to a U.S. winner (with apologies to my international friends!) All you need to do to enter is fill out the form below. One entry per person, please! A winner will be randomly selected on July 31st. Good luck!