The Left Hand of God: Review and Contest

Background

A nominally young adult novel set in a dystopian world that mirrors our own past, The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman is a book of impressive vision and puzzling inconsistencies that ultimately provides a gruesome, but highly enjoyable read.  The book follows the trials and travails of a young boy named Cale raised in a brutal dogmatic monastery of a twisted parody of Christianity.  His life is forever changed upon witnessing a deed horrifying even to his own warped perspective.

Setting

The world has a religious martyr named the Hanged Redeemer, but this isn’t the cuddly Crucified Martyr we all know.  The followers of this religion are engaged in a bloody civil war much like the Reformation period.  Very little information is given about what the differences are between the Redeemers and the Antagonists (who don’t appear on camera), but we can loosely assume that the Redeemers are dogmatic quasi-Catholics and the Antagonists are revolutionary thinking quasi-Protestants.  The Redeemers are headquartered at The Sanctuary, a place where children are taken from parents to be turned into brutal lifelong soldiers.  There they eat boiled feet (?), are made to recite prayers that lose all meaning, and suffer constantly brutality under at the hands of the Redeemers.  The book moves from the Sanctuary to the world at large, which is terrifying and awful in its indulgences rather than its depredations.  The ambiguous quasi-historical nature of the book is intriguing, if occasionally puzzling, while some of the plot holes in the cultural fabrics that inhabit the world is puzzling in a more aggravating way.  We’re told that the children eat terribly (and the feet of cadavers, potentially), yet they grow strong.  The world’s most powerful nation is made up of heavily armored nobles that refuse to field archers or siege weapons, but have virtually conquered the world.  These strange points annoy me, and perhaps will be answered later, but for now are quizzical stray steps from and otherwise dark quirky world.

Story

The story progresses linearly, with certain plot points withheld until they become relevant.  Other plot points are dangled at astute readers, but end up resulting in nothing.  Hopefully, this is because they become relevant in a sequel, but it’s frustrating when they’re handled so brazenly.  As for the parcels of story that come abruptly, the characters reluctance to disclose their full past is well-explained, but a few times this lack of information comes across as cheap.  It’s easy to forgive a bit of chicanery, as the characters are interesting.  The protagonist struggles between the harsh lessons of his life and the emerging gentler visions he sees.  His comrades are amusing, though more archetypal than well-developed.  The plot whisks along fast- sometimes too fast.  Again, huge plot points drop on the reader like exposition filled anvils from the sky.  It’s unsubtle, but it keeps the book from being dull.  The climax itself is bizarrely devoid of anything but forced character involvement and oddly precise compared to the brutal and visceral violence early in the book.  Yet, the aftermath of the book sets up a sequel in an interesting, and unexpected, way.

Overall

B-.  As with many fantasy series, this book exists as much to set the stage as tell a story on its own.  Despite my gripes, I found myself liking the story more the more I read.  Similar to The Darkness That Comes Before the book is not without its faults, but it does plenty enough to pique my curiosity for reading its sequel.  Check for a contest to give away some free copies of the novel.

The Left Hand of God Contest

You may have read the preceding review, or you may not have.  It doesn’t matter either way, because you can play the contest regardless. The book’s title sound suitably fantasyish, doesn’t it?  Well, that my friends is the basis of our contest.  Come up with a description for “The Left Hand of God” to be used in an RPG setting.  If it impresses our judges enough, you win a copy of the novel!  You can make it a plot hook, crunch it out as a 4E item, or even make it an NPC (perhaps it can hang out with the Atropal). Just leave your entry in a comment (or a link to your entry in a comment) to enter.

Contest opens today and ends by the end of Friday, August 20th. Panel of judges will select their top 5 entries, and each of those entrants will win a copy of the novel Left Hand of God. Entrants must provide a valid email address to be eligible so we can contact the winners. Entries can be disqualified at our sole discretion (especially if they infringe upon existing content.)

Comments

  1. I started a wave for mine, should I transfer it some place else or do you want to send me your e-mails and I will invite you to the wave when it is complete?

  2. We want to share the entries with the world, so you’ll have to post your entry somewhere you can link to it in the comments to be eligible.

