Black God's War is a story propelled by human ambition and desire for cultural dominance, and ambiguous heroes choosing paths sometimes based on misunderstanding and poor information. It's war, and military intelligence is not always what it seems. Faith and Spirituality is a character in this story, as much as Caio, Rao and Lucia. One side, (the Rezzian) has a much more personal interaction with their pantheon of Gods; there's a lyrical scene where Caio ceremonially chooses, or is chosen by, his patron god. In contrast, the Pawelons – a primarily non-theist nation - give lip service to the concept of personal responsibility and profess disbelief in a more personal type of mystical worship of Gods, and yet, they also display an incredibly strong “faith” in the abilities they develop through meditation. It's an adept and respectful handling of spiritual variance, and I appreciated that. I loved the character of Lucia. She's strong, smart and interesting. As a female long-time reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy, I think I've read every permutation of overwrought, emotional and incompetent female character a man can write. Lucia is anything but incompetent, and even better, she is still emotional, but contextually so. She's passionate, a leader, and her actions have reasons. It's beautiful. She's not a stock male character rewritten to be a woman, she's the kind of intentional woman character that makes you believe that the writer is surrounded by strong, capable, intelligent women, and has taken the time to listen and learn what strengths, motivations, and ideas these qualities drop in his lap for the content of his story. I found this to be the best piece of Black God's War.I'm torn by whether or not I wanted more fleshing out of the Gods. On the one hand, I think it's an important idea that we are driven by our own desires far more than the desires of our Deities. King Vieri wants to conquer, and he will do anything to accomplish that, even if it places him in direct conflict with the goals of his Gods. The ease at which he drowns out their direction rings true throughout the story. On the other hand, you have a Pantheon of higher beings that work as a single unit, each reflective of a different concept, with different supernatural abilities, which they can confer on their devotees. There are glimpses of a much larger story here. Why are these Beings so interested in this one protracted war? Why are they seemingly unconcerned with a whole nation that denies their existence? Why are they so incredibly powerful in battle, but with the exception of Danato, apparently so unable to directly influence any of their own people? I wanted to know this story.That brings me to my only real complaint about the telling of this story. Even though I personally love a “wordy” story, I can't even count the number of epic-style fantasy stories I've read that were horrendously overwritten (*ahem* Jordan *cough*) sometime to the degree that I couldn't finish. Still, there is something to be said for the kind of writing that envelopes you in a world, and builds a universe in the mind. I want to feel the heat of the sand coming up through my sandals, and smell the stone and earth. I wish to see the citadel and hear the tent fabric flapping when the breeze comes up. I need to know about the sweat running down his back as he's locked in mortal combat, and the fear in his eyes, and the feel of the horses gathering up their muscles for the gods-powered burst of battle speed. This story provides some of that, the combat scenes have a life of their own, but many of the other parts of the story feel like they were edited too closely. The soul of the story – the personal conflicts and relationships – were somewhat constrained, and left me wanting more development. Draw me a picture, I want to see it all. Maybe that's really too picky for a debut novel. Maybe I'm criticizing because I liked it so much. Maybe it just didn't otherwise feel like a debut. And yet, it's not a short novel, nearly 400 pages in the print edition, and I've started to really sour on the 700 page epic series debut. So maybe this accomplishes what a first in series should do – give me a story and a tease. It certainly does that, and whatever/whenever Splendor and Ruin, Book 2 exists, you can be sure I will be reading it.