Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale was published by Night Shade Books (Start Publishing) in 2011. It's the first part of the Katharoi series.
Information about Teresa Frohock:
Teresa Frohock has turned a love of dark fantasy and horror into tales of deliciously creepy fiction. She is the author of Miserere: An Autumn Tale and has a short story, "Naked the Night Sings," in the urban fantasy anthology Manifesto: UF. Another story, "Love, Crystal and Stone" appears in The Neverland's Library Fantasy Anthology. She lives in North Carolina where she has long been accused of telling stories, which is a southern colloquialism for lying.
Click here to visit the author's official website.
Information about Miserere: An Autumn Tale:
Exiled exorcist Lucian Negru deserted his lover in Hell in exchange for saving his sister Catarina's soul, but Catarina doesn't want salvation. She wants Lucian to help her fulfill her dark covenant with the Fallen Angels by using his power to open the Hell Gates. Catarina intends to lead the Fallen's hordes out of Hell and into the parallel dimension of Woerld, Heaven's frontline of defense between Earth and Hell.
When Lucian refuses to help his sister, she imprisons and cripples him, but Lucian learns that Rachael, the lover he betrayed and abandoned in Hell, is dying from a demonic possession. Determined to rescue Rachael from the demon he unleashed on her soul, Lucian flees his sister, but Catarina's wrath isn't so easy to escape.
In the end, she will force him once more to choose between losing Rachael or opening the Hell Gates so the Fallen's hordes may overrun Earth, their last obstacle before reaching Heaven's Gates.
A REVIEW OF TERESA FROHOCK'S MISERERE: AN AUTUMN TALE
Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale is one of the finest and most atmospheric debut fantasy novels ever written. It's a deliciously dark, twisted and compelling sword and sorcery fantasy novel for adults with plenty of dark fantasy elements.
A lot has already been written about Miserere: An Autumn Tale and many readers and critics have praised it, so I'll write a short review about it. I'll try not to repeat that what has already been said about it.
Miserere: An Autumn Tale is a complex novel about love, loss, betrayal, regret, redemption, religion and demons. It's not an easy fantasy novel, because it features dark fantasy elements, but it's a very rewarding reading experience.
When I began to read this novel, I feared that it might be a heavily religious fantasy novel, but fortunately the author didn't let the story slip into heavy religious fantasy. The story is firmly grounded in Christianity, but it's not a normal kind of a religious story (if this novel had been a heavily religious novel, I most likely would've stopped reading it after a few chapters). There were many religious elements in this story, but the way they were handled differed greatly from the normal approach to them. The author managed to make these elements dark and entertaining, which is rare, because normally authors tend to alienate readers with them and preach about what's wrong and what's right.
The worldbuilding in Miserere: An Autumn Tale is impressive. The happenings take place in a fantasy world that has been divided into four realms: Earth, Woerld, Heaven and Hell. Woerld is a world where warriors try to hold back the forces of Hell (demons) from invading Heaven. Every once in a while children with special abilities (foundlings) find their way to Woerld through gates that pull them to Woerld. These children are being raised to fight against demons. This is a fascinating background for the story.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
Miserere: An Autumn Tale opens up with Lucian Negru escaping from her sister, Catarina, who has become evil and has made a pact with demons. Lucian is a man who has betrayed and sacrificed the woman he loves (Rachael), but now he feels remorse and wants to right the wrong that he has done, but finding redemption and escaping from his sister isn't as easy as he thought it would be...
The main characters are interesting and the character development is good. I enjoyed reading about Lucian, Rachael and Catarina, because they were well created characters.
Lucian is an especially interesting character, because he has endured a lot and his sister has humiliated and crippled him. Reading about how he struggled with his feelings and decisions was fascinating for me, because Lucian used to be a kind and loving man, but he turned into a self-loathing man because of his actions and choices (his past choices haunt him and he wants redemption).
Rachael is also an interesting character, because she has become possessed by a demon called the Wyrm. The Wyrm tries to gain control of her soul and she has struggled against it for a while. Rachael used to love Lucian, but was betrayed by him.
I think it can be said that Catarina is one of the most fascinatingly evil women ever to be found in modern fantasy novels. She is devoted to the Fallen and it's difficult for people to escape her wrath and yearning for power. Everybody fears her and is careful not to upset her.
I also enjoyed reading about Lindsay, because she was a foundling and was rescued by Lucian. Lindsay has special powers and she will become a Katharos (a Katharos is a person who's able to activate and use magic through a prayer).
The relationship between Lucian and Rachael is handled well. Their relationship is one of the most complex and painful relationships ever to appear on the pages of a fantasy novel.
The author handles all aspects of the story from the beginning to the end almost perfectly. At first the story may seem a bit slow, but it soon becomes irresistibly dark and entertaining and it's almost impossible to put the novel down.
In my opinion the prose is surprisingly fluent and descriptive. Although there are a few moments in the story that verge on the point of being almost overly melodramatic, the prose is good and the author managed to make the melodramatic moments seem stylistic.
Teresa Frohock has created a fascinating, dark and original vision of a battle between good and evil. I have to mention that I don't normally enjoy reading novels that deal with such issues as heaven and hell, because most of them are too religious for my taste, but this kind of brutal dark fantasy novels catch my attention immediately. In my opinion Teresa Frohock's uncompromising vision of the grotesqueries and brutalities involved in the fight against the evil is something unique.
Considering that this novel is a relatively short novel, it's amazing that the author has managed to create a sweeping story arc that pulls the reader into a world where three-dimensional characters fight against evil and struggle with their choices and emotions. The story is tight, addictive and wonderfully dark.
There are a few flaws in this novel, but on the whole it's an unforgettable and enjoyable reading experience. It would have been nice if there had been a bit more revelations about the world of Woerld. It would also have been great if the author had written a bit more about the characters, but these are fortunately minor flaws that can be easily overlooked, because the story is powerful.
I give this novel five stars for its powerful story, dark happenings and well created characters. I was very impressed by the author's ability to avoid easy solutions and her willingness to write a dark and atmospheric story that makes the reader step away from his/her comfort zone for a short period of time. I'll also briefly mention that the cover art by Michael C. Hayes looks beautiful and fits the story perfectly.
I look forward to reading the sequel, Dolorosa: A Winter's Dream, because I enjoyed this novel. I'm sure it'll be worth the wait and the author will be able to amaze her readers with a compelling story.
If you've read other novels published by Night Shade Books (Zachary Jernigan's No Return, Betsy Dornbusch's Exile, Martha Wells' Raksura novels, Courtney Schafer's The Shattered Sigil novels etc) and have enjoyed reading them, you should put this novel immediately on your reading list. This novel may not be to everybody's liking because of its dark contents, but it will please readers who want to read quality novels that differ from mainstream fantasy novels.
If you're interested in dark fantasy and sword and sorcery novels, Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale is a good novel for you, because it's something a bit different. It offers excellent fantasy entertainment for adult readers.
Highly recommended to all readers who love the darker side of fantasy!