In this epic-fantasy debut, a group of humans, angels, elves, and a demon work to prevent all-out war in the layered realms of Celestia.
Nearly two millennia ago, the angelic hosts of Celestia joined with humans and elves to battle Asmod and his demons. Now, the War of the Races is bitter history, although Asmod is rumored to have a vengeful daughter named Helcol. Against this forbidding backdrop, a rebel demon calling himself Neil roams the land of Elyshaeza. He encounters the elf Shara, who’s been tasked with bringing Neil to the city of Notton to help catch a serial killer. Meanwhile, the celestial Shri plucks the scholarly human teenager Collie from her obscure village to help him research the War of the Races, hoping to learn all he can. Demons, also known as “kureida,” have recently been attacking the mortal plane and Celestia with apparent organization—a troubling sign. Shri installs Collie in the Solver, a 15-story structure where the monklike Ginjo dwell. One of them, Ligo, has become obsessed with a mirror that the fallen angel Kom brought back from the Hells. The waxing of this artifact’s power bodes ill for those in Celestia and the surrounding planes. All of these events comprise merely a portion of Lawrence’s dizzying epic. She churns several parallel narratives into careful motion, with Neil’s and Shri’s among the most compelling. She also places nuanced emphasis on some characters’ nonbinary genders (including the warrior Artemis, who’s called an “it”). Lawrence’s prose is dark and sensual but doesn’t resort to the overkill that plagues many other epic fantasies; one kureida, for example, has “two elongated faces that looked like they were in a perpetual scream.” Some of the episodic narratives link up, but there’s no true central action driving the plot. Instead, Lawrence provides a satisfying tour of her rich worlds, leaving sweeping tableaux for a future book.
An impressive foundation for a complex new series.