T. Frohock’s Where Oblivion Lives is the first novel in the Los Nefilim series. It slightly defies genre classification but could be shelved with historical or urban fantasy with its expertly drawn historical context and its strong elements of both horror and suspense. It is preceded by a trio of novellas also titled Los Nefilim that the reviewer highly recommends reading either before or after this novel. I was provided with a physical advanced reader copy by Haper Voyager for this review. The book releases on February 19th, 2019.
It’s hard to talk about a book like this because it cuts almost too deep. Teresa has a way of communicating what it feels like to love someone- your spouse, your child, your friend, yourself- with an intimacy that speaks directly to the core of the human soul. This pathos puts not only the cast of the novel in a web of trust, failure, revenge, and redemption; it also maps their past and future in a compelling and meaningful story.
Set between the two World Wars in a politically tumultuous Europe, the relations between the angel and daimon born Nefilim are worsening as their world reflects our own in the inexorable creep to World War II. Amidst this, our immortal heroes Diago and Guillarme are beginning to relive centuries old horrors from their past lives. Diago is also haunted by his own more recent history having fought in the Great War as well. This historical context sets the perfect tone and is utilized with great care based on what appears to be thorough knowledge on the times and places involved. This care involves not only the dry historical facts but also personalizes that history as a present cultural context for the characters.
The novel is briskly paced—short chapters laced with tension and urgency kept me turning the pages deep into the night. This is punctuated with thrilling scenes of suspense and action that alternatingly have you looking over your shoulder and hanging on for dear life. The suspense and thrills are most thoroughly showcased in the unique magic system at play. The powers of the Nefilim are constructed as symbols in the air charged by song. However to the eyes of a nefil, songs are not only heard but seen which gives every spell an added layer of imagined beauty.
The other special aspect of this novel is that it has something to say without browbeating or proselytizing to the reader. Our main character Diago may be an immortal half daimon, but he’s also dark skinned and a married gay man in a world where Hitler is on the rise. Like every other element in this story, this too is handled with care and aplomb in a way that only deepens our affection for Diago and his friends and family.
Where Oblivion Lives is as full of pathos as it is thrills. Historical context, social commentary, fantastical music-magic, quick pacing, and a deeply personal narrative form a chorus that sing a story you’ll long to hear again.