SWARM AND STEEL by Michael R. Fletcher


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A recovering sociopath struggles to destroy an evil religion she herself created in the third novel set in Fletcher's (The Mirror's Truth, 2016, etc.) Manifest Delusions universe.

After an injury, Zerfall wakes with no memory and a score of people trying to kill her. They're sent by someone named Hölle as punishment for Zerfall's betrayal; figuring out who Hölle is—and who Zerfall herself is—comprises Zerfall's first challenge. After Hölle sends Zerfall's sometime lover Aas, a disturbed and masochistic shape-shifter, to kill her, Zerfall begins to remember herself...and to remember that the person she is isn't a good one. Can a sociopath change? Especially in a world where mental illness is literal power—where a pyromaniac may spontaneously create flames with the power of his or her delusions, where a schizophrenic's alternate personalities may manifest as physical entities, and where a sociopath is the ultimate manipulator? Zerfall wrestles with her newfound sense of guilt as well as her desire for revenge. Her sociopathic powers have deserted her (instead, she's becoming gruesomely undead, having developed a new mental illness based on Cotard's syndrome), but that doesn't stop Jateko, a headstrong but immature would-be warrior, from loyally aiding her quest to destroy the soul-consuming religion called "Swarm" that Zerfall created with Hölle centuries ago. Ultimately, all the characters find themselves at risk of becoming consumed by their own personal stripe of insanity—Jateko in his quest for greatness and respect, Aas in his self-loathing, Hölle and her self-deception, and of course, Zerfall and her manipulative tendencies. Can anyone save themselves...or each other?

It's not for the squeamish, but unique worldbuilding and a plot full of twisted reveals elevate the story somewhat from the typical grimdark offering.

Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-940456-89-8
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Talos Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2017


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