Review: The Gods of Pegana by Lord Dunsany

Image: one of the original illustrations by Sidney Sime

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I don’t even know how to rate this. It’s one of the books that defy simple quantifications.

Perhaps because it’s not a story, as such. It’s pure worldbuilding, a wonderfully inventive mythology written in the style of a religious text, made more authentic by the archaic language and repetition. It’s divided roughly into two parts – at the beginning, it deals with the gods themselves, then mostly with their prophets. I found the parts about the gods to be more interesting overall (among the normal death, sea, fate, etc. gods, there’s are also gods for stroking cats, calming dogs, dust, broken things…), but it’s good all the way through. My favourite chapters were probably The Sayings of Slid (water/sea god) and The Deeds of Mung (death god) – they’re especially heavy on repetition and parallelism, plus their names are fun to say.

I also liked the take on Hell:

Then said the people to the prophet: “Shall not black hills draw round in some forsaken land, to make a vale-wide cauldron wherein the molten rock shall seethe and roar, and where the crags of mountains shall be hurled upward to the surface and bubble and go down again, that there our enemies may boil for ever?”

And the prophet answered: “It is writ large about the bases of Pegana’s mountains, upon which sit the gods: ‘Thine Enemies Are Forgiven.’”

As per recommendation, I listened to it as an audiobook (public domain, librivox – here), which is divided into seven episodes, twelve minutes each, about the length I can handle. This is one of the books that works better listened to than read, I think. Even though the narrator wasn’t perfect. Normally, I find archaic language insufferable and reading it would likely drive me bonkers – but it has a nice cadence to it, like poetry, so listening works very very well. Even for those like me who have zero attention span for audio. I still kept the ebook open in the background, but I didn’t need it too much.

Enjoyment: ???
Execution: ???

Recommended to: those who enjoy reading fictional mythologies, but found the Silmarillion too tedious
Not recommended to: people expecting plot and characters

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