With its traditional medieval-era-plus-magic formula, we expected The Pagan Night to be enjoyable but formulaic.
In the first few chapters, that’s what you get. The reader is thrown into standard fantasy, with people, places and factions all pelted at you to make sure you know this is a real world, brimming with all kinds of life and history, while grounding us with things we recognise.
It’s tricky to get right, and in its first few chapters The Pagan Night doesn’t do a great job. It’s forgivable, though; it feels as though perhaps author Tim Akers has spent many thousands of hours living in this world, and is insistent on sweeping you up in it.
However, the powerful men obtusely discussing events and performing underhand deeds whose significance has yet to be revealed soon give way to the meat of the story, and as more characters are introduced, the book loses its ties to genre tropes.
The Pagan Night follows several characters and their stories as the tensions between regions build through military campaigns, skirmishes and full-scale battles, fights with wild and insane gods that haunt the land, a ruling Church with mysterious intentions and the Pagan followers breaking away from that. You might not relate to any of the characters, but you will certainly be interested in finding out what happens to them next.
We would have loved the first few chapters to have been more engaging, and the world sticks to a heteronormative template, but ultimately The Pagan Night builds up beautifully, creating a riveting world.