Cover Image: Godly Heathens

Godly Heathens

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Member Reviews

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the early access to this book.

This didn't exactly turn out how I expected it to - I overall enjoyed this book, but I wouldn't re-read it.

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Drawn in by the gorgeous cover I found out this wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be but ultimately enjoyed anyway. These queer gods definitely scheme and bicker like the Greek pantheon, with some modern teenage drama in the mix, in a rather dark and violent fantasy setting. While this book is YA, it doesn’t seem suitable for very young people.

Gem is one of those hot mess protagonists, but it does make their teenage chaos of a life seem real. The romance here is a bit messy too, with two love interests and no conclusive ending. This is a part of a duology, so the cliffhanger ending is all right. It also doesn’t feel like a cop out, I rather liked it.

The weaker parts of the book are in the first half or so. The story does seem to drag just a bit. Towards the end the pace picks up and the stakes get higher. I will be reading the sequel. “There are no cis gods.”

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Godly Heathens by H. E. Edgmon follows Gem Echols, a non-binary Seminole teen living in the tiny town of Gracie, Georgia. Gem uses their charm and perceived confidence to hide the fact that they're an anxious mess, and to uphold their reputation of being the go-to person if their peers want a queer awakening. Gem is haunted by dark dreams of magic which they don't even dare to tell Enzo about: their best friend who lives in New York. When the drop-dead gorgeous Willa Mae Hardy walks into Gem's life and presents them with the news that they're actually a reincarnated god and Willa Mae's soulmate, and that the horrible dreams they've been having are actually memories, Gem's anxiety gets cranked up to eleven and their life gets turned upside down.

This is a YA urban fantasy story for the new generation of queers and it's saturated with under-represented minorities and earth-shattering deities stuck in teenage bodies. Unsurprisingly, Godly Heathens is full of teenage angst and difficult conversations about navigating the world when it wasn't built with someone like you in mind. These are incredibly important conversations to be having in literature written for young people, and along with the wealth of representation in this story (non-binary, queer, trans, chronic illness, disability, mental health, indigenous and other POC, and a touch of polyamory to name a few) this is a book that needs to be uplifted and made accessible to all.

From a writing perspective, we live inside Gem's head and Edgmon does a great job of creating an authentic view of what it's like living in a body that doesn't always feel like your own. This is augmented into metaphor with the revelation that Gem is a reincarnated god and the conversations that are had about being a god stuck in yet another human vessel translate smoothly into conversations about gender identity.

While the messages sent by this novel are hugely important, the story itself suffers from too much telling and not enough showing. There is an awful lot of lore to be conveyed and most of this doled out in chunks of one character explaining it to another. From a writing perspective, chunking the information makes sense so as not to overwhelm the reader, but from a character perspective it didn't make a lot of sense for these characters to withhold so much information from Gem after a certain point.

There are also an awful lot of characters to keep track of even before past identities and their divine titles come into play, and while it may become clear in the second book in this series, it certainly wasn't clear in this book why so many of these secondary and tertiary characters were deemed relevant to the plot. The concept of all of your high school friends actually being gods might have been a little more impactful if we had actually been introduced to more than one of them before that revelation. This story also would have benefitted from a longer timeline and more external conflict in the second quarter, rather than the repetitive internal conflict.

Despite these drawbacks, this is a story with plenty of important messages and diverse representation where new generations of teens will be able to see key aspects of themselves reflected back at them.

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3.5 stars, rounded up

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher's for my review copy.

This book was a quick read for me. I so desperately wanted to learn more about the gods and the world that I devoured it.

I enjoyed seeing the unravelling of the mystery and mythos of the gods and their incarnations and the messy interactions that they had over the years, interspersed with Gem figuring out what exactly is going on.

I am excited to see how this series ends in the conclusion to the duology.

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A diverse and interesting story, but for me it fell a little flat in the pacing and exploration of the narrative in sections. Still interested in picking up more from this author in future

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Thanks to NetGalley and Daphne Press for this copy.

I had mixed feelings reading this novel, I really enjoyed the premise of the novel and how the gods are mixed in with the storyline. I felt the deliverance was somewhat lacking, I can't put my finger on what it was.

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I enjoyed this, even though it was not without its flaws.

I really loved the representation in this - plenty of positive queer and trans rep, in a way that felt fluid. Being trans was a plot point and motivator for some actions, but not the overarching plot point and we need more of that. I liked that it didn’t fall into certain stereotypes, like the jock football player was genuinely kind and tried to understand Gem’s identity, even if they didn’t always get it right. The mums internalised transphobia was done just right as well, it was nuanced in the sense that you could understand her hesitance to accept her child’s identity because they were also mentally ill..

