Love fairy tales and mythology?
Fans of mermaids, dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures?
Enjoy when a beloved classic tale is retold?
A Twist in the Tail Thursdays features all this and more!
“He and his desires are what you fight. Fear him and his domain, but do not fear your Grand Work. Here, on Earth, you have power. You are the mortal arbiters between life and death. You have gifts, each of you, to help."
~Persephone, PERILOUS PROPHECY
Raise your hand if you're a sucker for a reimagined fairytale or myth? Are you raising your hand? I sure hope you are, because today we're talking about a book that takes a well known Greek myth and takes it to never before seen heights. PERILOUS PROPHECY, by Leanna Renee Heiber, is a gothic gaslamp fantasy that takes place in 1860's Cairo and then London. The storyline is built on the bones of a well known myth, the tale of Hades and Persephone. If you're unfamiliar with that myth here's the basic breakdown. Hades is the leader of the underworld, the whisper-world, whatever you want to call it. Persephone is a beautiful goddess who very much loves the mortal world. Hades falls in love with the goddess, and tricks her into eating food (pomegranate seeds) from the underworld, which irrevocably links her to it. She becomes the unwilling Queen of the underworld, and though she occasionally escapes to the mortal world, the seeds she ate ensure that she is always dragged back to Hades' side.
Like most myths it's short and sweet, leaving a lot of details to the imagination. Leanna Renne Heiber builds around the myth, adding exquisitely dark detail. We get to see in detail how Persephone's spirit is weakened and rotted by the influence of the underworld; little moments where she weakens, or pauses to cough up blood and pomegranate seeds make you feel for this ethereal and imprisoned creature immediately. But she's not entirely helpless! In Heiber's world Persephone has a growing army of her own. When Hades, or in the terms of this story Darkness as we call him, kidnapped Persephone, he also killed her lover, an ethereal being named Phoenix. Of course magic entities never really "die" the same way mortals do, and so the piece of Phoenix left over joined forces with other entities called Muses. Six of them in total challenged Darkness and made a promise to fight on earth to dispel the dark spirits and the attempt of the underworld to clench its fist around earth's population.
How in the world is such a thing possible? The ethereal and the human combine. The six entities begin a history of picking six extraordinary humans to link themselves to. The humans are not possessed per se, or lost, but the Muses fuse with them and enhance them, providing abilities that help them fight dark souls that plague the living. For Persephone this is a fight that helps her stay focused, that helps her cling to her sense of self and fight the rotting of her own spirit.
Yet the story is so much bigger than that, and it doesn't just belong to Persephone. The reader meets a Guard, chosen in Cairo Egypt, a group of unassuming youths whose lives are altered forever. Beatrice Smith is chosen as the leader, but as a bookish and sheltered individual she's worried that she's not qualified for the position. The humanity that lies in journeying with Beatrice and her five companions as they view the world and themselves with new eyes mingles with the fantasy of scenes following Persephone's efforts to help orchestrate a more hopeful future and creates a story environment that is both fantastical and raw all at once. That's what I loved the most as a reader of this tale, the way I got this perfect mixture of myth and realistic coming of age. Heiber's skills with imagery create a world that is lush, a world that gives you goosebumps. AND GUYS, her representation of Hades/Darkness is one of the coolest I've ever seen. I'll give you a taste in a small passage below.
"Darkness's Raphaelite face—and then his skull—scowled. He stalked to his throne, sat, and whipped his robes into place. The layers settled in a pattern, the shape of a great crimson rose. It remained the only color, save for hers, in this dreary place: an enormous red rose frozen in the heart of darkness. Beneath the petals, mere bones. That was Darkness's tempting lie."
PERILOUS PROPHECY is technically a prequel book to a previously released book called STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL. The stories flow into each other with so much give and take that it's up to you which you want to start with. Personally I read STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL first and then took a step back in time with PERILOUS PROPHECY, but no matter which way you read them you will be struck by the rich imagery, the detailed world building and the way the plot grows into something so full and well rounded it takes you over completely. If you're not sure gaslamp fiction is your cup of tea, this is a great book to introduce you to the genre, because the fantasy aspect is so familiar and enchanting.