Hey there!!! The written review which is a summary of this video is available below!
So, this was nominated by the Fantasy Inn, and I didn’t know much about this going into it other than it had an enemies to lovers trope, which has never been my favorite if we’re being honest. I can like romance but this is one of those tropes that’s just never worked for me, so I was nervous going into it but it turned out to be fine.
So, this had sort of a comedic opening, so this guard (Isabella) gets caught in a mouse trap laid by a thief (Cerys) (these are our two main characters for the book), and she gets caught because she was picking up a piece of Gouda cheese. This is kind of a ridiculous and comedic opening, kind of an absurdist opening, and ya know I’m a Terry Pratchett fan so I just rolled with it.
So, also during the opening the thief here gets pinned for murder. She wasn’t necessarily framed but a priestess is murdered and she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is a world where justice is a loose term. The cops basically always find the first person they arrest to be guilty of the crime they’re “investigating”. The guards/cops send these criminals to the “Judge” and the Judge will know if they deserve heaven or hell. Or, so it’s thought. Essentially, this world is ruled by their religion and that makes sense given that angels and demons walk among them. They aren’t hidden either, they are right up front as an engrained part of society, there are angel only bars, for instance. So, there are three entities/gods in this world and they’re known as the Goddess, Satan, and the Judge. The Goddess representing all that’s good about life and Satan representing all that’s miserable. The Judge is supposed to be an all knowing and neutral entity that stands in between those two and ya know, judges people .
So, here in lies the issue. So far in Isabella’s life when she finds a criminal to be guilty she sends them to the Judge, right? Well, when her captain is telling her to find Cerys guilty of murder and send her to the Judge she doesn’t want to. Cerys is convinced the Judge is not neutral at all and she will be sent to the darkest depths of hell if she’s anywhere near the Judge. She sets the wheels turning for Isabella because she’s pretty certain that Cerys really didn’t murder anyone, and yet her boss is insisting that she’s guilty. It sends her into this crisis of faith and she wants to go talk to the Goddess about it. To do that they need to go to hell to use Satan’s portal. Lol, yep.
So, the world building here was neat, I liked it. The religion sounds like it’s playing off biblical stuff when it uses Satan, but really this isn’t all that biblical. The Goddess has seven girlfriends, this is a very sex positive gay/LGBTQ+ book. Anything that makes life enjoyable is meant to be enjoyed and embraced, it’s not the devil that’s tempting you to have sex, it’s the Goddess saying “go fuck and be merry”. Basically, this religion believes as long as you’re not harming anyone it’s kosher, and like, neat. I’m behind that. That’s a neat religion, lol. This world also role reverses men and women. So, women basically have all the leadership positions. They’re thought to be more rational and less prone to angry out bursts, violence, rage… etc. So, like, when her second in command (a man, gasp) wants to become a commander like herself she laughs and is like, what? But, she does come around and asks her boss who I think says something to the effect of “what if you make a man multitask, wouldn’t that overwhelm him?”. I’ve seen that shit said to women in a non ironic way. I’m usually looking at a screenshot of r/incels that makes its way into my internet sphere, but still, I have seen the exact things this book is saying directed towards real women today. I get why it’s there, but it is fairly heavy handed, lol.
I liked the characters. At first I was worried because the beginning third of the book played really heavily into character types. The evil selfish aloof queen was just so dramatic and so overdone that it was hard to take her seriously. However, after the more comedic opening and when the plot switches over to going to hell to get to the portal, the tone takes a turn for the more serious and the characters came into their own and became more believable and relatable. I really enjoyed the last two thirds of the book and I’m glad I kept going even though the first third made me nervous.
I can’t transcribe the whole video so there’s stuff in the video that’s not in here because it would just make this like a 5k word review and it’s not necessary, lol.
Overall, I would recommend this for people who want an adventuring book that kind of turns our society on its head.
- Plot: 10/15
- Characters: 10/15
- World Building: 11/15
- Writing: 10/15
- Pacing: 11/15
- Originality: 10/15
- Enjoyment: 6/10
Final Score: 68/100 or 7/10 for SPFBO