I appreciated the effort to show ethical polyamory, but here is where it falls a little short. It didn’t really feel like one of the characters had a choice and they had to go along with it under duress. This isn’t really ethical and it made me a little sad because there is such little positive polyamory representation.

The gods aspect was enjoyable, I did want to find out what happened, however it was a strange juxtaposition with the teenage drama. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman in my thirties and it was hard to suspend disbelief. Some YA books have a lot to offer adult readers, but this felt like one that was written specifically for a teenage audience and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s hitting its intended audience but it’s worth pointing out for adults that read YA.

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I was so very sure I was going to love this book based off its very intriguing premise, but that was sadly not the case.

Between doing the very hard work of being a queer awakening machine extraordinaire and getting lost in vivid dreams, Gem Echols is just a regular teen who uses humour to hide their pain. Or at least that's what they believe, until a mysterious, gorgeous girl walks into Gem's life and reveals they're reincarnated gods. But there are others, and they're not happy Gem's alive.

I couldn't really latch onto anything in this story. The one god I wanted to know more about (god of art) barely gets to do anything until the very end, and the dialogue was just too corny at times for me to handle. This also applies to the issues I had with the pacing of this book. For most of it, it read like Gem was being chauffeured around to different locations to talk to different people they'd wronged in past lives. There was a constant back and forth of forming and breaking alliances that really didn't carry much weight at all.

Listen, I get that we're dealing with teenagers, but these are also gods. I don't expect them to talk or behave a certain way, but I do expect more complexity, I suppose. Throughout the book, Gem wonders many times what is good and what is evil. More than once, we come across a statement that sometimes evil is just conflicting needs, and sometimes it is enjoying watching the world burn, but... no? Needs and wants are distinct concepts, doing bad or selfish things, and being evil are different, and I think these ideas got muddled in order for this story to work. Murdering someone else is never a need unless it is in self-defence. Deciding someone is not 'necessary' is also just hogwash.

Sure, these are gods. But we're not talking about yeeting someone into their next life, we're talking about torture, and permanently cancelling someone's subscription to life, thank you. Gem refusing to take responsibility because, "Can someone be blamed for something when they don't remember doing it?" Maybe not if you didn't notice you ate someone's last cookie, I suppose. But for carving someone into pieces? Yep. It's great for you not to remember that, but that person's loved one sure does remember and is dealing with the consequences.

And no, this is not about me not enjoying a flawed character. My favourite series is about a bunch of idiots doing stupid, immoral things. But they either properly recognize it, face consequences for their actions, grow from it, or all of the above. And they're just compelling, complex characters. This group felt so bland, even though they wanted to appear cool and mysterious. Perhaps I struggle with books with characters that take themselves too seriously and have nobody to properly take them down a peg. Maybe I just don't fancy overpowered MCs. Or perchance the writing could have been better.

Anyway, let's talk about something else. How about the romance? Didn't care. You don't get to pull the 'we're soulmates' and then have Gem be so overcome with love for someone after knowing exactly 3 things about them. This is why I always prefer to read about non-established relationships in stories like these. How brilliant would it be for them to slowly realize they've been falling in love for generations and are doing so again in the present? I would have devoured that. Instead, we get this poor attempt at ethical polygamy/potential throuple that Gem is basically forcing everyone to partake in, because they want what they want, and everyone else just has to bow to their wants. The other two corners don't have enough of anything to convince me this would work and not end in mutual destruction. This is not what I meant by putting love triangles in the bin. This is not what I meant about 'why choose?' It still mostly reads like a triangle, darn it!

Now, before anyone accuses me of just trashing this book, I of course loved the rep in this. As someone considering the label demiromantic, Gem's thoughts surrounding it were very relatable to me, and I'm very happy indigenous trans and non-binary people have this book in the world. The cover is also stunning. Elena Masci and Jane Tibbetts did an incredible job, as always.

This book is for you if you enjoy:
- power awakenings
- messy relationships
- backstabbing (and just generally stabbing) gods
- reading about a bunch of pretty unlikeable people
- soulmates reincarnating through time

Many thanks to NetGalley, H.E. Edgmon and Daphne Press for the chance to read and review this book.

