Since I finished reading this book, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I can’t wait to get a finished copy so I can have an excuse to read it again. This is a very very weird fantasy with Linsey Miller’s usual incredible character writing. It’s dark and clever and fun with a cunning ace protagonist.
Rating: 4 stars!
Thanks to Sourcebooks Fire for the eARC of this book. It has not affected my honest review.
Content Warnings: violence, gore, death and murder, self-harm (as part of magic system, graphic), harming others (as part of magic system, graphic), classism, aphobia, worker abuse, cannibalism (mentions only).
About the book:
Lorena Adler has a secret—she holds the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile, inside her. She has spent her entire life hiding from the world and her past. She’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, marry her best friend, Julian, and live an unfulfilling life so long as no one uncovers her true nature.
But when the notoriously bloodthirsty and equally Vile crown prince comes to arrest Julian’s father, he immediately recognizes Lorena for what she is. So she makes a deal—a fair trial for her betrothed’s father in exchange for her service to the crown.
The prince is desperate for her help. He’s spent years trying to repair the weakening Door that holds back the Vile…and he’s losing the battle. As Lorena learns more about the Door and the horrifying price it takes to keep it closed, she’ll have to embrace both parts of herself to survive.
What did I think?
I freaking adored this book, but cramming it into 336 pages did it a disservice. I am going to reread the finished copy when it’s out for two reasons: to see if it’s improved pacing-wise from the eARC and because I’m simping hard for Lorena/Alistair. The intimacy between them? Oof. Fundamentally my only problem with this book is that it deserved to be longer. If The Thing that happens around 50% of this book had been the end of book 1, and the second half had been its sequel? This would be my perfect duology. It just felt like everything happened in such a rush and I wanted to linger over it. It made for a confusing start to the book, because we hustled at such a rapid pace that I didn’t understand what was going on until about 30% in.
Onto what I loved, aka 98% of this book! Lorena being both asexual and blisteringly sexy is exactly the kind of ace rep my aroace lesbian self needs. Between What We Devour and Belle Révolte (my review here!), Linsey Miller is absolutely killing it with ace rep. Both books have made me weepy in their protagonists descriptions of their asexuality. Lorena’s relationship with Julian was (unfortunately) relatably conflicted while her hate-to-trust-to-hate-to-love thing with Alistair? Perfection. The intimacy between them was so perfect that it left me breathless, and every touch between them had my heart pounding. If you like your bad boys with a history of unforgivable crimes and a desperate desire to Be Better, then Alistair Wyrslaine will steal your heart too. The way that Lorena and Alistair work together and against each other is so good and the cunning protagonist against the powerful morally grey character will never not be my jam.
The magic system in this book, once I understood it, is massively interesting. I love the idea of characters being able to make requests, almost like prayers, in exchange for sacrifices and the option of tangible (e.g. blood) versus intangible (e.g. a memory) sacrifices made for a really interesting dynamic. Lorena has the potentially to be ridiculously powerful, but has to weigh each action against her own willingness to sacrifice. It builds and builds into a hell of a climax, and by the time this book ends, everyone has been forced to do terrible, terrible things. I love it. There is so much backstabbing and betrayal in this book. Everything is terrible a lot of the time, and I loved that I could never guess where the next hit would come from. It meant I spent half my time reading holding my breath and waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Release Date: 6th July 2021