My book rut has been broken, and thank you to K.J. Parker for writing the novella I just read, Downfall of the Gods.
I got it from Netgalley; it appears to be an upcoming reissue in ebook format of a book from a few years ago. Every time I read K.J. Parker, I am delighted. His (I'm pretty sure he's officially been made public as being a man, right? It was a bit of a mystery there for a while) stories are both cynical and hopeful, and his characters are both untrustworthy (both to the reader and to others in the story) and generally non-evil. I think. Mostly.
This book is about a goddess--youngish, as these things go, or so it seems--who refuses absolution to someone who prays for it. This leads to some disagreement among her divine relatives, and so she sets the penitent mortal a task and helps him along on his quest.
And so we follow the put-upon Archias, who is neither an evil man nor a blameless one, as he tries to avoid damnation. Having a god for a sidekick is often more trouble than it's worth, and watching Archias's faith and understanding of what it means evolve over the course of the book is one of the best parts. Gods make poor sidekicks; they have no sense of time, are easily distracted, and tend to ignore irritating things like laws and weather and physics.
We also meet many other gods and learn about some of their petty infighting, what it means to be eternal, and the paradoxes of omnipotence. They mostly seem to hate each other--or at least to dislike our narrator--and what at first seems to be all sly wit and wordplay gradually reveals itself to be real insight into the strange world they inhabit.
There's no way for an outline to do the book justice, because it's all about the laughs that make you think, and the characters getting enlightened in the background. K.J. Parker's narrators in general are for fans of Miles Vorkosigan and Eugenides the thief--just as bright, just as sharp, but also darker, and more dangerous. Brenda, this is a book I highly recommend for you.