  3. Adventure Hook and Magic item idea:
    Background: The left hand of God would refer to the judgment of God, where as Christ sat on the right hand and appears to most to be a peaceful & meek aspect of God. It would refer to several elements that the church has collected as evidence of God’s wrath against His wayward children and the enemies of his chosen. These items would include the whip Christ fashioned in the market in the outer temple, the flaming sword of the angel who guarded Eden after the fall, a clay lamp with flame lit from the fire that destroyed Sodom & Gomorrah, the noose that Judas hung himself with, the shackles that were used to chain Samson to the columns in the Philistine hall, the coins held back by Ananias & Sapphira and the Ark of the Covenant. All the items are believed to kill the possessor if they are less than reverent towards the God of Abraham.
    The story goes that these items are separately possessed by the church and that each church building that houses one of these items and the parishioners that attend those churches are protected because God sees the judgment that has already been placed there and either overlooks transgressions that do not equate with the punishment that was already meted out or that God says that the people are being reverent because of their knowledge of God’s wrath and they are obedient as a result. The one item in this list that the church is uncertain of where it is located is the Ark of the Convent, which is believed to be hidden in a secret temple in Israel protected by Jewish monks.
    There is also controversy between the clergy on whether they should hold on to these items of Sin & Wrath or if the items should be destroyed because of the contrast with God’s unconditional love.

    Main adventure hook: There is a coming war, the primordials, lesser gods, demons, devils, and aberrant creatures are looking for the Left Hand Of God items to use them as tools to weaken or hide from the God of Abraham and other beings. The adventurers are trusted to retrieve the items and return the elements to the protection of the College of Bishops. (Why the adventurers are trusted will have to be developed between the players and DM, before this adventure starts.) The adventures will have to travel from church to church with documentation stating the requirement for them to transfer the elements to the College of Bishops. There will be some church leaders who will be suspicious because of the controversy between the clergy about the validity of the items or whether the church is in the wrong for holding on to these items because use of each item could be viewed as a sign to a wicked generation. Some of the items may have been entrusted to someone who has already attempted to destroy the item at their site or are in the employ of an aberrant creature as a warlock who is trying to transfer the item to their patron.
    The adventurers will also have to convince the Jewish monks to turn over the Ark of the Convent. This should be an extremely difficult Skill Challenge, because the monks will be considered God’s chosen and will be protecting one of the elements so combat will not be able to work to resolve this conflict.

    (If the DM’s world doesn’t have the God of Abraham then the adventurers could discover along the way that these items were created by other lesser beings that the church believes to be in opposition to the God of Abraham and slowly build a case for their being no God of Abraham.)
    [That is my rough idea.]
    Hope it is found to be good, B. Lynn.

  4. The left hand of god: A magic item that a god lost a long time ago when his left hand was cut off…It really sucked too because he was left handed. Anyone who acquires the hand can write any language and becomes left handed. It is however very sought after because god still had all of his bling on the hand. Stuff like: Magic ring of cool beards +4,pure godness ring of sell this and you will be rich +1, and of course a mood ring. Unfortunately it is lost to all but legend and ambidextrous dwarfs(no not the race) with different colored eyes. So good luck!
    Yes that is my submission. 🙂

  5. Left Hand of God: a Paragon path suitable for the Avenger Class. As part of its benefits, you can augment any of your Daily Powers as a free action to do double damage, but only against your Oath of Enmity.

  6. Left Hand of God: Magic Item
    Only one in the world, it gives the user a complete immunity to radiant damage and totaly control over all angels. Any disciples of God whom see it instantly showe reverance to the wearer, but still retain somewhat jaded free will.
    Gives the wearer telepathy 20.
    the Hand can also funtion as a Holy symbol, but is an enchanted spiked gauntlet. In-Game it is only the left hand. All divine powers used through it deal full damage. All divine classes are automaticly proficent. (I dont know off the top of my head if they all already are)

    Thats my submission! sounds interesting. I wouldnt mind reading it.

  7. sorry, i have a few edits.

    The Bearer has control of all angels s/he can see or telepathicly communicate with. If, upon the bearer not being able to stay with the angel after he has given it an order and it does not wish to execute it, it does so anyway. (save ends)
    Aftereffect: It continues to do so. (save ends)

    The Bearer sheds bright light radius 5. No one can benefeit from Concealment with in 10 squares of the Bearer, and Supieor Concealment becomes Concealment.

  8. Joseph S. says:

    My idea for what the Left Hand of God would be is a major plot hook in a story, hope you like it.