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i really liked the premise of the book, and the plot was so interesting, but i just had issues with the pacing. the meeting with willa-mae felt so rushed and unnatural. i would have preferred for more time actually spent on the worldbuilding. sometimes it felt like there was too much going on for me to keep track and sometimes it felt like it was dragging on for ages.
however. the love triangle that didn't end up being a love triangle was fun.

thanks to netgalley for my first arc!

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Book Review of Godly Heathens by H.E Edgmon
My thanks to NetGalley, Daphne Press and the author for providing this e-book for my unbiased review 🩷 This review will be shared on Goodreads and Amazon and a star rating shared on Instagram stories @tinydragonbooks.

Gem Echols has a lot on their plate. After their parents divorce, and moving to the tiny backwoods town of Gracie, Georgia, Gem is focussed on making sure their GPA is so sparkly that no college can turn them down, and a self-imposed quest to assist Gracie’s teens in exploring their sexuality. They have also been plagued with violent dreams since childhood, and when Willa Mae Hardy, a new student at Gems high school, insists that they know all about Gem, the dreams and their past, things get ever more complicated. After a run in with a creepy, pale girl who threatens to rip out Gems spine (from whom Willa rescues them), Gem learns that they are a reincarnated god, from another realm, a genealogical inheritance. Pursued by gods of death and battle, Gem and Willa Mae must seek the Ouroboros, a magical knife with the power to kill a god, before their enemies do.

Book One in the Ouroboros series was refreshingly raw and revelatory. I wholeheartedly applaud the author for utilising characters and themes that are essential for YA readers today to relate to and appreciate. The story includes a non binary MC, a variety of sexualities, and gender themes and identities; including hormone therapy & transrelevant clothing. I also valued the respectful addition of cultures and ancestral land lineage.
Godly Heathens is an urban fantasy with a dark vibe, I liked the storyline (particularly the gods personal skills) but I wasn’t able to connect with the MC, finding them unlikeable. I found myself starting to skim the MC’s internal monologue by about 50% through, but really liked the scenes with action and story progression. While this may not have been my perfect read, I think this book would appeal to LGBTQIA+ readers, readers who enjoy contemporary fantasy and those who like urban romantasy.

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Godly Heathens by H.E Edgmon, was an amazing, strange and super. I was engrossed in the story from the very start, despite not knowing about the world or characters I would meet.

Gem has magical dreams about gods and demons, and to add to their anxiety, dealing with their non-binary identity and a mother who doesn't fully get it. Since the only person they trust is out of state, so when the more student arrives who is aware of more Gem's secrets and odd things start happening, maybe Gem really is a reincarnated god?

I laughed out loud while I was reading this book. The idea of reincarnation, soulmates, and characters living through multiple timelines, along with the outgoing conflict between them, I was honestly fascinated.

A well-written story that seamlessly blends fantasy and reality, featuring relatable yet messy characters. Even though the second half of the book dragged a little, I was still intrigued by it and couldn't put it down. I'm eager for the next installment because I adore the little heathens!!!

Thank You to Netgalley and the publisher team for a copy of this book for a exchange of an honest review.

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Embarking on the fantastical odyssey crafted by H.E. Edgmon in "Godly Heathens," I found myself immersed in a world that seamlessly blends mythology with contemporary struggles. Gem Echols, a nonbinary Seminole teen, navigates the complexities of identity, friendship, and a divine destiny that transcends time.

The characters in Gracie, Georgia, breathe life into the narrative, each one adding a layer of richness to the story. Gem's dynamic with Enzo, their confidant from afar, brings a sense of genuine connection that resonates with authenticity. The arrival of Willa Mae Hardy introduces an element of mystery, weaving a tapestry of past lives and divine secrets.

Edgmon skillfully explores themes of reincarnation, love, and the consequences of past actions. The magical elements are interwoven with the struggles of self-discovery, creating an atmosphere that is both whimsical and profound. The vivid descriptions of Gem's dreams, filled with magic and foreboding, add an ethereal quality to the narrative.

While the journey through "Godly Heathens" was undeniably captivating, I found myself yearning for more depth in certain aspects of the plot. The promise of a divine conflict and Gem's tumultuous history left me craving a more intricate exploration. However, this desire for more complexity is a testament to the book's ability to engage and leave the reader hungry for the next installment.

As a reader, I appreciate the representation and the courage to delve into themes that challenge societal norms. "Godly Heathens" sets the stage for a series that promises to unravel more secrets and explore the intricate threads of divine relationships. I eagerly await the next chapter in Gem's journey.

