"No one's love is truly unconditional"

I have been a fan of Eliza Victoria since coming across her novel Dwellers which is one of the most exciting psychological supernatural thrillers I have read, and it spanned only for less than two hundred pages! A year later I stumbled upon this, her latest book, and as fates would have it, I only carried enough money with me that also happens to be the exact amount that had enabled me to purchase this treasure. And it is one for the collection!

The reasons why I get excited about reading Eliza Victoria are (1) I don't usually connect with female fiction writers for some reason, save for Virginia Woolf and the CLAMP mangaka; (2) she is a Filipino author and a very talented one at that; and (3) the genre she writes in, which is urban fantasy, is something I believe she brings a lot of freshness of ideas into, particularly on the mythology of supernatural creatures and several folklores. 

Wounded Little Gods touches upon the polytheistic religion of Filipinos from the old times. Before we became a Catholic nation for the most part, Filipino ancestors pre-colonial times used to have many deities they worship and dedicate functions concerning nature such as weather and harvest, and this novel explores the idea that these deities still do live on, particularly in a remote fictional place called Heridos. But that was until a grave incident occurred which abruptly ended the communication and patronage between the gods and the people of Heridos.

Regina, this book's protagonist of sorts, comes home to Heridos after a co-worker of hers left her a piece of paper containing an enigmatic map and a few unfamiliar names before this co-worker disappeared. Rather curious about this baffling turn of events, Regina tracks down the names on the paper as well as other several clues which more or less feel like someone is purposely dropping these bread crumbs for her to find. The way the story unfolded both on Regina's end, and ultimately on the end of the unseen characters who will be later revealed as important players, has been executed fairly well. Victoria has built up the right amount of suspense to deliver a plot whose twists are subtle yet still memorable. 

I've noticed a common theme in her novels which are sibling relationships. Both in her previous works Dwellers as well as Project 17, a science fiction concerning memories and artificial intelligence, all have lead characters who are cousins or brothers. In Wounded Little Gods, the same theme occurs but this time between a brother and sister. I just think it's noteworthy to point out. I can't really say much about this book because it's rather short much like Dwellers, but the substance is worth the serving because Victoria's prose is a case of simplicity that denotes elegance. The way she weaves certain scenes and sentiments together makes her conflicts and the resolutions of them bittersweet and poignant, often relying on the impact of her characters' defeats and their small compensations at the end.

It might be easy to compare this to Neil Gaiman's American Gods because the concept of deities still living among humans while in disguise as one of them has been explored by Gaiman not just in said book but in his graphic novel series The Sandman too, but  that would be a tad unfair because Victoria's own version is unique in itself. Besides, it's also thrilling to see Filipino deities portrayed in fiction in a very compelling manner. Aside from the pagan religion and mythology aspects of this book, there is also a subplot concerning scientific research with questionable ethics that has been performed in Heridos and which ties with the more paranormal elements of the plot. I think they are inseparable more or less, and Victoria balanced them skilfully enough that the pay-off is something both satisfying and not.

Wounded Little Gods is essentially a story about what need and longing do to sentient beings who will never stop searching answers to their questions and gratification for their desires. It's a story about accepting that humanity always comes with its flaws and deceptions, but even divinity itself may not be as perfect as it may seem. The book also touches upon the value of not abusing knowledge and science, and to use one's enlightenment for the the benefit of others and not for their oppression. Written in brevity yet endurably engrossing down to the last page, Wounded Little Gods is yet another triumphant work for Eliza Victoria.



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