Where Oblivion Lives by T. Frohock

Series: Los Nefilim #4 Rating: 4.75/5
Date of Publishing: February 19th 2019 Genre: historical fiction
Publisher: Harper Voyager Number of pages: 368

Quotes of the Book

I chose this quote, which has Diago lost in a memory/vision/nightmare because of the sparseness of the words and the impact of their choices…

“The angel’s sigil over his heart blazes so cold it burns. The pain brings sweat to his scalp and dampens his hair. He somehow remains on his feet. But not for long… I cannot endure this.

In the courtyard, the soldiers finish loading their wagon and push toward the gate. A corpse’s arm slips from beneath the tarp. A silver disk falls from the hand. It is a brooch. The twin to the one he wears.

The door to his room slams open. A soldier strides across the floor, kicking debris out of his way. A box ricochets off the wall and splinters in two: the lid flying one direction, the body in another. The mirror it once contained is already broken, a million little shards of light, spinning through the air.
“What have you done?” The man is hoarse with rage. With a powerful hand, he grabs the back of Diago’s neck, startling him deeper into his terror. The sigil flares across his chest. He lifts his hand. The blood he smells is his own.
Then the world flushes white in a burst of agony. Now I can die.”

“Nothing sinister marked his features, but then again monsters generally moved through the world unobtrusively, camouflaged by banality until their deeds manifested in the form of dead bodies or broken souls.”

Blurb

"Frohock has intricately woven a unique reinterpretation of history. Eloquent prose accompanies a lyrical theme amid prewar tensions, enriching this imaginative historical fantasy." --Publishers Weekly, starred review

A lyrical historical fantasy adventure, set in 1932 Spain and Germany, that brings to life the world of the novellas collected in Los Nefilim: Spanish Nephilim battling daimons in a supernatural war to save humankind.

Born of daimon and angel, Diago Alvarez is a being unlike all others. The embodiment of dark and light, he has witnessed the good and the horror of this world and those beyond. In the supernatural war between angels and daimons that will determine humankind’s future, Diago has chosen Los Nefilim, the sons and daughters of angels who possess the power to harness music and light.

As the forces of evil gather, Diago must locate the Key, the special chord that will unite the nefilim’s voices, giving them the power to avert the coming civil war between the Republicans and Franco’s Nationalists. Finding the Key will save Spain from plunging into darkness.

And for Diago, it will resurrect the anguish caused by a tragedy he experienced in a past life.

But someone—or something—is determined to stop Diago in his quest and will use his history to destroy him and the nefilim. Hearing his stolen Stradivarius played through the night, Diago is tormented by nightmares about his past life. Each incarnation strengthens the ties shared by the nefilim, whether those bonds are of love or hate . . . or even betrayal.

To retrieve the violin, Diago must journey into enemy territory . . . and face an old nemesis and a fallen angel bent on revenge.

Jen’s Personal notes

I would like to thank the author Teresa Frohock, for the opportunity to read an ARC of this book and Mihir (over at Fantasy Book Critic) for bringing it to my attention on twitter.

Song of the Book by Jen

There are a few pieces of music mentioned in this story and as my mom was a violinist, I probably would have recognized them if I heard them, but being this is Rockstarlit I decided to comb through my music for something more appropriate to the blog. Unfortunately, the lyrics of my other choices didn’t quite fit the feel of the story. So, I settled on Apocalyptica’s Romance. The cellos aren’t quite the same to what I had in my head, but I love the heavy haunting feel of this song and it was one of the first to come to mind when I decided to go for a straight instrumental.

Jen’s Review – 5/5

Some books just click and this was one of those times. It wasn’t even that there is much in the way of my bullet-proof likes either – Angels are not an auto buy for me, and historical fantasy is probably closer to an auto-skip. But there was something about this story that resonated (a little pun intended) and part way through I knew I was going to have to go back and read the rest of the series, as soon as my schedule allowed.

Now a member of the Los Nefilim, Diago’s work on the key is being hampered to the point he can no longer ignore it. His instrument, a Stradivarius (violin) is being used against him like a weapon in a type of psychic attack. Suffering from crippling hallucinations and what is essentially the equivalent of PTSD, he sets out to locate the source and retrieve his Violin.

***

The magic is music based, shaping tones and sound to create sigils/glyphs. It’s accessible and you don’t need to be a music prodigy to understand it. I loved the use and how music, combined with the setting, with Hitler on the rise and Spain on the verge of civil war, gave the story a very unsettled, haunting quality that heightened the sense of danger.

The characters – I’m a of a sucker for those outsider type characters – the ones that feel like they are walking a tight rope in their head trying to do the right thing. That they only really need someone to believe in them for them to believe in themselves. Diago feels a bit like that kind of character to me. He’s found redemption and a family and will do anything to protect it.

To back Diago up – there are people who love, trust and support him but who also occasionally have real fears and doubts that he wont trust himself enough to be the person they know he is.

Villains – IMO, some of the best villains are the ones that have a past with the main character. A little history goes a long way and, in this case, Diago’s shared history in his past incarnation adds a deeper layer making not only the relationships between all the characters more complicated, but also making this more than just a grasp for power story.

The reincarnations/memories – I tended to think of these as something like the reincarnated version of the Highlander tv show where McLeod would have a history with a person and we’d get glimpses of characters past together to set up the back story/relationship.

“Watch for Me”

I don’t usually even comment much on the writing in a review unless it stands out. But nothing says better what kind of writing to expect than that phrase – which honestly gave me a little thrill every time it came up.

Used like goodbye, it’s double meaning with the reincarnations, also serves as a reminder of how dangerous their lives are. That the next time they may see one another is in a future incarnation.