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Very odd book, I had no idea what was going on, particularly in the beginning. Honestly it read like a bad fanfiction and had it not been so short and had I not wanted to review it, I would have dnf-ed this book after four pages.
The story felt like a continuous information dump as the author scrambled to explain the characters and novel contents in a really haphazard way. The author also expected reader knowledge on characters, topics and situations far too soon, which meant that nothing made sense as a reader. The pacing was also completely off as it leaps quickly from one piece of "action" to the next and leaves you ridiculously confused. I'm disappointed as I really love to support LGBT authors, but I'm afraid really couldn't get into this at all.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Daphne Press for the advance reader copy.

I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected, as I have become apprehensive with heading YA books but this one was a good read.

I enjoyed the idea about the gods and their pasts as well as where that puts us in the story.
We’re placed in directly with the main character Gem and I think building our knowledge and the world around what they know was a good way to drive the story. We weren’t ahead of the characters just with them through the story.

There’s a good amount of representation of races, sexuality and gender expression which considering we the reader are dealing with gods felt right and is even mentioned by the main character in one of the chapters.

I’m excited to read the second book in this duology.

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Godly Heathens is the first book in a new contemporary fantasy duology by H.E. Edgmon. It was published on 28th November 2023. I requested an ARC on NetGalley and successfully received an e-copy of the book in mid-November with the responsibility to reciprocate with a review.

Before I began reading I hoped I was going to love this book. As soon as I started reading I knew the story was going to keep my attention.

From the first chapter, the reader is dropped right into the life of Gem Echols. Gem is a nonbinary Seminole teenager who lives with his mum in the small town of Gracie, Georgia. They have disturbing dreams, experience anxiety and manage their life by limiting who they share their authentic self with. Gem has a long distance friend called Enzo who lives in Brooklyn and is waiting for the day they can be together.

Everything changes for Gem early on in the novel when they find out the dreams they are having are memories of past lives and they are in fact a reincarnated god. The people in Gem’s life, other gods and local townies all play different roles in how Gem comes to terms with this new knowledge. I liked Gem as a main character and following their point of view. It was interesting to see a character think about their identity; for Gem in regards to being queer and Seminole and their mental health. One of the main reasons I enjoyed this book so much is because I can relate to Gem and their anxiety. Gem thinks and overthinks. Gem’s a teenager and makes impulsive decisions. Right up until the end of the novel, I wasn’t sure what decisions Gem was going to make. The reader has to go with what Gem decides and watch the consequences play out as they do.

Godly Heathens takes place in our world. The sense of place and atmosphere contributes to a good read. Gem lives In Georgia and the novel has an essence of Southern Gothic woven through it - flawed characters, descriptions of decay, scenes in swamps and big mansions, characters with no wealth and characters with it. The gods originally came from another world over a thousand years ago. They play with objects that are unequivocally human and have battles in residential yards. In Gem’s dreams, the reader gets to see the gods clash in different times and places. They inhabited different people who belonged to different communities and had historical enemies. Despite this, in all of their reincarnations Gem’s been nonbinary. They have also been unlikeable and cruel.

These past lives result in several of the characters having secrets and complicated allegiances. The gods are characters who have human bodies and godly power. This adds a layer to Gem’s nonbinary identity. They also have to work out how to reconcile the struggle between human desires and their god magic and who they have been in the past.

The gods in this book have tremendous powers. The pantheon that Edgmon has created makes the gods, the gods of ‘something’. Their abilities manipulate whatever part of existence they have under their control. The magic system is well defined and described. It's another part of this book that added to my enjoyment. It’s also a reason I’m looking forward to continuing the series because I want to see what happens next from the cliffhanger the book ends on.

At times the god-driven events in the story feel isolated from our world and at others exposed to it. Gem feels all of this and the reader feels it too. Using aspects of YA fiction, scenes set at the local high school; parents that don’t understand their children’s lives and the push and pull of identity, adds to the more or less constant state of distress Gem exists in throughout the novel.

Overall, the plot is well paced. The reveals and twists arrive out of the progression of the plot and the development of the characters as Gem interacts with them and they learn more about the past. Throughout the entire novel I wanted to know what was going to happen next. The plot’s momentum, the quality of the writing and the dynamic characters make this a page turner. It’s hard to talk about this book without spoilers but Godly Heathens is an action packed, powerful novel with passionate characters. I’d recommend it for readers who like messy protagonists and contemporary fantasy stories. I’m excited to see what happens in the conclusion of The Ouroborus duology.

