Series: Los Nefilim #3
Genre: Dark fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Release date: 29th March 2016
This edition: Review copy (Kindle)
Note: While I will do my best to keep my review of this story spoiler-free, there will be some inevitable spoilers, mostly for the previous novellas, below. If you haven’t read those and want to, I’d suggest doing so first…
Save the world, or save his family…
For Diago Alvarez, that’s the choice before him. For unless he wants to see his son Rafael die, he must do the unthinkable:
Help the Nazis receive the plans to the ultimate weapon.
And while Diago grows more comfortable not only with his heritage, but also with his place among Guillermo’s Los Nefilim, he is still unsure if he truly belongs amongst them.
In a frantic race to save the future of humanity, Diago is forced to rely on his daimonic nature to deceive an angel. In doing so, he discovers the birth of a modern god—one that will bring about a new world order from which no one can escape.
It’s only March, and already 2016 is turning out to be quite a year for bittersweet endings to fantasy trilogies, some of which have become personal favourites. The Los Nefilim series is one of those.
The Second Death concludes a trilogy of novellas that takes several different genre flavours and blends them smoothly enough to create something that really stands out. This is dark urban fantasy with enough 1930s noir to give it some real grit, but under that dirty surface is a heartwarming exploration of love. Whether it’s touching on the relationship between Diago, the protagonist, and his partner Miquel; the bonds of family between the two lovers and Diago’s son Rafael; or the strength of loyalty that can build families beyond mere blood relations – at the core of this story, for me, is enough love to withstand any amount of dark forces being thrown at it.
Which is not to say that it doesn’t take some hard knocks, much like Diago himself does. This novella opens on the aftermath of the finale in Without Light or Guide, the second of this trilogy’s entries, and it doesn’t waste much time after that necessary pause for breath in kicking off the next disaster to befall Diago and company. As is the rule of any trilogy, things get bigger and badder than ever before. Rather than simply taking on daimons this time, there’s a struggle with Above AND Below coming – and the tension being cranked up provides a nail-bitingly fraught sense of uncertainty over who’ll survive.
Not least of all because this final act in the drama puts Rafael right in the thick of everything and, for part of it, gives him a chance to find his own (clever) way out again. If there were any surefire ways to put me on the edge of my seat for this, Frohock found it right there. And she doesn’t stop there – from the very beginning of this story, we’re set up to follow Diago on a path that could see him save his own soul or condemn it to hell, all depending on which choices he makes. There’s potential in him for both, and we’re shown right at the start that the decision may not be an easy one for him, family or no family. After all, his family and their safety is at the core of why he’ll make the decisions he makes…
My emotional investment in that family dynamic until this point made absolutely sure I’d be wracked with nerves throughout this part of the story, and I loved every minute of it.
And I’ve got to say it – the methods of using magic here have pretty breathtaking results.
The magic system for Los Nefilim is focused heavily on music; every Nefil has the power of song to bring their magic to bear – and evidently if singing is good, then adding dancing is better… I had to read this novella twice, just to really absorb how amazingly well everything comes together for this final act, as well as for that finale itself.
Thanks to that ending I’m left wanting more, in the best way possible. Whether we eventually get more Los Nefilim stories or not, I’ve definitely become a fan of Frohock’s writing. Whatever’s coming next? Sign me up.