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Kaylin McFarren

Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Create)

The saga of Soul Seeker continues with Queen Lucinda increasing her powers by devouring the souls of demons, while plotting the destruction of Heaven in the upcoming Red War.

McFarren’s twisty cosmic epic, the second in her Gehenna series, again takes flight on the conflict—and surprising romantic longings—between angels and demons, this time in the aftermath of the death of Lucifer. Heaven and Hell tremble, with our mortal plain caught in the middle, as Queen Lucinda, Lucifer’s daughter and now the rule of the infernal realm, prepares for the Red War, and forces of often complex or shifting loyalties move against her and each other, among them Crighton Daemonium, the good-hearted “Soul Seeker” Nephilim whom Lucinda loves with consuming passion, his soulmate Ariel, the young demon Samara, and factions like the Black Crows.

Opening with dishy romantic entanglements and a hellish slaughter, Annihilation proves, for all its significant heft, a brisk, engaging sequel, plotted with the restless playfulness of an author who understands that readers know every genre convention and is admirably committed to upending them. As befits the material, the story at times can be darkly upsetting—Lucinda and co. are obsessed with “seed” and will do what it takes to extract it—but never gratuitously explicit. In fact, readers on its wavelength will have a ball: McFarren gleefully mixes pantheons and mythologies—the Gehenna saga features Cerberus, Hecate, shapeshifters, angels in the bodies of demons, and many more surprises—as well as genres, blending fantasy, horror, and romance into a singular whole, all laced together with a welcome, often salty, wit. (She’s especially funny on the administrative aspects of ruling Hell.)

The action is crisply described, the horrific and infernal elements vivid but not lingered over, and the dialogue often comic (One character deadpans, “an Archangel followed us and smote the crap out of him.”) Readers are advised to start with the previous book, Soul Seeker, as Annihilation moves fast and assumes a familiarity with its worlds, but lovers of daring fantasy with occult elements and an interest in the gray between good and evil will find this a feast.

Takeaway: A vigorously inventive fantasy sequel that finds fresh surprises and romance in the war between heaven and hell.

Great for fans of: Debra Dunbar, Kate Griffin.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A