Review: The Second Death by T. Frohock (2016)

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Kindle Edition, 128 pages
Published March 29th 2016 by Harper Voyager Impulse
PURCHASE ON AMAZON

Wow.

I should start by clarifying that this piece, The Second Death, is the third and final entry in T. Frohock’s Los Nefilim series of novellas. Obviously, you will need to read the first two to actually understand what’s going on here – but that’s a good thing, because they’re wonderful. And I apologize in advance to Teresa if I misuse any wording or abbreviations while writing this review – I’m not sure of all of the correct terms 🙂

As this series has progressed, things have gotten more and more intense; the different threads of the story, the deceptions, the hatred, the two-timing, the relationships, and the implications of each series of events. We left Without Light or Guide with Diago and Miguel hiding in Don Guillermo’s Santuari, with Diago’s son, Rafael. Diago is still recovering from his previous injuries and trauma, and suffering lingering symptoms of that, however is trying to reintegrate himself with the Los Nefilim as quickly as possible, while getting to the bottom of the events unfolding around him.

All of this is thrown for a quick loop, as Diago is attacked outside of his home, and him and  Rafael are taken prisoner by corrupt German Nefil, who are conspiring with certain members of the Spanish Los Nefilim, and their distrust of Diago, and his daimon blood. Diago’s husband, Miguel, springs into action to recover his lover and their boy, along with the help of Don Guillermo, the leader of the Los Nefilim, and one of Diago’s few true supporters. Along the way, they gain help of a pair of ancient angels of death as well, and some of their allies in the Los Nefilim.

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Diago is frantic to rescue his son, who is being used as leverage by the Die Nefil, the German Nefilim, who are working alongside the Nazis it appears, and are seeking plans for an ultra powerful magical weapon that the Nazis plan to use. Diago is forced to choose between unthinkable events – helping to aid the Die Nefil and the Nazis to save his son, and potentially doom them all, losing his son forever as he would receive the Second Death, or a potentially even worse idea, especially for his reputation amongst those who doubt him – turning to daimons for help.

The Second Death is a thrilling, heart-wrenching conclusion to this series, and one that engrossed me from the start. Much of the unexplained aspects of Frohock’s world are explored in this novel, at least to some degree, and some of the lingering questions were answered. We learn a lot more about the other Nefil branches, and how easily swayed in different directions and philosophies they can be. The corruption within the Los Nefilim alone becomes more apparent, as an overthrow attempt is made on Don Guillermo’s claim to power among the Spanish Los Nefilim.

We also learn more of the true star of the series – Miguel. A patient, understanding lover, who supports Diago through everything; his problems, his infidelity/rape, his lack of perspective and understanding, his health. Miguel accepts Diago’s child, borne of infidelity, as his own, bonding with the boy, taking care of Rafael when Diago can’t, and in ways that Diago cannot due to his overwhelming personal problems. Miguel is the best spouse anyone can ask for, and Diago struggles knowing that Miguel is far more than he deserves, knowing that Miguel has laid it all on the line for him time and time again, as he struggles with his own self worth and self-trust, even as those who care about him support him.

Diago’s internal struggles make up much of the entire series, and it was really fascinating to watch him grow, change, adapt. He struggles with the turmoil around him, with his own thoughts, with his doubts, with the doubts of others, with his upbringing and his relationship with his daimonic father. He struggles at every turn, and it makes him a much more real and relatable character, not superhuman, not able to shrug off things just at the drop of a hat in the name of moving the plot forward, as you see in so many other books. He’s the most ‘human’ character I’ve may be ever read, while simultaneously not truly being human – ironic, isn’t it?

Death is a large theme in the series – while many of the characters are, essentially, immortal, the fear of the dreaded second death looms over them all. To kill an immortal so that they cannot reincarnate, to end their lives forever. Rafael being threatened with the second death is a heartbreaking and terrifying prospect for Diago, much more so than his own personal death, and leads him to risk it all by negotiating with his father, who has become one with the evil Moloch, in order to try and save his son by fooling the German Nefil into thinking they’d received the plans for their weapon.

Frohock brilliantly handles almost every aspect of the series, keeps it interesting, keeps things moving, while not ruining the pacing, not overdoing it. A lot of questions are still left unanswered, but that’s a reality when you are writing a short novella series, and don’t have the time and space to really explore things. I feel she could do significantly more to explore this world, and I hope she opts to do so going forward. However, the amount of info given in the books, the level of understanding the reader leaves with, while still leaving a large amount of intrigue and questions, is skillfully done, and very enjoyable.

I loved this series, and I just want more of it. Diago and Miguel and Rafael, their family of bears, are near-and-dear to my heart after spending this time with them. The incomparable Don Guillermo, his family, their friends in the Los Nefilim have left an impression on me that will last. I couldn’t recommend this series more – to fans of dark fantasy, of fantasy horror, or to people looking to branch out into something new. Los Nefilim is approachable, quick to read, incredibly well-written, and above all – it’s just really, really damn entertaining.

Bravo, Teresa.

Rating: 5 / 5

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