“Revenge, lust, ambition, pride, and self-will are too often exalted as the gods of man's idolatry; while holiness, peace, contentment, and humility are viewed as unworthy of a serious thought.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
'Calling and the Cull' by August Li is the fifth book of the ‘Blessed Epoch’ series. It begins approximately ten years after the previous book ended. The war is over, but the truce is tenuous. Knowing that the armies of the thirteen goddesses is growing and King Garith's Blessed Epoch is in danger of being taken by force, Octavian Rose and his lover, D'Aurlian, travel to the Twenty Nine to seek out Yarrow's advice about how to proceed.
When Octavian and his men get to Yarrow's domain, they are somewhat shocked at first at the life they find in this magical near paradise. With its carefree people, relaxed sexual activities, and its intrinsic beauty it is not difficult to see why anyone would feel like they are in paradise and why they would never want to leave. Still, they are not sure how anxious Yarrow will be to see them. Surprisingly, Yarrow welcomes them with open arms. When Octavian tells them about what's happening with the goddesses, it throws Yarrow into a fit of rage that only his lover, Sasha, can diminish. Yarrow despises the goddesses who, although powerful, are not immortal beings at all, but women who have gained so much knowledge and magic, stolen from their husband. He abhors that people still worship these “whores” as he calls them and has pledged to destroy them all and heal the pure magic polluted by these beings.
Octavian isn't the only person who has come to support Yarrow in his quest to overcome the goddesses and their followers. His lovers, Duncan and Sasha, are there, and later they are also joined by others. Yarrow doesn't adhere to King Garith's truce or any of the rules his cousin has given. He has also warned the Johmatran ships to stay away from his islands. Partly to test Octavian's loyalty, he asks him and his men to help the Emiri raid the ship to discover what they are carrying. When word of the attack comes to King Garith, he has no choice but to demand that Yarrow come in person to face the charges. The results of this meeting only cause more trouble, putting King Garith in an impossible position: attack the Twenty Nine or face civil war between his army and that of the temple. With a heavy heart, he gives the order to invade. This is what Yarrow and his followers are expecting and prepare for as much as they can.
This volume answers as many questions as it raises in the continuation of this epic tale. The world building continues to be fantastic; the familiar characters and on-going plots are well wrought, along with new characters and circumstances being seamlessly woven into the action. There's no way I can do justice to the story in the space allotted in this review. There are so many new characters, relationships, information, and understanding that it would take several pages even to scratch the surface. This is definitely not a stand-alone book. Fans of the series will love it. Since there is so much knowledge gained from the previous books, those of you new to the series would be lost without first catching up. Thanks, Gus, for offering me another awesome part of one of my favorite high fantasy stories ever!