Miserere by Teresa Frohock

Posted On 4 March 2013

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Wow, Teresa Frohock’s debut novel Miserere is an excellent read.  I loved it and was torn between racing to the end to find out what was going to happen next and wanting to savour each word.  I love a book that just takes my attention from the first chapter and holds it throughout and, more than that, when the last page is complete makes me want to go back and start again from the first page.

There’s a lot going on here with new concepts and a unique world and yet the way the story unfolds is both simple and compelling.  Don’t be mistaken by that though.  This is an adult fantasy without a doubt.  It’s dark and sinister filled with political intrigue, battles between good and evil, torture, love, betrayal and more than that the search for redemption.  I don’t know how TF manages to fit such a lot in to be honest!

Miserere brings us Heaven and Hell but with the extra plain of Worlde which acts as a buffer between the realms of Earth and Hell.  Worlde is a plain where warriors both male and female battle against evil to prevent the demons from Hell taking over.  It all sounds very religious when written down like that but, whilst the story does rely on a lot of symbolism, this isn’t a religious novel or at all preachy and indeed doesn’t particularly focus on any one creed but more looks at faith and hope and trust in the divine.  With that in mind we have the age old concept of good against evil where the dark and twisted join forces with the corrupt in order to further their quest for domination and it all makes for an amazing story laced with horror and creepiness.

The novel starts with the main protagonist Lucien, being held captive by his sister Catarina.  Once upon a time Lucien would do anything to protect his sister, even betraying his own true love Rachael and leaving her in Hell at the tender mercies of the demons in order to save Catarina.  His punishment was banishment from the Citadel and everything holy and from ever again using his powers.  Lucien has however learnt that his sister needs him to help open the Gates to Hell and as long as he refuses she will torture and abuse him.  In his bid to escape Lucien becomes aware that a foundling has crossed through the Veil separating Earth from Worlde and has unwittingly crossed into Hell.  In order to help save this young innocent he will have to break his promise to never again open the Gates.  In doing so he will be pursued by not only Catarina and her hounds from hell but from the people he once held dear.

What I really liked about this novel is the characters.  None of them are perfect and this makes them seem so very real.  Lucien lives with his guilt.  He’s been weakened over the years not to mention crippled by his sister’s torturers.  He is wracked with guilt about Rachel who he still loves!  Rachael is a great character.  Really strong and able to use her wits, even though she constantly as to battle against the evil nestling inside her skull.  She also battles with her own self recriminations for the part she played in her capture and also feels guilt about whether she can hold onto the good within her for much longer.  Catarina is hideous.  She’s sunk so low already that shedding the few remaining feelings of compassion and love feel easy for her and yet she still seeks the love of Lucien and is tortured by jealousy.  These characters are all so well written that you can picture them and love them or hate them accordingly.  Definitely a character driven story where the histories of each will gradually become apparent and the level of deception truly revealed.

The other aspect I liked and was completely unprepared for was the introduction of a young girl from Earth being sucked into the story.  I had no idea how that would play out and yet TF manages to pull this off very gracefully.  We have a slightly sulky and modern day female accompanying Lucien on his ordeals.  You could be forgiven for thinking this would be difficult to pull off what with all the differences in dress, times, traditions, speech – but in fact this acts as a way to allow us to learn that whilst Earth is ignorant of Worlde and the role they play the same can’t be said for Worlde.  Worlde has a knowledge of Earth and the way it’s inhabitants speak and behave, in fact a lot of the inhabitants of Worlde formally lived on Earth.  Luckily Lindsay is also a fairly sturdy character dealing with things in her stride and coping with things admirably.  She’s not a moaner or hysterical at the first sign of trouble and she soon forms an attachement to Lucien, as her teacher and saviour, which makes the two of them very easy to read about.

On top of all that there’s an abundance of creativity with the horror stick!  All I can say is what on earth was that thing in the jar in the cellar!  I know that’s a bit of a teaser to say and then leave alone but I just don’t want to spoil anything.  The dark and sinister creatures really are horrible – not that they’re ugly in appearance (although some of them are) so much as twisted and downright evil.  And yet that doesn’t make the warriors who fight against the evil all whiter than white.  They are also harsh.  They live in hard times and the codes that they are governed by are uncompromising.

So, although there are no easy comebacks, this is definitely a book of second chances.  I started off thinking how could Lucien ever be forgiven and ended up thinking how could Rachael not forgive him.  Talk about your turn arounds!  Anyway, in my defence I defy anyone to not like Lucien!!

In terms of criticisms – I didn’t want the book to end.  I wanted to spend more time in Worlde with Rachael and Lucien.  In fact I was sad to finish this today but then really pleased to discover not soon after that this is the first in a trilogy so I will in fact get my wish to return after all.  I just hope it doesn’t take too long.

A great dark fantasy and made all the more outstanding because it’s a debut!

I will be submitting this for my March Worlds Without End reading challenge.  Details here.

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9 Responses to “Miserere by Teresa Frohock”

  1. TBM

    Sounds great. And I can’t stand novels with perfect characters. To be honest, I can’t stand perfect people in real life either. This might be because I always have stains on my shirt.

    • lynnsbooks

      Ha, I love that! You always have stains on your shirt. It’s the sort of thing that I do but don’t realise so go to work with toothpaste on my chin or have my blouse on inside out! I have also been known to wear odd shoes and I almost always were odd socks – although that’s more of a necessity in this house as Dude likes to play with peoples’ socks, especially when they’ve been worn. Yuk.
      Lynn 😀

  2. barbarafriendish

    Also, Teresa is an awesome person and a fascinating speaker. If you ever get a chance to see her at a con, go.

    • lynnsbooks

      I certainly would after reading this. I thought it was a really good story and she has a lovely way with words that just spin the story into something really compelling.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Redhead

    I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Miserere, I’ve got to give it a try, and soon.

    Characters who are deeply flawed people? a thing in a jar?

    sign me up, and sign me up NOW.

    • lynnsbooks

      I confess that I thought I’d picked up the recommendation for this book from you! I really enjoyed it and can’t wait for the next. I know, a thing in a jar…
      Think I must have got this from the Ranting Dragon then.
      Guess what just came in the post – these are ones from you – The Hum and the Shiver, Agatha H and the Airship, Range of Ghosts and the Anvil of the World!! Plus I picked up two Robin Hobbs on really good offer, Something Wicked this Way Comes and Rot and Ruin. Happy Days!
      Lynn 😀

  4. You will, you will, you will… | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Miserere by Teresa Frohock – same challenge as above and another great book that I would have missed out on. […]

  5. My best reads for 2013 | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Miserere by Teresa Frohock – I loved this book, such an unusual world created, very gripping indeed. […]

  6. Highly recommended… | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Miserere by Theresa Frohock –  I loved it and was torn between racing to the end to find out what was going to happen next and wanting to savour each word.  I love a book that just takes my attention from the first chapter and holds it throughout and, more than that, when the last page is complete makes me want to go back and start again from the first page. […]

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