Book Review: Godsquad by Heide Goode, Iain M Grant

godsquadThe Team: 
Joan of Arc, the armour-plated teen saint of Orleans. 
Francis of Assisi, friend to all the animals whether they like it or not. 
St Christopher, the patron saint of travel who by papal decree has never existed – no matter how much he argues otherwise. 

The Mission:

An impossible prayer has been received by Heaven and it’s a prayer that only Mary, Mother of God, can answer. Unfortunately, Mary hasn’t been seen in decades and is off wandering the Earth somewhere. This elite team of Heavenly saints are sent down to Earth to find Mary before Armageddon is unleashed on an unsuspecting world. 
A breathless comedy road trip from Heaven to France and all points in-between featuring murderous butchers, a coachload of Welsh women, flying portaloos, nuclear missiles, giant rubber dragons, an army of dogs, a very rude balloon and way too much French wine.

Given to me by the authors in exchange for a review.  Published by Pigeon Park Press. Whilst the authors have previously written Clovenhoof and Pigeonwings, Godsquad is not exactly a sequel, just inhabiting the same universe.

Oh how to describe this book? Whirlwind? Madcap? Farce? Yes and certainly more.

Heaven has developed into a bureaucracy with the angels and saints obligated to do tasks relating to earth. There is a unit dedicated to Non Specific Prayers (Saint Christopher being one of the team and looking for a new challenge).  The unit get a rather difficult prayer directed to the Virgin Mary. There are two problems – Mary hasn’t been seen for centuries and the prayer is coming from someone *without a soul*, which is impossible.

Joan of Arc, Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Christopher are sent down to Earth to not only find Mary, but to deliver her to Simon (the soulless one). It is then the madness starts. None of the Heavenly crew are prepared for Earth in the 21st century. Joan is a naive yet fearless leader, unwise in the ways of men (especially when she keeps running into a certain English Detective); Francis is gullible, likes his wine and food too much and he is missing his wolf, who in turn is causing mayhem across Europe; Christopher has a number of good traits – being the patron saint of travel means they generally get where they need to be – but one main fault: since the Western Church says he probably never existed, people on earth cant see him (apart from those from the Orthodox Church who havent written him off – yet).

When they find Mary (which they do), she’s no longer – if she ever was – the beautiful, serene, mother of God. She is a cynical, chain smoking, drinking, swearing, anarchist feminist trying to overthrow the patriarchy. Unfortunately this has lead to some bad decisions with some very bad consequences for all – and the group needs to fix it before the End Of Days hits.

As Mary feels the need to remind people, this is who she sees she is:

I am Mary, Daughter of Joachim. Wife of Joseph. I am Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn. I am the Star of the Sea. I am the untier of fucking Knots

So the rest of the book is a mad cap dash across France, with the dynamic of the team changing at various times, and allowing a multi character face off with Simon and the French military at the end (with full blown metaphysical religious debate about free will and pre-determinism near the end).

There was a nice split between male and female characters, and the conversations between Mary and Joan shows several problems with Feminism, in that showing how you can do things in a man’s world, when do you stop becoming a woman and start pretending to be a man?

Christopher grew on me, when he stopped doing his “I carried Christ you know” routine and started taking part in resolving the issues. I’m not sure I liked Francis in the end, but his trying to interact with the creatures in the forest was amusing. Nice to dispel the hype about Mary – it’s always been a question as to “what happened next” after the Assumption!



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