In Midnight’s Silence by Teresa Frohock

In Midnight’s Silence is a short story which brings to us a wonderfully strange world where Angels, Daimons and Los Nefilim roam amongst us.

The main characters of the story are Diago, Miguel and Raefael and the story starts in Seville during the 1930’s.  At the start of the story Diago returns to his apartment to find evidence of a struggle and his partner Miguel missing.

I’m not really going to elaborate on the plot but will say this is incredibly easy to read.  The writing flows well and appears effortless and Frohock manages to bring to us a strange tale of abduction and threat, filled with revelations and creatures of myth and lore with a number of new elements brought into the equation for good measure.

Hidden in plain sight are Angels, Daimons and Los Nefilim (characters born of a liaison between angel and human who act as a sort of police agency controlling the Daimon’s behaviour).

So, apart from the excellent writing which contains a wealth of imagination making it difficult to believe that this is only a short story (100/130 ish pages I think) what else did I love about this story.  Well, firstly, having read Miserere and the Broken Road I can unequivocally state that the author is an expert at conjuring other worlds populated with creatures straight from hell!  Speaking of which, her books always seem to have a religious theme and yet they never have a ‘preachy’ feel.  She has a great ability to literally suck you into whatever situation she creates and she manages to write these deliciously creepy elements along the way that will have you looking over your shoulder as you read!  I particularly love the scenes with the Golem.

In terms of characters we have this wonderful blurring of the lines between good and bad where the angels in the story come off a little less ‘angelic’ than you might expect. Okay, the Daimons are pretty much a bunch of nasty characters as you would expect but even so!  The surprise element of the book is that Diago is neither Angel or Daimon but a combination of the two.  Up to this point he’s refused to take sides but this is about to change.

On top of this the story brings up some really interesting and new (for me at least) ideas in terms of the immortality/rebirth of angels and the carrying over of scars from a previous life.

This is a book very much about choices – difficult and heart wrenching choices and impossible situations that you really can’t see a good ending to.

The only criticism that I can make is that I wanted more – luckily there is more to follow so that’s basically a win!

I received a copy of this from the author.  The above is my own opinion.

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The Broken Road by Teresa Frohock

Just finished reading The Broken Road by Teresa Frohock which is a cunning novella in that it manages to combine urban fantasy and horror and bring to the fore two completely different and fascinating landscapes.  I loved the idea of this, it just seems to turn things on their head and not follow convention at all.

We start the story in a fairly easy to imagine fantasy setting, a sort of mediaeval faux France if you will, where a Prince and his friend have come upon an effigy of a dead God (resurrected by the low born) and is the scene of a fairly recent sacrifice.  This is the first portent of trouble to come. Travys is the young prince and in a world where a person’s voice is the conduit of magic he is greatly disadvantaged to say the least by being born mute.  The Chanteuse noble born are gifted with magic which they use to keep strong the threads that separate the land of Lebhet from that of Heled.  The nobles, however, have become spoilt and lazy spending their time behind the walls of the Palace.  They’ve become vain and deceitful and petty rivalries and court politics have taken a front seat whilst the protection of the people they rule takes a poor second place.  Meanwhile the woods and forests become the home to monsters who lurk in the dark as the threads weaken.

Now, this is a difficult book to write a review for because it’s only fairly short – a novella at just over 100 pages (I think??) so basically it would be really quite easy to spoil the plot for other readers.  Basically, Travys is going to have a little bit of a rude awakening in a very dramatic fashion.  He will become only too aware of the potential threat posed to his home and in order to do anything at all to prevent this trouble he’s going to have to put himself in the very heart of the last place he wants to be – Heled.

So, instead of ruining the plot, and the surprise that is involved in discovering Heled, I’m going to focus on other elements of the book.  We have a simple but intriguing magical system that is not only quite unique but also helps you to gain a better understanding of Travys – simply in that he’s always had to struggle against the odds and use his own creativity in order to keep his tenuous foothold and survive in this duplicitous society.  Oh, also, did I mention that Travys has a twin brother – a brother who is more powerful with a rich and varied voice and his own ‘set’ of supporting nobles?

In terms of pacing we kick off to an immediate start and from there the story moves forward at a rapid pace.  I admit that I was hooked and read this almost in one sitting as I was desperate to know what was going on.  I certainly didn’t succeed in second guessing anything and I admit I was very surprised when we finally got to read about Heled.

On top of that Frohock has a beautiful narrative voice which paints vivid pictures of the landscape upon the imagination and then fills them with chilling scenes from a nightmare of horrors.  Nothing bloodthirsty or dripping in gore – just plain goosebump-invoking chilling.

Where criticisms are involved I only have one and I don’t think I’ll be alone in this sentiment – this book could definitely have been longer.  And, literally, I mean that in the nicest possible way and not as a critic of short stories or novellas.  There is just so much to be explored here that I feel that the number of pages could have been doubled and would still have felt short!  Yes, I wanted more but more than that this particular story could support it.  As it is I feel like I’ve had a snapshot into Travy’s world and whilst I don’t particularly want to join him in Heled (even if I get to carry a flamethrower) I will gladly take a few more glimpses – which, given that the Broken Road is also No.1 of the Frayed Empire seems highly likely!.

A bold and unconventional novel – plus just take a look at this cover if you like a bit of deliciously creepy!

I’m submitting this as one of my reads for RIP over at Stainless Steel Droppings.  Check out the details here.

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.