The Sun’s Devices by Rebecca Levene tangents from what came before it. If Smiler’s Fair and The Hunter’s Kind were a mirrored duo, then the themes, tone, and focus of the third book in The Hollow Gods complicates the idea of duality. After all, stories have multiple sides, and this is the side of those who have forsaken the gods.
The moon god reborn has finally ascended to his rightful place as the heir to Ashanesland, but he must now win the support of the same people who once tried to kill him. As he attempts to understand the political games of his role, ambassadors from the great and secretive land once known as the Eternal Empire arrive with an invitation. But why would a godless place have a need for the moon god reborn? As if that wasn’t enough, the battle with his greatest enemy is almost upon him. The solution comes from whispers of an elusive weapon called the God Killer. He must find this weapon before anyone else or it could mean the end of everything he holds dear.
The Sun’s Devices has the challenge of not only building on its two predecessors, but also merging the divergent pieces of Levene’s overarching plot lines and characters. Where The Hunter’s Kind complicates the reader’s perspective on the war between the moon and the sun, Levene uses this third installment to consider another course: what if there were no gods at all? A running theme throughout the book is the duality concept being a constraint of human understanding and how things can exist beyond it: “Because thus you may understand the world and through understanding, bend it to your will. This pattern: sun-moon, light-dark, order-chaos. It is one you are always drawn to” (397). Levene’s thematic exploration is the highlight of the novel. Her descriptive prose and imaginative settings also continue to be strengths.
The opening pages of The Sun’s Devices sets the tone for the novel and immediately cements it as something unique. This could be potentially jarring for readers. Similarly to The Hunter’s Kind, Levene does introduce new characters to widen the scope of the overarching plot, which means shared page time with established characters. Some story elements and plot points, especially near the end, might feel less fleshed out or rushed in comparison to the previous books. However, the biggest consideration readers should have is with expectation: I went into this book initially thinking it was the final installment. Based on several factors, it’s clear this is not the end of The Hollow Gods. The ending packs a strong punch, and it left me wanting more from this world and this story.
From the difficult choices and morally-grey characters to the violent acts and dubious intentions, Levene leaves no question as to how The Sun’s Devices fits into the grimdark sphere. Very much like the initial cheerfulness of the covers, her style undercuts the notion of blatant darkness and reinvents itself in every book, surprising you with just how bleak things can be. I can’t wait to see what Levene’s mind cooks up next.