Welcome to What-To-Read Wednesday. Each week our Fiction Vixen reviewers will tell you about a book they think you need to read ASAP. This week Angela recommends:
Land of the Beautiful Dead by R. Lee Smith
I’ve been checking this author’s website regularly for any, and I do mean ANY, new updates on a possible release date for Land of the Beautiful Dead. I was like a stalker there for awhile, which means I spent most of my year steeped in disappointment, waiting…
Then on Oct. 30th, out of nowhere it suddenly appeared on Amazon! *fist bump* *high five* Who gives a crap if it’s Halloween AND Homecoming weekend and I had lots of stuff to do? I was one-clicking and cracking this baby open. 751 pages? No problem.
I’m not sure the description of horror erotica quite fits this book. It’s definitely fantasy and post-apocalyptic. There is sex, but not so much that I would consider it erotica. It is gory at times, although not as bad as I was expecting with the whole zombie thing. It did make me think, which always seems to happen when I open a new R. Lee Smith book.
The heroine is named Lan and she is on a mission to enter the great city of Haven and do whatever she has to in order to get an audience with Azrael. Azrael is known by many names… Azrael the eternal, Azrael the immortal, and also Azrael, lord of the beautiful dead, because that’s what makes up his court. Lan is of the living and Azrael is lord of death. He is undying and after finally winning the war with humans he retreated to his great walled city of Haven with his remaining children and left behind the dead to rise again as Eaters that would forever threaten every human left alive and keep them in check. After watching her mother rise up after death and become an Eater, Lan decides she’s had enough and sets out to convince Azrael to get rid of the Eaters and let the living reside in peace. Whatever she has to do means she will even become his dolly and let him into her body in the chances that she can convince him to end the status quo.
If you think you have any idea who the bad guy is in this book, trust me you’d be wrong. If there is one thing this author does and does well, its blur the lines of good and evil. The person who you would think is awful and terrible, really isn’t. And as uncomfortable as it may be, his assumptions about man’s actions do get proven correct. While Lan might start out being the good girl who sets out to do great things, she does make some stupid mistakes that you just know will come back and bite everyone in the ass later. But she’s a strong heroine, funny and crude and tries to follow her heart.
I loved the romance between Azrael and Lan. On Twitter this morning my friend Lexxie mentioned a Beauty and the Beast comparison and I kind of squinty-eyed it at first, but now that I think about it, she’s right. Although the beast never changes his looks, only his willingness to hope and embrace a new life and the beauty eventually becomes more like her lover as she falls in love and learns a few lessons about the hearts of men. But that almost seems too tame, I really believe this book is also about war, redemption, pride, class structure, man’s quest to win despite the consequences, finding a home where you least expect it, and discovering connections despite vast differences. That’s right off the top of my head, I’m sure there is much more that I haven’t even thought through yet, but I’m writing this review mere hours after I finished and am still kind of working it all out.
Yes, I loved this book. Not quite as much as Last Hour of Gann, but it’s up there. I think my favorite part was the ending. Gah! I’m getting kind of teary eyed thinking of it. For those of you who need an HEA, don’t be afraid, I was so happy with the way everything wrapped up. Also don’t let the page count or label of horror erotica deter you, trust me you won’t regret setting aside your TBR stack to pick this one up.
She put her arms around him and pressed her brow to his, pressed hard. “I want you to miss me when I’m gone. Not for a thousand years or a million, but all of them, until there’s no more way to count them. I want to give you the best night of your life and I want you to remember it forever.”