I really liked the punch that it added and I think it’s a perfect example to use here to show the thought that was given to the writing in every part of this story – from the word choices, to the setting, the music, the characters, and the past lives. The writing alone could have felt almost stark but the combined elements assist in bringing the world alive through all of our senses. For me this was the distinction that made this an outstanding read.

I would have given this book six stars if GoodReads would have let me. Well worth checking out and quite easy to jump in at this point. But, I can guarantee if you’re like me, you’ll want to go back and catch this series from the start.


Timy’s Personal Notes

I partly listened to the audiobook and partly read it. It kept popping up on my feed this past year and I needed something different in the holiday season. Well, I’ve got it.

 

Song of the Book by Timy

This book has a lot of classical music references I’m not familiar with. But I definitely wanted a song with violin in it (I have something for violins and wish there was more rock music out there with this instrument) and for that reason, my first instinct was to look at some Lindsey Stirling pieces. Oh man, had I have a hard time choosing between her cover of Radioactive by Imagine Dragons with Pentatonix (wish they did Demons though) and Hold My Heart she played with ZZ Ward. Eventually I went with the latter, because it goes so well with Diago and Miquel’s relationship.

Timy’s Review – 4.5/5

I’ve been hearing a lot about Where Oblivion Lives this past year and it was one of those books that seemed to be totally up my alley. Angels? Demons? Music? Hell to the yes! I was absolutely on board with that. I, however, did not heed the advice of others and jumped right to Where Oblivion Lives without reading the three Los Nefilim novellas. And though it not necessarily a must to start with the novellas, I feel like it would have given me much more background and worldbuilding I missed at the beginning and which made me struggle to get into the story at first. Eventually I did put the pieces together and got really hooked and I can only blame myself for being stupid.

Anyway, the book. Where Oblivion Lives is set in 1932, Spain, France and Germany. We are between two world wars – not that the characters know about that – and life is more or less peaceful, though memories from the Great War still linger and cause vivid nightmares for those who were there. Like Diago, who lived through the conflict and on top of the memories he also lost his invaluable Stradivarius. Both of which torments his dreams. When they finally learn about it whereabouts, Diago gets a chance to not only get back a piece of himself, but also to prove his loyalty and value to Los Nefilim. Which starts out as a quick and easy job (not without dangers though) turns into a vicious fight for his life.

I’d rather not tell more about the plot, let’s just say, there is a twisty road ahead of our dear Diago. What I’d like to talk about however, is my appreciation for Frohock who chose a really interesting era to set her novel in. Exploring brand new imaginary worlds is always fun, but as someone who loves history (did I mention recently, that I have a degree in History?) I always enjoy reading books set in our world, amidst of real events which play an integral part in the world building and occasionally in the plot. In Where Oblivion Lives we have the Sanjurjo trial mentioned several times (here is a wikipedia page about José Sanjurjo who was one of the leaders who started which later was known as the Spanish Civil War in 1936) as well as the Brownshirts or as they also known officially, the SA, a paramilitary organisation in the Nazi Germany. Hitler himself is also mentioned, though his political role was not as prominent yet. I absolutely enjoyed these hints and side comments, “watching” as history happens in the background while the focus still remained on Diago and his quest. Those seemingly unimpotant nuances added a lot to my enjoyment. And, as it was indicated, mortal events influenced those within the Nefilim, so knowing what came in the years after 1932, I can only imagine how much hardship are coming Diago’, Miquel’s, Guillermo’s and the others’ way in later books.

Talking about the characters – we have a wide cast here, three of them who have their own POV: Diago, Guillermo and Jordi. Their relationships and conflicts have a long history through a couple of incarnations. Nefilim are the offspring of mortals and angels or daimons which gives them different skills and powers. They don’t always remember their previous lives, but they can be triggered and complicate things in the present. Grudges can be hold through the ages as well as love and friendships. Guillermo and Jordi, two brothers have been fighting for the approval of the Thrones to be a leader of one of the Inner Guards on earth. In this life Guillermo is the leader of the Spanish territory and his group is called Los Nefilim. Jordi wants his birthright and stops at nothing to reach his goal. Diago used to be a rouge for centuries, not woving loyalty to anyone, and not be trusted by many for his Daimon inheritance. People who stand by him no matter what are Guillermo – to whom he swore his loyalty – and Miquel, his lover and husband. The one who keeps him grounded and accepts him the way he is. Their relationship has hardships and they still to learn some things, but their connection is strong and honestly, would be nice to have a relationship like the one they have.

I’m not quite sure why, but I couldn’t quite connect with any of the characters in a deeper level, even though they were all fleshed out and had their own agenda. Maybe because I was more focused on figuring out what is going on to really pay attention to them – we have Diago’s quest, the resurfacing memories of a past life which leads to complications in the present and then the politics within the Nefilim. It probably didn’t help that I partly read it as an audiobook – especially the beginning and some parts toward the end. Audiobooks always makes things a bit tricky, and personally I wasn’t really into Vikas Adam‘s performance, he has a nice voice though.

Even though it took me a while to really get into Where Oblivion Lives due to it having many layers and me being new to the world, by the end I was totally invested. I really liked the mystery, how the different plotlines came together and the cleverly placed hints and historical references. For which I need to praise T. Frohock’s writing! That and the way she transformed the music into literary form.

If you are looking for an intriguing historical fiction with LGBTQ characters and music in the spotlight, look no further. I’m pretty sure the Los Nefilim series will be up your alley.

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble Author’s website: https://www.tfrohock.com/

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