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H. E. Edgmon strikes with another great hit! I really enjoyed The Witch King, so when I saw Godly Heathens, I had to jump on the train!

The voice is spectacular in this one, as expected, and Gem's truly leaps off the page, a true teenager's voice. I think having them as the protagonist for this adventure was an excellent choice. I liked the juxtaposition of the worldbuilding and fantasy against the contemporary-ness of the setting. Edgmon's spin on the reincarnation of gods was done wonderfully and with its own twist that makes this book a compelling addition to the trope without there being any repetition. Enzo and Gem also had such a great relationship that I loved reading, and in general, the book was extremely well-written!

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I LOVED The Witch King when I read it last year and I've been really meaning to read everything else that H. E. Edgmon has out or is publishing in the near future. I felt like their voice was fresh, the pacing always engaging, the slightly campy plot juxtaposed perfectly against deeper interpersonal relationships and inner conflict.

You can also imagine my slight disappointment, then, when I realized I wasn't loving Godly Heathens much.

To be honest and fair, I actually really liked the first half. It was again fast-paced and fun while also clearly delving into something "more" (for the lack of a better word). I was a huge fan of the worldbuilding because I'm a huge fan of it being snappy in general, I instantly liked our main character and the set of characters as they were positioned around them... But then the second half happened.

And more and more often as I was reading, I started asking myself some of the worst questions I can ask: do I even care? why should I care? do I like these characters? does it matter to me at all what happens to them? AM I actually liking this? As the second half unfolded, I unfortunately had to tell myself that no, I'm not actually liking it very much anymore.

We were told A LOT - and it was a little too much even for me, a person who doesn't usually mind - and I missed greater character development. Ultimately, I also think that this book expects you to suspend your belief more than I was capable of.

I'll pick up the next series or standalone that Edgmon writes, but this one was unfortunately not for me.

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A bit overwhelming at the beginning, the story provides an interesting concept of gods, who reincarnate from generation to generation as teenagers. There's so much to unpack - the history of these gods, their powers, their relationships, their motifs.
Loved the vivid depiction of a not so vivid town Gracie, Georgia, where the story is set. Somehow I found its messy characters likable and relatable, being true to yourself is difficult even when you're older. My heart went out to Gem, though I can understand why for some they may appear not a likeable MC. And I loved the dynamics between them and Enzo, not so enthusiastic about Willa Mae, but, hey, the second installment is on the way, I'll give her a chance.
Though the pacing sometimes was off, the twists were good, especially the ending. Can't wait to get my hands on the conclusion of the story.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC in exchange of honest review.

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Thank you to Netgalley and Daphne Press for a copy of this e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

The first 30-40% had me hooked and I was really intrigued by the plot and the mystery surrounding everyone’s alt identities. But I’m not sure what happened in the last half? Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood, but I just felt a little disconnected from the story.

I enjoyed the characters and the focus on mental health, as well as the creepier, more supernatural elements of the book. I think what may have contributed to my issues was the volume of characters that were all introduced in a short amount of time; all with several names/identities which kind of spun my head around a little.

I think that the pacing could be improved, but overall a great start to a darker YA series.

3.5 stars

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This book felt evil in the right ways.

Gosh this book was a lot of fun. The start of the book was already extremely strong and great. Gem relishing in the fact that people can't gender them correctly? HELL YEAH. However at the same time the start with that intense dream totally sets the tone for a dark and grim story and oh how it was such a thing. I loved it.

So at the beginning of the book Gem is mainly confused and I felt that very much with them. It was great how these feelings were conveyed. To be honest strong feelings were totally the best in The Witch King and The Fae Keeper too so I was extremely glad to see that this book totally delivered in that again. That confusion turns around to frustration, to love, hate, sadness but above all anger. That anger was so so good and it was great to shout at the world with Gem.

I also really loved all the relationships between characters. They were deep and complicated without ever feeling like they were too much to understand. Everyone had their own motives and feelings that clashed in the best ways. Willa Mae was so great with her frustrations with Gem not being faster at ... everything really, but also her love and care for them was the best. Talking love and care Enzo needs to be mentioned. He is a sweetheart but.... oh my god I did not expect where his character went, but damn was it good.

Then closing off my review I need to give one sentence on the ending, and that is that it was the most absolutely badass ending I have ever read in a book.

All together I would recommend this book if you're into celebrating queer wrongs and have a love for queer misfits fighting out their issues.

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