Pike delivers a debut fantasy novel about a war in the afterlife.
Jericho is no stranger to life’s bleaker aspects, from his current job managing a graveyard to his former high-stress career as a surgeon. But when his daughter’s illness takes a turn for the worse, it drives him to suicide. It’s a decision that has lingering effects on the living—particularly Jericho’s ex-wife—but also on the world of the dead. The afterlife, it turns out, isn’t as straightforward as it used to be; a war between heaven and hell has left many lost souls eking out an existence in a shadowy netherworld. The devil’s hunter, Bathsheba, is bent on collecting souls to bring to hell—and she keeps her victims’ beating hearts in a small pouch. The sword-wielding angel Judas is one of the few figures who can stop her; he appears in the afterlife as a force for good and does all he can to protect innocent souls. Other afterlife figures take an interest in Jericho as the conflict ensues, including an unforgiving Archangel Michael and a Beethoven-loving Satan. Pike’s novel is sometimes gruesome (“At The Prince’s nod she sawed the blade back and forth across her tortured flesh until the shriveled pink tip of her breast was fully cut away and lying on the floor in a pool of her own sizzling blood”), but it does a fine job putting a new spin on familiar afterlife figures. The devil seems to appreciate human achievements, for example, and most of the angels don’t. However, the main character, Jericho, often gets lost in the narrative. Despite the fact that his personal life is marked by tragedy, readers may not find him very relatable, even after they learn that he loves to draw and that he cares for his daughter. In the end, it’s not quite enough to make his character truly memorable.
An imaginative, if uneven, tale of carnage, angels and the hereafter.