Liefdom by Jesse Teller

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Rating 7.9/10
Raw, deeply creative, and dark. I really enjoyed it.

Overall

First I'll say I'm already a Jesse Teller fan, and Liefdom was the experience I've come to expect: raw, deeply creative, and dark. I really enjoyed it, and some of the more ambitious parts of the book blew me away. Largely what I enjoyed were the characters and the writing itself, so I'll focus mostly on these.

Setting/World-Building

A mix and match of epic fantasy and fairy-tale, yet somehow with an often realistic feel. The world feels large and complex with the sense that much is happening (and has happened) off camera. It's a world where fairies exist, 'linked' to humans in the real world, and the fate of one affects the other, which is important to the plot.

Plot

There's two 'separate' storylines that work well together, the first focusing on the outcast fairy Gentry in a fae realm, the other on a cast of characters in the real world involved in the summoning of a terrifying demon. I really liked both stories for different reasons, but I found the real meat of this story to be the characters, so I'll mostly focus on that.

Characters

Gentry the outcast fairie is both unique and familiar, and rather heart-wrenching in many scenes. He brings elements of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, or Beauty and the Beast - a misshapen or otherwise malformed character, scorned by those who should love him, but perhaps redeeming them and himself regardless. I absolutely love these sorts of characters, and Gentry is a fantastic example.

The other character I have to mention is the dark sorcerer Vrice. Whew. Part of me wants to compare him to Donaldson's Thomas Covenant, and sometimes Josiah Bancroft's Thomas Senlin. A frustratingly powerful yet also weak character, sometimes incredibly compelling despite the monstrosity of his goals. In parts I actually found myself cheering for him, which on reflection is almost inexplicable.

There's a host of other characters, including the heroes that save the day, but in truth I found these sort of just 'required' and not very interesting compared to the rather excellent villain of the tale. This might say more about me than anything...

Writing

In another of Mr. Teller's stories I once called him the Chuck Palahniuk of fantasy. With Liefdom there is a far less 'bare bones' approach, but the language is no less visceral. Like Mr. Palahniuk, I have a feeling if Teller were to read aloud some of the 'demonic plane' sections with Vrice, he might cause an old lady or two to pass out. But I loved it, and squirmed.

Final Thoughts

I understand this was Mr. Teller's first published book, and no doubt it has its flaws (what book doesn't?). But the creativity, the evocative language, and the excellent characters are reason enough to experience it. And I hope to read many more books by the author in the years to come.

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