Backlist Burndown Review: Miserere by Teresa Frohock
Narrator: Eileen Stevens
Also by this author: The Broken Road
Published by Night Shade Books on June 21, 2011
Length: 10 hours 32 minutes
Exiled exorcist Lucian Negru deserted his lover in Hell in exchange for saving his sister Catarina's soul, but Catarina doesn't want salvation. She wants Lucian to help her fulfill her dark covenant with the Fallen Angels by using his power to open the Hell Gates. Catarina intends to lead the Fallen's hordes out of Hell and into the parallel dimension of Woerld, Heaven's frontline of defense between Earth and Hell. When Lucian refuses to help his sister, she imprisons and cripples him, but Lucian learns that Rachael, the lover he betrayed and abandoned in Hell, is dying from a demonic possession. Determined to rescue Rachael from the demon he unleashed on her soul, Lucian flees his sister, but Catarina's wrath isn't so easy to escape!
Miserere is an engaging, dark and unexpected book. I honestly was not sure where parts of this story were going, and I love that. I also love that this is not your cozy fantasy where people are generally safe, and its certainly not a clear cut good versus evil. There are shades of grey.
There are central features to the story that center on religion, but please do not mistake this for a religious book. I have to confess to having a bit of a knee-jerk reaction sometimes when a book starts referencing Christian beliefs. I start putting up defenses, waiting for the preachiness, attempts at conversion or even the judgmental subtexts that infer I will likely burn in hell for not following suit. Maybe that reaction is unwarranted in most cases, but regardless, it was definitely not warranted here. This is not a preachy or even religious book, religion is just an intricate part of the world (as it is in many fantasy stories as well as real world history). Religion adds another dynamic to the story and adds complexity to the world building. Using some known religions let Frohock build on the familiar.I don’t think that religion is any more prevalent in this than many other fantasy books, it just might feel that way at first because you are already familiar with it.
The story is fascinating. It takes place predominantly in Woerld, which is a realm or world that exists between our world and Heaven and Hell. Portal fantasies can have some prejudice against them, which is silly because I don’t understand how one fantastical element is better or more appealing than another fantastical element. To me it all comes down to execution, and this was incredibly well executed. And for anyone who is still leery given the portal aspect, I will also mention there is little focus on our world.
Our protagonist, Lucian, is dubbed a traitor in Woerld. Even getting his perspective, you know he has betrayed someone he loves. Seeing him cope with this and slowly unraveling the motivation for the betrayal is fascinating. You really come to care about Lucian and try to understand and empathize with him. His life has not been easy, and the more you read, the more you can see that. His character and relationships are complex and I just couldn’t learn enough about him or the other people in his life quick enough.
Honestly, I am shocked at how much story and world building Frohock is able to pack into this book, as it is not terribly long when you look at the page count or length of the audiobook. Yet, looking back I feel like I experienced more with it than many books twice the length. I guess that means it is incredibly efficient, because I can’t think of areas I felt were sacrificed, skimmed over or lacked detail. Very well done. I look forward to reading whatever Frohock writes next.
I have challenged and committed myself to reading at least one book from my backlist every month and posting the review on the last Friday of the month. I invite anyone interested to join me and link up their own Backlist Burndown reviews. I will offer the link at the bottom of my monthly Backlist Burndown reviews, and also will keep a running record of the reviews on my Dracarys! Backlist Burndown page available from my top menu.