Review | Liefdom – Jesse Teller

About the Book

A zealous guardian in a peaceful city, Gentry Mandrake is a fairy unlike any other. Cast out and hated for his differences, his violent nature makes him wonder at the purity of his soul. He hunts for belonging while fighting to protect the human child bound to him. Explore the mythical realm of The Veil, the grating torture of the Sulfur Fields, and the biting tension between power and purpose in this wondrous struggle against a demonic wizard and his denizens. Can Mandrake overcome such terrible foes to defend those he loves?

260 pages (kindle)
Published on August 2016
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Jesse Teller is a close friend of mine.

Before we dig into this review, reader, I want you to know that Jesse Teller is one of my best friends. That makes writing this review really weird, because he is my friend, as I said. However, when I read a really good book I want to yell about it because we all need good books. 

So, I read Liefdom. It was written by one of my best friends. I liked it a lot, despite that relationship, not because of it… but you should know because biases and all that. 

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started reading Liefdom. The prologue lead me to believe it would be some typical castle-centric fantasy and I was kind of prepared myself to smile enjoy it. Then, as soon as the prologue was over (which, let me add, by the end of it I was hooked) the book starts in this fae city of Liefdom, where fairies are birthed from flowers, and the like. From the description, it seems very much like how you’d picture a Disney fairy city. 

However. (and that’s a big “however”.)

As with all things Jesse Teller, you quickly learn that not all things are light and fluffy. In fact, I loved Liefdom, and how I was instantly transported by this fairytale feel and then BAM within just a few pages all the sudden all that fairytale beauty is steeped in rot. We meet Gentry Mandrake, a fae who is made for battle. He is abhorrent to the rest of his kind. He is shunned, and belittled. He is instantly loathed, and soon, he will be the savior the fae need to face whatever will come next. 

One thing I really enjoyed about this book was how human and fae were bound together. When something happens to one, it impacts the other. There is a theme throughout the book of the interconnected nature of things, whether for good or bad. There are ripple effects everywhere, and sometimes they are horrifying, sometimes not so much. However, I did enjoy this theme, and I did like the way Teller leaned into it. I found it to be thought proving and well done. There were, due to this, connections between various characters and plot points, even the world itself, that I didn’t expect. 

The world is a nice blend of haunting, horrifying, and sometimes even light and full of levity. As I said, at the start of the book I anticipated this to be one thing, and it ended up taking a darker, surprising turn almost right away. The world itself is unexpected, and nuanced. There are layers and depths, details here that made me feel as though I was just scratching the surface. There is more to this world of Teller’s creation than I can quite fathom in this one book. 

My favorite part of this book, however, is one I’m going to have a bit of a hard time articulating. You see, there’s something happening in Liefdom that just works for me on a very profound, soul-deep level. There is a marriage of beauty, wonder, pain, and strife that touched me profoundly. Nothing is what it seems to be, and I found myself very wrapped up in Mandrake’s struggle, his strife, and what he had to go through throughout the course of the book. Not only do we learn more about Mandrake, but you generally get a feel for someone who is thrust into a role, and the entire world is set against him. I felt for him. I felt for that plight, and it’s not really one I see so well done, nor so poignant in fantasy that often. There are certain times when I read when I feel like I can see the author’s soul, and I saw a bit of Jesse Teller in the story of Mandrake, and how he, despite all odds, does what he knows is right when the odds are set against him.

There is very much a sort of Hunchback of Notre Dame vibe to Mandrake, and I really enjoyed that as well. The flawed hero. The nearly perfect mixture of opposites in one character… this fractured but profound exploration of the human condition, in a character who is very much not human. 

I enjoyed how some of the characters in this book stayed rather nebulous. Not everyone nor everything was defined as “good” or “bad”. Plenty of things in Liefdom seemed to stray outside of a world of definitions and I appreciated how Teller seemed content to let things rest like that—just defined enough. Like our own world, some things stay nebulous. Hinted at, yet not fully understood. 

If I had some quibbles with this book, they are minor. I felt, occasionally, the plot bounced around a bit. There were details that felt skipped over that would have made some scenes a bit more powerful, make a bit more sense. 

Liefdom swept me away. As I have said, Jesse Teller is a friend of mine, so I have had long conversations with him about the interconnected nature of his world and I’m pretty excited to see how elements of this book will be found in other books in his vast and sprawling world. Liefdom instantly swept me away, but it was the brutal beauty of Mandrake’s story I truly loved. In this creature who wasn’t the least bit human, I found one of the most human stories of all. 

4.5/5 stars

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