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One of my resolutions for 2012 was to start posting reviews of books (other than mine) that I think are noteworthy. Once a month, I will post a new reading recommendation. We begin this month, with Teresa Frohock’s deserving debut, Miserere – An Autumn Tale.

An impressive first work by a talented author, this book was a compelling read. A well-imagined parallel reality provides an intriguing setting for the unfolding of potentially earth-ending events and a powerful quest. Teresa Frohock skillfully intertwines deeply spiritual themes (which could have easily become heavy-handed religious diatribe, but didn’t) into an action-packed yet emotional adventure that delivers a highly entertaining experience for the reader.

Night Shade Books, Trade Paper, ISBN 978-1597802895

The focus of the story is the soul-tortured hero Lucian, who frankly was the reason I couldn’t put this book down. Lucian’s journey toward forgiveness through reflection and painful self-discovery brought me to tears more than once. Lucian, more than any other character in the book, is so well drawn that he almost rises to walk across the pages. Equally as heart-tugging is the foundling, Lindsay, who becomes the catalyst for Lucian’s redemption. Rachael, the maligned object of Lucian’s desire, faces her own inner demons — literally and figuratively — with grace and courage that makes her both lovable and memorable. Add the evil dominatrix Catarina and you have the makings of a classic heroic journey set against an innovative (and also darkly dramatic) backdrop.

That said, I came away at the end of the book feeling like I had read an abridged version, which I suspect could be due to deep cuts and edits designed to meet a publisher’s page count. The result, whatever the reason, is the lingering feeling of having just scratched the surface of a deeper story.  Another 50 pages would have allowed for richer detail and deeper development of the secondary characters (especially love interest Rachel, and twin sister Catarina–the primary antagonist).

This is one of those very rare books where the editor in me was actually begging for MORE back story. The ending, though maybe rushed, a bit predictable and too sweet in the wake of the visceral punch of the rest of the book, did leave me wanting more. The artful world building and intriguing cast of characters are full of potential which I can only hope will result in a long-lived series. I look forward to whatever comes next from this author.

Next Month: Song of the Nile & Lily of the Nile (Novels of Cleopatra’s Daughter) by Stephanie Dray .

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