About the book
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!
I usually try pretty hard to stay away from books that have any sort of real world religious elements in them. I find that religion makes me mad, so it’s best for me to stay far away from it. I generally do pretty good with this rule, only breaking it when I’m sure that an author is going to use religion in some very unique way that will make it different enough to not bug me. After having Miserere recommended to me no fewer than six times, I decided that it didn’t matter how Frohock used religious influences in her book. To have it recommended that many times was impressive so I had to give it a try.
Now, since religion tends to be a hot-button issue with me, that’s what I seemed to keep my eye on the most. It’s far too easy for some authors to use religious influences in their books as a way to preach and I’m just not into that. In fact, that sort of thing tends to be a deal breaker for me. Frohock, bless her heart, uses religion but not in any sort of preachy let-me-tell-you-an-important-message sort of way. Instead, religion in Miserere is incredibly plot driven, and it’s not just Christianity that she focuses on. In fact, Frohock peppers the book with plenty of references to varying world religions like Hinduism, Islam and many more. Though the main thrust of the book deals with Christianity, it’s set strongly in a secondary world that it reads more like myth than anything else. In fact, if Frohock decided to change the word “Christianty” with some made up religious title, I don’t think anyone would know the difference.
However, religion in Miserere really serves a duel purpose. First, it is eye-catching. People recognize religious words and whether it tends to set your temper flaring, like me, or you are a religious person yourself, it will attract your attention. Secondly, Frohock’s use of religion gives readers a familiar focal point with which to reference the rest of Frohock’s secondary world, politics, adventures and etc. For example, it was much easier for me to keep track of the politics and official roles people played within Frohock’s social structure when I used religion as a measuring stick. It also helped me stave off a lot of the confusion I feel when I start reading many other epic fantasy novels.
Frohock keeps her characters as complex as her world, each with a set of physical and mental limitations. Lucian, for example, suffers from a bad knee and is plagued with worries over many people he cares deeply about. Rachael is being ravaged by a demon, which makes her question her own sanity and ability to function. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Frohock is very hard on her characters, but she is also very realistic in crafting them. They have plenty of personal problems, as well as the problems they face throughout the course of the novel. However, they learn how work around their physical and mental limitations to find other strengths and means to accomplish what would be quite easy for a normally functioning individual. Perhaps due to their inner and outer struggles, and the realistic way in which Frohock handles them, they are more compelling and multifaceted than many other characters I’ve had the honor of reading this year.
Another area where Frohock excels is her lack of heavy infodumps. Miserere largely takes place in a secondary world, however Frohock feels no need to heap upon the reader definitions or lengthy histories. Instead, she easily tells her tale and trusts that the reader will fill in the gaps as she goes. She hits her stride early on, and seems to find her story-telling comfort from page one. As the plot progresses, Frohock adds layers of complexity to her world and does it so subtly that the reader doesn’t need to struggle to understand the strange words or places that they encounter. In this respect, Frohock is a master worldbuilder.
Perhaps some potential readers should be aware that this book is a contrast. Lucian and Rachael are older than typical characters, in their forties (unless my memory serves me wrong, which it might). Lindsay is a pre-teen. The vast range of ages, mixed with some pretty mature thematic material, might cause some readers to have a hard time connecting with the plot or characters.
If Miserere were a recipe, it would read something like this:
Combine a generous helping of a complex world, multifaceted characters, and a unique plot. Top with a liberal dash of fantastic writing. Mix well. Bake.