Summary: The fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind…
Born of an angel and a daimon, Diago Alvarez is a singular being in a country torn by a looming civil war and the spiritual struggle between the forces of angels and daimons. With allegiance to no one but his partner Miquel, he is content to simply live in Barcelona, caring only for the man he loves and the music he makes. Yet, neither side is satisfied to let him lead this domesticated life and, knowing they can’t get to him directly, they do the one thing he’s always feared.
They go after Miquel.
Now, in order to save his lover’s life, he is forced by an angel to perform a gruesome task: feed a child to the daimon Moloch in exchange for a coin that will limit the extent of the world’s next war. The mission is fraught with danger, the time he has to accomplish it is limited…and the child he is to sacrifice is the son Diago never knew existed.
A lyrical tale in a world of music and magic, T. Frohock’s In Midnight’s Silence shows the lengths a man will go to save the people he loves, and the sides he’ll choose when the sidelines are no longer an option.
Thoughts: I have such a soft spot for anything to do with fallen angels. I’ve had a fascination with them for years, pretty much since I was in my teens, and so am just a touch predisposed to enjoy stories involving them. Add in male/male romance, and you pretty much have something that trip a couple of my biggest triggers in the best way. Knowing Frohock’s writing, and knowing those two things, I figured I was going to love this novella even before I started reading the first page.
Diago is a man torn between two worlds. With both daimonic and angelic heritage, he’s loyal to neither, remaining as neutral as he can while still supporting Miquel, his angelic lover who is bound to thwart daimons. It’s a fine line to walk, and it doesn’t come easy. But when Miquel disappears and Diago’s mysterious past comes back to haunt him, he finds himself unable to remain quite so neutral as everything hits hard and close to home.
Characters like Diago are great to read, occupying that great space between insider and outsider. In remaining neutral, at least officially, he allows the reader an opportunity to see both sides while choosing neither. Even so, though, it’s fairly clear early on that he favours the angels more than daimons. Perhaps because of Miquel, perhaps because he just generally disagrees with daimons but can’t bring himself to make that his official stance, I can’t really say. Even so, most of the story wasn’t about a man caught in the middle. It had more to do with personal salvation, with acceptance, with facing your past and acknowledging who and what it made you, with sacrifice and responsibility. How the past can catch up to you no matter how much you try to outrun or deny it, and sometimes that turns out to be a mixed blessing rather than an outright curse. There are so many of these little themes that add up to a strong message, and not a word wasted as the story gets told.
It’s worth pointing out that I love the subtleties in the way the author handled angels. They are immortal beings, yes, but they don’t hang around in the same body for hundreds of years. They can be killed. And when they die, they’re reborn into new bodies, to keep living. (Another good trigger tripped, there; I’m a sucker for reincarnation.) The new bodies bear scars and injuries from the previous body, and it’s established that some angels who can’t handle the idea of a new life with such disfigurements will choose to be enslaved by daimons instead. Which sounds shallow and selfish, until you think that some of them might have been in the reincarnation cycle for centuries, and have faced torture, and wanting an escape to that is nothing to be chosen lightly. This isn’t a major plot point within In Midnight’s Silence, but it speaks to the large amount of worldbuilding that Frohock put into a novella that would still have been fantastic even without the extra detail.
In Midnight’s Silence is dark without going over the top, poignant without being rigidly moral. And considering some of the themes involved, such as sexual consent or taking responsibility for someone else’s actions, that’s actually pretty impressive.
This is only the first part of an ongoing story, and I, for one, and eager to read part 2 already! Frohock has started something wonderful here, the perfect balance of dark and hopeful, draws a distinction between religion, faith, a spirituality right from the get-go; it’s unique and brilliant and, for all that it’s short, it has some reread value if you’ve got an interest in religious mythologies. It’s hard to escape the lure of the web that Frohock has woven, and I’m not inclined to try. As I said before, this novella trips all the right triggers, and suspect it will continue to do so as the story expands.
(Received for review as part of a book tour.)