Must-Read Monday: The Last Hour of Gann by R. Lee Smith

One of the things I love about being linked into the reading/reviewing/writing community is that I get book recommendations that lead me to stories I never would've picked up on my own. So last week, when I was pouting about having two DNF books in a row, I was on the look out for something good. That's when I saw buzz around Twitter about a book called The Last Hour of Gann by R. Lee Smith. And when I saw reviewers like Jane at Dear Author and Mandi at Smexy Books raving about it, I paid attention. 

But I looked at the summary and I'm thinking--meh, I don't really read adult sci-fi. And I'm not really into books where characters have those crazy, hard to pronounce names. And wait--the hero is a lizard man? And it's something like 1500 pages long?! It's like the opposite of what I gravitate to, lol. But the reviews were so effusive and those reviewers don't hand out praise easily. So I decided to give it a shot.

And omg, I'm so glad I did. For the last five days, I've been obsessed. Like reading into the night and sneaking pages on my phone while I'm out and about. I could not put it down. I'm sure my hubs was totally annoyed with me because I've basically ignored him during our normal TV time. And for me to read such a long book in less than a week is a testament to how much it captured me. Because even really excellent 1k+ page books like Stephen King's 11/22/63 take me a while to get through because I have a hard time staying with any book for that many pages.

So, I could try to summarize the book, but there's just so much and I know I won't do it justice. (Check the reviews I linked to above if you want more of an analysis with example passages and such.) Plus, the world-building is complex, so much of what I can say probably won't make much sense anyway. But here's a bullet point list of my thoughts on the book:

  • This is sci-fi--spaceship crashing on alien planet and all. I do not read sci-fi. I should not have been the audience for this book. But it totally worked for me. So don't be scared if you don't normally read this genre.
  • If you are sensitive to reading about violence, particularly rape, be warned. This is a brutal book at times. I've heard it called erotic horror. The things the characters have to go through are horrible and intense--particularly for the heroine and the other women in the story. There were times it was hard to read and I wanted to read faster just to get some relief from the horrible dark moments. And the bad times can last a long time. No brief ten page black moment. You're there for 200 pages or more at times. Then just when you think they're in the clear, something even more awful happens. It's gut-wrenching. But I also think this is why the love story ends up feeling so epic. These two have fought through things worse than death to be together.
  • Yes, the hero is a lizardman. He has a snout and red eyes and different, er, parts. I couldn't get my head around those things before I read the book. How could that work? But it totally does. Meoraq is a fantastic hero who does not start off as a very good person/lizard. He has a dramatic journey to go on, but the end result is one of the best heroes I've read in a long time.
  • In 1500 pages, there are bound to be some slow parts. This story is broken into "books" and then chapters. In Book 2, when we first meet Meoraq, the worldbuilding takes a while. There is so much to learn about their culture and religion and the hero himself that it can drage a bit. Don't give up. Keep reading.
  • Outside of Amber (the heroine), the humans in this book are pretty horrible people. It's hard to read some of it and can be over the top. They suffer from a bad case of TSTL often.
  • Faith is an important theme in this book. Religion plays a big role in the story and it leaves you with some fantastic food for thought on what religion is and what it can/can't do for a society. I loved this aspect.
  • I think this is a book people will either love or hate. I can't imagine having ambivalent feelings about this one. I've heard some have issues with the gender roles in this book and the fact that the hero doesn't treat women well before the heroine comes into his life. (Women don't have any say in anything in that world, including refusing sex.) But I saw those roles as part of this alien society and the heroine was a good, strong badass woman to break that mold. As for how Meoraq was with women before the heroine, I felt that was a big part of his journey and made the end result more satisfying. He had a long way to go.
  • Even after all those pages, I hit the end (which was fantastic) and wanted an HEA epilogue. So--yeah, 1500 pages and I still wanted more. That says a lot.
  • This is the biggest book hangover I've had in a long time, and that's the best sign that a book really got to me. I won't forget this one for a long time.


So that's all I've got to say about that. : ) If you decide to read it or have already read it, let me know what you think.


About the book:

It was her last chance:

Amber Bierce had nothing left except her sister and two tickets on Earth’s first colony-ship. She entered her Sleeper with a five-year contract and the promise of a better life, but awakened in wreckage on an unknown world. For the survivors, there is no rescue, no way home and no hope until they are found by Meoraq—a holy warrior more deadly than any hungering beast on this hostile new world…but whose eyes show a different sort of hunger when he looks at her.

It was his last year of freedom:

Uyane Meoraq is a Sword of Sheul, God’s own instrument of judgment, victor of hundreds of trials, with a conqueror’s rights over all men. Or at least he was until his father’s death. Now, without divine intervention, he will be forced to assume stewardship over House Uyane and lose the life he has always known. At the legendary temple of Xi’Matezh, Meoraq hopes to find the deliverance he seeks, but the humans he encounters on his pilgrimage may prove too great a test even for him…especially the one called Amber, behind whose monstrous appearance burns a woman’s heart unlike any he has ever known.

From R. Lee Smith, author of Heat and Cottonwood, comes an epic new story of desire, darkness and the dawn that comes after The Last Hour of Gann.

WARNING: This book contains graphic violence, strong sexual content and explicit language. It is intended for mature readers only.

Have you ever been bowled over by a book that's not in your normal reading comfort zone? What was it? Why was it so fantastic?