I've just finished J.S. Chancellor's "Son of Ereubus" and my initial reaction is that this is the type of book that gets you thinking. Although it's a fantasy, there is very little "sword and sorcery." Instead, it is a character driven work that follows the lives of several flawed and interesting individuals. The main narrative hooks are not inevitable showdowns between obvious representations of good and evil, but are instead created by the convoluted secrets and misconceptions that develop out of intimate, long-enduring relationships. It's a different kind of fantasy, but I'm sure that if you give it a chance, this book will grab you.
"Son of Ereubus" takes place in the midst of a raging war between the Ereubinians and the Adorians. Actually it's not so much a "war" as it is a "rout" because the Adorians seem to clearly be winning. The prize they're fighting over is the human race. Let's just say that the Ereubinians have developed a "taste" for humans, especially their souls which they remove at every opportunity. But the torment doesn't end there. Ereubinians are also prone to using the zombie-like, left-over, soulless human remains as servants/slaves/wives/random-objects-of-torture/etc., in short, Ereubinians are not very nice to humans.
The Adorians are more or less the people's champions, but they've affected a kind of disinterested viewpoint of late. As the novel begins, they seem sort of resigned to let the humans fend for themselves. I found this development of particular interest since Chancellor's description of Adorians is very similar to the traditional description of an angel. They have wings, a fair complexion, and some of them are said to be of "archorigen." Add to this the fact that the Adorian leader is Michael son of Gabriel and you'll find there is plenty of religious imagery to go around.
Chancellor uses this Biblical allusion wisely and doesn't really engage the charged imagery that floats throughout her pages directly. Instead, it's just there and it gives the whole novel a kind of regal feel. For some reason I kept imagining scenes like the "reunion of the gods" moments you find in films like "Clash of the Titans" (the older version of "Clash" was better by the way). I'm not 100% that I wasn't supposed to go a little farther with the significance of these images, but I didn't feel the narrative directed me to do so.
In the end, the Adorians take a back seat to the spunky Ariana. Ariana was raised among the humans, but her heritage is a bit murky. Suffice it to say that she ends up serving as a bridge between all three worlds, those of the Ereubinians, Adorians, and humans. Ariana is an interesting figure in that she is sometimes rebellious beyond reason. I can't tell if she actually is reckless, or if I just see her that way because I am getting old (probably the later). At times, she does seem a little bit out of control, but there is little doubt that the Adorians seem to need a good swift kick in the ass and Ariana is only too happy to oblige.
Another character who needs a kick in the ass (but of a more sinister variety) is Garren. Garren is the most powerful of the Ereubinians, and responsible for the greatest portion of pain and suffering that has befallen the humans in recent memory. Still, you know what they say about girls and "bad boys," and before you know it, Ariana's making more head-strong decisions that have the rest of the characters in the novel scratching their heads and pulling their swords (sometimes simultaneously).
In the end, "Son of Ereubus" is a story about heritage, history, romance and redemption (I guess when you put it that way, the religious back-drop makes perfect sense). By the time you reach the end of the book, much is revealed, but very little has been resolved. However, that's kind of the way life is isn't it? I'm not sure resolution is what Chancellor is aiming for in this book, and I would hesitate to suspect that it's going to be the focal point of the subsequent novels in this series. Instead, the purpose of "Ereubus" is to generate a tidal wave of human emotion, and to let the reader know that they can be swept along by it as long as they like. If a raw, wonderful, and convoluted experience is what you're looking for, then "Son of Ereubus" is the book for you!