    The Left Hand of God was a prophecy about a being that would bring peace and stability to the land, but in an almost apocalyptic battle. The church (any that’s applicable) is divided on the issue; one camp is fearful of the Left Hand of God because of the destruction and death that “it” will bring and want to stop “it” at any cost, the latter sees the Left Hand of God as a necessity to purge the land of evil.

    The PCs could be hired by either faction of the church to find the Left Hand of God and either dispatch “it” or bring The Hand back to the church. It can range from a reluctant farm kid in a random town to a high ranking soldier to one of the PCs (over the course of many play sessions and DM’s discretion). Quests can span from calming a riot in a town to stopping someone who claims to be The Hand and that could open up conspiracies to battling either faction of the church.

  9. Adventure Hook~~The Left Hand of God is a Secret Society run by a religious organization (i.e. “The Church”). Purpose: To guide the politics of the kingdoms through subtle means (e.g.–rumours, character defamation, assassinations). However, the old adage holds true: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. These services, once used for the furtherance of religious advancement, are now quietly offered to rich patrons, regardless of their political or religious alliances.

    Here is where our young heroes come in. Perhaps they are targets of the Left Hand of God, and must survive, or are made aware of attempts on their Monarch’s life. On the other hand, they could be the assassins sent out to “fix” a problem. Outright murder isn’t the only option anymore. Court intrigue is a path they may choose. Perhaps start a war between two nations, or a civil war to weaken a country threatening the power of “The Church.” Then again, maybe they realize that they are the tools of men, and not of God anymore, and decide to take on the system from within.

  10. Christopher U. says:

    Adventure Hook

    “The Right Hand doesn’t know what the Left Hand is doing”

    A powerful lawful good deity has grown sick of the corruption infecting his Church and faithful members. Without warning, he sends an avatar to cleanse the corrupt from their positions of power through a series of extremely gruesome murders designed to create fear in the corrupt members of the Church. The murder scenes always contain a sheet of parchment listing the victims sins and a warning to those that would walk the same path.

    The Church believes the killings to be the workings of another faith, and call in investigators to track down the killer. The players are Church enforcers tasked with discovering who is performing the murders and to stop further murders from happening.

    The players may start to investigate the activities of the remaining leadership in an attempt to discern who the next most corrupt member is, this would allow them to use that leader as bait to catch the killer. When they do encounter the killer, it is unlike anything they have ever seen before. Research done in the depths of the catacombs of the Church reveals the creature as the Left Hand of God, a powerful avatar sent by their God to return the Church to it’s true path of righteousness.

    Can the players be sure they won’t be targeted? Will the players help the avatar or will they fight it? When the dust settles, will the players uphold the teachings of the faith and usher it into a new era of prosperity?

  11. Left Hand of God, wondrous magic item

    The Left Hand of God is part of a set of simple looking gloves, with the holy symbol of the god (DM’s choice, can be and alignment, though Chaotic is best) stitched along the cuff.

    Once a day the wearer can activate the glove, and an exact duplicate of the wearer is created. The only difference between the two beings is the original is wearing the right hand glove, and the duplicate is wearing the left. The two beings can now split up and be twice as effective. There is no mental communication between them. If the duplicate tries to tell the original what he/she has been up too, the original immediately forgets the knowledge (a third party can fill him or her in). The two will join up, the memories of the duplicated being lost, when the sun next sets or rises (which ever is first). The effect can also be ended early if the two beings clasp their gloved hands together.

    Sorry Chris U., I guess we both worked off the same commonly known quote.

  12. Christopher U. says:

    No worries Jason K. they say great minds think alike.

  13. Conjuration (Creation)
    Level: Cleric 9
    Components: V, S
    Casting Time: 1 standard action
    Range: Long (400 ft. + 40 ft./level)
    Effect: Caster
    Duration: 1 round + 1 round per three levels
    Saving Throw: None
    Spell Resistance: No

    When the divine caster casts the left hand of god, during the duration they are provided with DR 25/-. They are surrounded by a divine and powerful light which will shine as the morning dawn.

    The left hand of god will make the divine caster an emboidment of their diety, protected in their mission, to carry out the will of god.

    The divine caster is limited in their use of this effect, and before it can be cast again must have successfully completed a Geas spell, per the 6th level divine spell.

  14. Congratulations to Joseph S, Christopher U, Jason K, Ashockey, and Richard – the winners of our Left Hand of God contest!

    Thanks to everyone who entered, we look forward to doing more contests like this in the near future so keep a look out!