Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


A novel by Alan Campbell
(2009, Bantam Spectra)

The Deepgate Codex, book 3

A young angel, last of a dying race, teams up with an assassin, as a master poisoner steals souls to turn him superhuman, and the religious prefect keeps the secret that his faith is built on something different from what the church has been teaching.


-- First reading (ebook)
February 19th to March 4th, 2017


I found this book a little less strange than the previous ones. I liked the way they traveled through time as an adventure, but the journey didn’t justify the resolution, especially in the many false timelines that we encounter, which are treated as real.

Spoiler review:

When the last book ended, the world was in trouble. King Menoa had broken out of Hell and was rampaging around with his Iron Angels, one of which is inhabited by Dill, the angel from Scar Night. Thousands of people had just died, and the blood allows Menoa to advance with his army of the dead.

Unfortunately, I don’t understand Menoa’s intentions. Why did he stop advancing, only sending his arconites out to capture Dill? Suddenly he retreated to his castle in Hell, and the only part of his army we spy are the ones chasing Dill.

Regardless, this story now only takes two points of view, and it’s fortunate that they are interesting. In one, Rachel, the spine assassin, is trying to get away from the Iron Angels with Dill. She’s sent on a mission to find the god of clocks, Sabor, so they can find the entrance to Heaven, which was locked thousands of years ago.

The other plot is more of an adventure story, with not much to show for it. Again, it’s fortunate that it was fun to navigate the waters of Hell with John Anchor and Harper. But in the end, did it mean anything? Did they contribute only to the wiped-out timeline? The epilog seems to show that they are still alive, but we are also told that the false timelines will fade away as they become unstable. Does this mean that Carnival will never be born, because Ulcis was never thrown out of Heaven? She’s the last character we seen in the series, so I’m not sure.

Anchor and Harper’s story seems completely independent and unrelated to what’s happening in the world above. Harper willingly enters Hell so that she can find her dead husband’s soul. Archer is following the bloody souls, trying to find Menoa to end his reign for good. Instead, he finds a young girl, who guides them in her submarine through Hell to a store where people can buy souls to become different people. Archer, who eats souls all the time, doesn’t have any transformation when he drinks the seller’s souls. They find the river of souls, sort of an underground that is bypassing Menoa’s evil ways. It’s a strange thing in a strange landscape.

Meanwhile, John is still attached by the giant rope to Cospinol’s flying city, so as he walks below the foundation of Hell, the rope crashes through the buildings there, ripping them apart. It’s probably the funniest part of the trek through this dreary place.

Eventually, Carnival gets loose from the pressure cooker she’s been held captive within since last book, and in a surprising move, kills Cospinol, one of the gods. She then moves on to John Archer, but he defeats her. The river rises up in her form, and she battles with it as well, until they reach a stalemate, and agree to attack Menoa’s castle together.

Menoa captures Carnival, and shows her her real face and body, untortured, but she rejects this, and escapes again. In the middle of this next battle, the world changes, due to the events taking place around the god of clocks.

Cospinol sends Mina and Rachel to find the god of clocks, Sabor, whom I believe is the only remaining son of heaven, until it’s revealed that Menoa is a half-god who took over Hell and bent his will to destroying his half-brothers. They ride in Dill’s archon body, finding his trapped spirit, until they come to a tavern, which they take with them, and a gang of woodsmen, who end up working for Menoa after all. But Rachel doesn’t know this, and they agree these people might be able to help them defeat Menoa. They have with them the tortured glass god Hasp, who remains drunk through the entire book because Menoa infected him with a parasite that can take over his body. Ouch.

A lot of these chapters take place in the tavern, as Rachel comes to grips with her decisions to keep Dill and Hasp alive at all costs. Once again, I liked the way she can move incredibly fast while moving little pieces so that her friends stay alive. But when she arrives at the next village, things start to fall apart, and not just for Rachel. The book has a sudden change in tone and plot. I didn’t dislike it; it just felt awkward.

When it was revealed that Sabor can help people travel back in time, it became obvious what the strange things Rachel was noting were due to her having tampered with time. The battle at the shore is convoluted from both points of view, and unfortunately the tampering with time didn’t do too much to make it more interesting. Rachel just helped everything come to pass, by warning the villagers about the archons. I think it could have been made so much more interesting as she struggled to get things to turn out right. As it is, this version of Rachel kills herself so that her capture can’t be used to force Dill to help Menoa. We are led to believe that this timeline will peter itself out eventually, so it seems completely meaningless.

Meanwhile, in the standard timeline, Dill’s archon body is destroyed, and his spirit is apparently freed. What happened to the others that were trapped in the glass ball with him? Regardless, Dill is now a ghost. The rest of the book (aside from the parts that take place in Hell) takes place in Sabor’s castle, or not far from it. His castle exists outside of time. It’s never explained how this can happen, but it doesn’t matter. Each of the thousands of rooms in the castle can transport somebody to some point in the past (and maybe the future?). Of course, this creates alternate timelines, so it’s hard to remember which one is the base point.

Suffice it to say that Sabor comes up with a plan to go back to the beginning, just after the sons tried to take control of Heaven and were thrust out. Menoa, half-brother, leaves Heaven willingly. Apparently, he also came back to this point at one time, and split the timeline in two, such that there are now two main timelines, which is weakening both. Sabor takes Rachel, Mina, Hasp and the ghost Dill back with him, and they encounter traps and closed rooms as they go further back in time. I liked the manservant who duplicates himself, filling the castle with copies of himself until it gets really crowded. It’s pretty funny, until his numbers begin to dwindle again as they get murdered.

The climax comes as they get back to the start of the split timeline, and are captured by the forest men from the tavern, and brought to the gate of Heaven. As a young Menoa leaves the gate, and starts killing people, Rachel uses her accelerated speed to enter the gate and meet with Ayen. Ayen is tired, Heaven is dead -at which time period is this? It seems to me this is in the present again (does Heaven react to time?), as the only way it would die is from being closed off for so long. I don’t see it as being dead at the end of the attempted overthrow.

The ending was a bit disappointing, as Ayen merely forgives her sons, and everyone agrees to forgive and forget, Menoa included. They hope they can make things better the next time.

So while the book was fun in some respects, and I enjoy time-traveling most of the time, I never really got the sense of the characters actions as a whole, or what they meant to the story, especially the storyline in Hell. Rachel was well-used, especially in her super-speed, and her affections for Dill. The others in her storyline were along for the ride, and as the book neared its end, the ride was all that really mattered.


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