Fantasy Review: ‘Miserere: An Autumn Tale’ by Teresa Frohock

Miserere: An Autumn TaleThis is perhaps the most impossible to describe book I have read yet at its core it is a very simple, linear story. I can’t seem to make sense of this seeming contradiction.

Woerld (yes I checked that spelling) is a land between the worlds. A barrier between earth and hell with its own thriving life as its denizens mostly do their best to keep fallen angels where they belong. It would appear that the Judeo-Christian mythos is somewhat grounded in reality here; yet obviously missing a few important facts. On Woerld the religious of the land all worship the same gods in different ways; oft reminiscent of their Earthly counterparts. Events on one plain seem to affect all the others.

When a young girl on earth walks through a portal (portal fantasy alert!) she finds Lucian, an exiled former exorcist who abandoned his lover for his sister (who then rewarded him by destroying his legs and leaving him relying on cane). The young girl is forced to get a crash course in living within her new land as she acts as a foundling to Lucian. For his part Lucian isn’t even sure he should take on the duties as her teacher due to his exile; and he makes things worse when he broke some very specific rules in order to rescue her.

This is a book of betrayal and redemption wrapped in one of the most emo packages imaginable. Plenty of brooding, self-loathing, and other muses of dark poetry which fits the quasi-religious setting well. I said it was simple but that doesn’t come from the setting, which takes most of the book to fully reveal it self, but rather from the plotting. Most of the book is Lucian and his young ward trying to escape the wraith of Lucian’s sister; a woman actively working to…well I am really not sure. But it is bad, and involves daemons and take overs of the hostile variety and lots of torture.

There are a couple of things that I really appreciated about this book. One is a simple thing; a set piece that for some reason tickled my fancy. A single rose acting as a guardian; hostile flora is big on my list of things more fantasy needs. The other major plus was how seamlessly the book handled the ‘portal fantasy’ aspect. I usually despise portal fantasies but here it fit the setting. The young girl is not the first who is pulled down; several characters in this story came from Earth and others came from Woerld. So people, like Lucian, have no problem helping the new foundlings and we as a reader are left with less annoying inconsistencies as people figure out the new way of life.

I give this book some major kudos for creativity and its page turning ways. At times my eyes rolled at the high school goth vibe, and I admit the ending came together just a bit too fast for my liking. This book sits on many bloggers list of majorly under-appreciated fantasy and in a way I can see why; it is completely unique and for the most part compelling. I can’t say it will leave a long term impression on me but I am glad I finally got it off my backlist.

And that is one kicking cover.

3 Stars

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