“If one suffers, I suffer. If one is chained, I am chained.”
My faith called me to become a Lance. My compassion drew me into one of the fallen lands. Through my connection with the Chained God, I alone can find and destroy the Horror that stains the land.
Death can no longer chain me.
But I couldn’t have imagined the madness waiting for me in this village. I’m not sure my faith can withstand the secrets I’ll uncover. Or that my compassion can survive the violence to come. This Horror may swallow me whole.
Death can no longer free me.
A creature stalks in the dark. Buildings burn. People die. An altar has been built on the village green.
I read a digital edition of this book.
An Altar on the Village Green is inspired by a video game called Dark Souls. I am not a gamer but am aware of video games and could easily see their influence on this book in the way the character often dies, followed by a vision of a flashback scene from the perspective of another character, before starting again with a new life back at their spawning point. There are Anchors which the main character has to prick his finger on as part of his religious duty, and these appear to act like saving points in a video game. He is stuck there in that particular village (or stage of the game) until he is victorious over the Horror which holds sway in that village. I have heard that players of Dark Souls will notice all manner of nods to the game in the book, but alas these all went over my head.
I read An Altar on the Village Green as one of my dark fantasy/horror picks for October and it was certainly full of gore, monsters and horror elements described masterfully in great detail. Not for the faint of heart, but perfect for a grisly Halloween read.
Written mostly in first person perspective, the pace was fast and action-packed as the nameless hero battles evils in the name of his church. A devout worshipper of the Chained God, he has trained to become a Lance and his duty is to leave the safety of the city of Ymrit and heal the Fallen Lands of the Horrors stalking them:
Ymrit was a place of safety, stability, order. From the shelter our god provided, we sent our Lances to spread peace and sanity. Or we once had.The Lance
Our hero is the first Lance to undertake such a quest for many years and is sort of immortal, healing himself from wounds via a flask of his god’s ichor which he carries. If he dies he gets a restart with the flask once again full, and hopefully he learns something of use for his own quest during the intervening vision he experiences of previous Lances’ quests. He is also the last of the Lances and as such is aware that if he fails to rid the village of its Horror he will be stuck there reliving his failure over and over again for eternity. The world of this book is a dying world and the Lance is their only hope for salvation. He has a kind of mantra which the High Cantor impresses upon him before he leaves Ymrit, which he tries to bear in mind to keep him going:
“Be observant,” I murmured. “Be clever. Be decisive. Be safe. Above all, be safe.”The Lance
To begin with the story felt somewhat like a whodunnit. The Lance has no idea who or what is causing the Horrors but is steadfast in his belief that his god has chosen him to cleanse the land of its evil or go mad in the attempt. The more times the Lance fails in his attempts to rid the village of the Horror, the more visions and pain he experiences, the closer he comes to insanity. Towards the end of the story he is very close to relinquishing to madness:
“It must be such a relief, to the struggling Lance, to give in to the madness of a place. Failure is a comfort, when success means sufficient torment.”The High Cantor
The visions allow him to see the Horror from the perspective of other Lances of old – people he has learned about in his studies and idolized as heroes his whole life. They also show the reader a little more of the world in which the story takes place and these sections are where most of the excellently descriptive world-building takes place. They are almost like little standalone short stories within the general narrative which I thought was really cool.
An Altar on the Village Green is definitely a book worthy of your attention, particularly if you enjoy the darker side of fantasy and can stomach much gore and grisly killings, in the name of saving the world. At times it reminded me of the medieval paintings by Hieronymous Bosch.
About the Author
After reading The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist and The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan as a teen, I just KNEW I had to be a writer. I started immediately on my first novel, which was terrible. Sometime later, I started on my next novel, which was less awful, and in late 2017 I started on what would eventually become An Altar on the Village Green, book one in The Chained God. I’ve spent several years as a freelance fiction editor, working with authors like Sarah Chorn and Michael Wisehart. I’m also known for my reviews, ramblings, and writer Crash Course series on my website. I live in Indiana with my wife, two cats, and one sassy bearded dragon.