Kagee, the High Cantor of Asterism, is from Agatay, a planet at constant war with itself. Over generations, they have worked to destroy one another, breeding violence and hatred into their children, along with xenophobia. Kagee had to sneak pirated copies of godsong, knowing that to be found with them might be his life, but they were one of his few escapes from the life he lived as a pawn — of his people, of his bloodline, and of his fate. It’s a small miracle that Kagee was able to leave Agatay and enter into the Divinity. He is the only one of his planet to ever do so … but it turns out that miracle was only the first.
The Diarchs of Agatay have made a request of the Dyesi: they would like a dome installed on Agatay, a large one. And a live performance from Asterism. Kagee has worshipers there, worshipers who speak of peace and an end to the endless wars, of rebuilding their space ports and welcoming in alien races again. Quietly, discretely, the Dyesi have also been in talks about Fortew and his crudlung. It’s a disease that the doctors of Agatay are familiar with, and while they promise nothing, any hope of keeping Fortew alive — of keeping Tillam together — is worth the risk.
And there is risk. Kagee warns the Dyesi, even though they choose not to hear, that his planet isn’t at peace, even if there is a momentary truce, and a building as large as a dome filled with gods would make a compelling target. The Dyesii are confident; no one has ever attacked a dome. No one ever could. Once a race achieves Enlightenment, they would never be able to dream of it.
This is Phex’s first time hearing that term. How fortunate for him Missit’s parents are there to explain it — parents who gave their child to the Dyesi to raise as a god in exchange for being allowed to study godsong. Parents Phex hates at first sight.
This is the third and final book in the Tinkered Starsong series and — like the first — focuses heavily on world building, both with the planet of Agatay, the building of a dome and Kagee’s reunion with his people, and the Dyesi themselves, as Phex and Missit make a journey to Dyesi prime. Phex and Missit are still trying (though not too hard) to hide their growing romance from the Dyesi acolytes who insist that there be no sexual contact between members of the pantheons. They demand their gods be celibate, and I found that explanation to be very well done. In fact, I have loved the Dyesi from the first book, and am pleased that there is more of their rich culture shown in this book.
I will say, the first chapter starts a bit rough, and it feels as though Phex has taken a giant step backwards in character growth as events of the previous book are touched upon. The chapter also feels cluttered, as it seems like every character has to make an appearance and make a comments, both to add to the conversation and to sum up their personality one one sound bite. However, by the second chapter things smoothed out and, while Phex still had a chapter or two of feeling a little different in his characterization to me, it didn’t take long before he caught up.
Phex is, as he has always been, a worrier. As someone who grew up with no family and no real friends, the ones he has now — Missit, Asterim, the Dyesi — are vitally important to him. They help shape him and he has defined himself by being the person he thinks they want him to be. Strong, capable, perfect. He cares for them because he loves them, but can’t always see that their care, in turn, is their love returned. Even in his pantheon, Phex holds back a little, knowing that it’s very likely the Dyesi will take him away from them to fill the bleeding wound in Tillam, if Fortew doesn’t get better.
With the potential medical care on Agatay, that threat — and that promise — feel on the edge of being answered. If Fortew recovers, Missit and Tillam will return to their tours and Asterim to theirs, which makes his time with Missit more valuable. If, however, it doesn’t work, his time with Asterim might end, and he would have to leave his new family behind to follow MIssit, which makes his time with them all the more valuable. Phex, though, chooses to close his eyes and his ears and simply move forward. There’s no point wondering what the Divinity will do; they will or they won’t and he has no say in the matter.
The romance between Phex and Missit takes a turn as, of course, they are caught. While their familiar acolytes might have turned blind eyes to Missit crawling into Phex’s bed, his lap, his arms … they have new acolytes strongly aware of the importance of the creation of a new dome, acolytes who don’t choose to ignore what’s under their noses.
Without Missit’s constant performative displays of love, using the power he holds over Phex as one of the highest and brightest gods in the Dyesi possession, without his entitlement and whining and teeth blindingly perfect showmanship … his love feels more genuine. His heartbreak, his confusion, his rage at being denied the one thing he truly wanted, being told no by the Dyesi who have never refused him anything, his hurt felt so much more real. I didn’t like Missit in book two (Demigod 12), and I’m still not fond of the character — but I appreciate how well he is written and how real he feels.
The romance is a strong thread running alongside the plot, which is also well done. While answers are given to some things, such as the Dyesi, they are incomplete answers. Enough to fill in the necessary plot of the story — only so much, and no more. Thematically, this is a strong ending to the series. The thoughts and conversations on love, connection, grief, and loss are beautifully expressed, as ever:
He thought if they were both pitchers pouring out love, they might pour it easily back and forth into each other so that neither ever ran dry.
The characters are strong, the writing is perfectly purple — neither too lurid nor too spare — and the plot and pacing are spot on. I very much enjoyed this book and hope you will, too.