First impressions: I tweeted and blogged already about the exhilarating opening to this book, but it bears repeating. Few novels have been able to draw me in so completely. Sasha, determined to find out what happened to her dad, sets out to a secret meeting of Eryx devotees who promise to fulfill your dreams. Almost immediately they turn on her, and she is caught up in a brutal stoning. A stoning! It caught me completely off guard and told me that this book was going to be full of surprises. Loved that aspect.
Lasting impressions: Trinity Faegen put the effort into creating this fully developed mythology, and it shows. The character arcs are nuanced and proceed at an appropriate pace, and she never lets the story get away from her.
Conflicting impressions: The flip side of that mythology coin is that because the background needs to be explained to us, there wind up being a lot of info dumps. I would have liked to see this information more seamlessly blended with the action instead of feeling like "Oh, now they're going to explain who Eryx is."
Overall impressions: Everything about this book seemed fresh, different, and unique, while also simultaneously feeling like this was not new ground being covered. I hate when stories feel as if the author was trying to go so hard against the grain that they wind up with a story that doesn't work. Here, Faegen instead blends exciting new elements with a story that felt comforting and familiar.
Sasha is the daughter of an American insurance salesman (or is he?) and a Russian mother who defected and now works for the State Department in San Francisco. Sasha's father is recently deceased, and the circumstances seem too bizarre for Sasha to just let it go. She wants to find out what happened, and in the process stumbles into this club for followers of Eryx, who promises the world to these kids and then takes their souls. He is a corrupted son of Mephistopheles and Elektra who is trying to gain enough souls to take over hell from Lucifer.
Enter Jax. Also Mephisto, though not corrupted, he and his brothers fight against Eryx, taking the souls back from him and depositing them in Hell on Earth - sort of the permanently sealed Tupperware for these bad egg humans that sold their souls. He saves Sasha from the Eryx followers that are attacking her, explaining that as Anabo - a pure soul - she is a target for them. She also happens to be destined for love of a Mephisto, and that Mephisto is Jax.
It gets a little complicated here (see info dumps), so I'm not going to get into the details, but Jax must convince Sasha to love him (and he must love her) in order to find redemption and a path out of hell and into heaven. By doing so, however, Sasha must leave her old life behind and lose some of her pure Anabo self. She must join the Mephisto and capture lost souls, while also taking on some of their hellish characteristics. It's a choice that dogs her throughout the narrative, as she struggles between wanting her old life back and wanting to be with Jax.
Their love happens quickly, but believably. It seems they are fated from the beginning, and I bought into that. Though Jax gets moony quite quickly, Sasha is more reserved with her feelings, so when she finally needs to make a choice her anguish seemed honest. There is a lot of talking about sex in this book (as, of course, it carries significant plot consequences) and I should also mention that this is definitely a book for older readers. There's a scene toward the end that borders on romance novel territory.
Did the book have more complications than it needed? Yes, but I was thoroughly engrossed in what was happening. I couldn't wait to see what would happen to Sasha, whether she would find out about her dad, and how many characters would make the mistake of succumbing to Eryx. When Sasha's mother is deported and she moves to Telluride, Colorado to live with a family friend, the threat of Eryx goes up by a thousand points. The tension is palpable and as the stakes get bigger Sasha's timeline gets shorter.
I highly recommend this one to fans of Unearthly and Angel Burn, or anyone with an interest in mythology. I can't wait to read the sequel!
Rating: 4/5 stars
San Francisco is my favorite California town, and someplace I'm dying to visit with my husband. I've never been to Telluride, but I love Colorado and definitely want to go back. For both of those reasons, I'm counting this toward the Vacation Reads Challenge.
Thank you to I Read Banned Books Tour for lending me this copy!
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