Immortal Progeny by Philippa Ballantine

Over the years, there’s been a lot of people who have put down self-published books. Vanity presses and people trying to sell the hundred copies they printed up of their books that just weren’t good enough to sell to an actual publisher.

But in the era of ebooks, while there is still a lot of books that sink to the level of just not worth the time. But there is also another level of self-published author: the professionally published author who has written something that is too far outside the normal, or wants to experiment with the mixed publishing; mix of pro- and self-published.

Philippa Ballantine falls into the second category. She has had three series (one co-written with her husband, Tee Morris) for three different publishers. The co-written series did will with two different publishers, but due to issues, had gone to self-published for the end of the series. She has also self-published a historical fantasy novel set in post-WWI New Zealand that was rejected by publishers because the New Zealand setting was considered too exotic for US readers.

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Immortal Progeny, though, falls into the category of books that I’m not sure that a regular publisher would know what to do with. The world-building and magic system were something I’ve never seen before.

In this world, the gods came through a portal called the God Void. Churches and priesthoods built up around them in the North. The priests build creatures called the Progeny by sewing together pieces of people and animals, and set them to attack other temples. The goal, of course, is to become the only surviving church, controlling the world. This is called the Melding. There are also a small group of possibly insane people called Chimera, who instead of sewing other creatures together, sew parts of other creatures to themselves in order to give themselves new abilities. And there are the atheists in the south, who do not believe in these gods, and learn to control magic on their own; a slower and more varied magic than the creature building magic of the priests.

At the start of the book, though, there is a new emergence from the Void during the annual gathering of representatives from all the currently surviving churches. Three little girls, shabbily dressed, instead of a glorious being accompanied by fanfares. The assembled priests start squabbling about how best to dismember and use the children. One of the children gets ‘adopted’ by a priest who plans to see how she can use her as she grows up. One is thrown into the pits of despair, where body parts are harvested for the progeny. And one is snatched up by a priest who wants to save her, but ends up falling into a river, apparently killing them both.

My only complaint about this book is that it stops at the end of what would normally be the first act of a book. 250 pages are spent getting all the pieces in place to really start the story. I want the next book, and as soon as possible. The characters are all intriguing, even the ones who are too unpleasant to be liked. We’ve got an idea of the shape of the story to come, but are left hanging.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book to read from NetGalley. However, I plan to buy a copy when it is published in June

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