Note: ARC provided by author/publisher, but I’ma buy this anyway 🙂
A couple years ago, I went through a phase where I was trying to broaden my reading horizons (away from my steady diet of exclusively epic fantasy). A friend personally recommended Teresa Frohock’s Miserere to me, while chatting at a book signing. I was intrigued by his description, and his enthusiasm towards the merits of the book sold it to me. Needless to say, I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Teresa’s writing rides an interesting line, and one that I was not previously accustomed to – dark fantasy. Hers in particular tends to blend aspects of horror, fantasy, and religious fiction (sorry, T, I had to). She wrote an extremely interesting piece on the topic, which can be read here. I encourage everyone to read the article!
I left Miserere hoping for more similar stories from Teresa, and luckily she’d filled in the space with some brilliant shorts, which I eagerly ate up. I was more than excited when she announced a new serial series, beginning with In Midnight’s Silence this spring. The series intro was gorgeous – it was dark, magical, beautifully written, and very moving at times.
When Without Light or Guide was announced, I began a mental countdown, while eagerly awaiting the release – luckily, Teresa was kind enough to send me a copy early, which I devoured as quickly as I could, while filling her poor inbox with unsolicited feedback. The book continues where In Midnight’s Silence left off – lovers Diago and Miquel, along with Diago’s previously unknown son, shelter with Guillermo, a leader of Los Nefilim. Diago makes the difficult choice to invest his loyalty fully in Los Nefilim, which is a decision questioned by many of the members of the faction, due to choices made in Diago’s past.
Guillermo, however, has faith and trust in Diago, and welcomes him into the fold. He gives Diago his first mission as a member of the faction, which leads to it’s own set of troubles. Much of the book reads almost as a noir crime mystery, intermingled with the personal dramas of not just Diago and Miquel, but also Los Nefilim. Diago is untrusted by his new companions, and there is a growing faction who distrust him to the point of doing anything to prove his lack of allegiance. This is further complicated by one of Los Nefilim’s most loyal members not being what they seem…
This distrust is only further fueled as many things seem to point towards Diago being involved in a series of grisly murders, as many of the mortals he knows in Barcelona begin to turn up dead. Already under heavy scrutiny for being part angel and part daemon, Diago is continually targeted by certain members of the Nefilim as they try to prove/frame him as disloyal and corrupt.
The relationships and personalities found in the previous novel was just as present, and are often the driving force behind the story. Teresa writes fantastic characters, and the interactions and dialogue between them are incredible and moving. Miquel, who at first struggles with his lover having betrayed him and fathered a child, bonds with Rafael throughout the book, their relationship growing ever stronger, largely in the name of Diago. There are some of the most touching family moments I’ve ever read in a book surrounding this trio – an untraditional family to say the least, but one that figures out how to function despite the drama and adversity around them, and one that’s fueled on love. The soft, beautiful chapter snuggled in the middle of this book where the family truly bonds, in a home environment, broke up the otherwise dark and often depressing nature of the book in an incredible way, and I found it to be the perfect chapter at the perfect time – exactly what was needed to bring the reader back to the reality of what’s truly important, not just in life, but in the lives of these characters.
Diago is haunted by many things in this novel – his family problems, his entry into Los Nefilim, the members of Nefilim fighting against him, his own father essentially haunting him, as well as his chromesthesia – a condition he’s suffering from his injuries and events suffered in In Midnight’s Silence. This leaves him in spells of confusion, overwhelmed by his senses, and unable to correctly function and defend himself. However, even while his entire world is seemingly caving in on him, overwhelming him with problems, Diago’s friends and family rally around him.
As with the previous novel, the shorter length leaves little time for elaborate worldbuilding – however, Teresa does a brilliant job of filling in the gaps via dialogue and events conspiring, without ever feeling like any infodumping was occurring. I’ve felt through these two novels that I understood the settings, every house, every street, every dark place. Atmosphere is an area of expertise for Frohock, and she deftly gives dark places a haunted feeling, and home a comforting feeling, with an economy of words.
Without Light or Guide is a wonderful piece of this story, and leaves me craving more of these characters, more of this setting, and more of the moving love between Diago and Miquel.