Jen received an ARC of Carved from Stone and Dream via Edelweiss – Thank you to Harper Voyager, and T. Frohock for the copy in exchange of an honest review.
Timy purchased a paperback copy after reading the previous books in the Los Nefilim series.
|Series: Los Nefilim #5||Genre: historical fantasy|
|Date of Publishing: February 25th 2020||Publisher: Harper Voyager|
In this sequel to Where Oblivion Lives, the first entry in the Los Nefilim series set during the Spanish Civil War, a coded notebook containing the identities of Los Nefilim’s spies falls into enemy hands, and Diago is faced with an impossible choice: betray Los Nefilim or save his family.
Catalonia has fallen. Los Nefilim is in retreat.
With the Nationalist forces hard on their heels, the members of Los Nefilim—Spanish Nephilim that possess the power to harness music and light in the supernatural war between the angels and daimons—make a desperate run for the French border.
Diago Alvarez, a singular being of angelic and daimonic descent, follows Guillermo and a small group of nefilim through the Pyrenees, where the ice is as treacherous as postwar loyalties—both can kill with a single slip. When a notebook of Los Nefilim’s undercover operatives falls into a traitor’s hands, Diago and Guillermo risk their lives to track it down. As they uncover a pocket realm deep within the Pyrenees, Diago discovers his family is held hostage.
Faced with an impossible choice: betray Los Nefilim, or watch his family die, Diago must nurture the daimonic song he has so long denied in order to save those he loves.
“The passage amplified the arrangement: tenor, tenor, bass, bass . . . all male. The motif was a signature of Die Nephilim.
The tenors ceased to sing, leaving only the vibrations of the bass in the measure. Once more he heard Miquel say: Move the breath of darkness . . . through your throat . . . your throat . . . throat . . .
The boards shook beneath him. Dust drifted downward from the ceiling. The tracks blurred. The tenors rejoined the movement. Reverberations echoed in the darkness. Red-gold beams flooded the passage along with the sound of the nefilim’s voices, breaking as they sang.”*
* from uncorrected advanced reader and subject to change.
This song is more about tone than words, though I feel that it somewhat works for Jordi and Nico’s relationship.
That was something your father had burned in me
Twenty hours out of Homestake eternity
You can go anywhere but you are where you came from
Little girl, you are cursed by my ancestry
There is nothing but darkness and agony I can not only see, but you stopped me from blinking
Let me watch you as close as a memory
Let me hold you above all the misery
Let me open my eyes and be glad that I got here
Diago needs to get Guillermo through the mountains and in to France where the Los Nefilim can regroup, more importantly he needs to keep Guillermo out of Jordi’s reach because Jordi wants Guillermo’s signet. With the ring and his brother dead, Jordi can force an abdication and become King again. To complicate matters, a wrench is thrown into their retreat when a coded notebook is lost to the enemy.
My first introduction to Los Nefilim was Where Oblivion Lives. I fell in love with the world, the writing, and the characters. I had hoped to go back and catch the first novellas before this book was released, that didn’t happen of course, but I loved that it didn’t matter because these work as self-contained entries into the world.
This story is quite different in tone from Where Oblivion Lives. It’s less a Hitchcock mystery/creeping horror and more Cold War Spies sneaking behind enemy lines.
At first, I missed the Stradivarius, that haunting song and fevered-dream muzziness that we shared with Diago, as he worked through his memories and on the key in Where Oblivion Lives. But I began to realize that while the environment may have changed, the core aspects that I loved were present. Just maybe not in the same way. The haunting music isn’t as prominent other than in the angel’s song and in their magic, and that creepy horror ambience may not be spilling out of the story as thickly this time around, but it most certainly exists, along with that solid, thoughtful and beautifully stark writing that doesn’t waste a word or pull a punch when it needs to.
The dangers to the Los Nefilim feel bigger while also hitting closer to home for Diago, and his family.
Diago is always walking a line between his daimon side and his angel side. We see a lot of that struggle for him in this book, with his daimon side being stroked easily by the discomfort that anyone feels; including the people he cares about. He has to keep it tamped down, try to ignore it, lest it overcomes him, but he finds he is having to call on that part of himself more often to help the people he loves.
We see Miguel being pushed to the edge – he’s in a bad way and his personality may not be the best due to that. For me, who hadn’t spent a huge amount of time with Miguel as a character, the use of Diago’s memories of Miguel bolstering him through his own dark times, went a long way in showing me the kind of person Miguel usually is, and how much of himself he was losing to the drugs and torture.
I think my favourite character in this book though was Nico – he is faced with the decision to either stick by or betray the one he loved, knowing that either way he will lose that person. I don’t want to go into it too much because of spoilers, but I felt so much heartache for Nico and the struggles he was dealing with in this story.
The story is solid – everything from characters right down to the tone is near perfect.
At the risk of repeating myself from my previous review of her work, and from my twitter yacking:
It’s the details that impress me, the weaving together of events and placement of bread crumbs, small thoughtful comments that get followed through with later, or hit us with horror when the understanding dawns. The yellow scarf that tells us everything about Rafael’s personality while doing dual duty as a scene setter. The hints about Sam that later make my heart pound through my chest when I realize just who it is that our boy is getting ready to meet. And especially the follow-through on Martinez, who could have easily been a throwaway character, but served to show us the impact and repercussions of a tough decision. These are the things that raise a story up to the next level for me but coupled with everything else, just made this a stellar read.
“Maybe. But animosity murdered empathy and gave understanding little room to grow. The darker emotions had their place. Diago glanced over his shoulder and noted his son’s grim features. But they’re not to be nurtured.“
Normally I wouldn’t pick a song like this, but I think All Of Me would be a good song for Diago and Miquel. I choose the version where John Legend plays the piano and Lindsey Stirling plays the violin, because, well, for obvious reasons.
Over the summer I hopelessly fell in love with the Los Nefilim series when I read first the novella collection, Los Nefilim then the first full novel in the series, Where Oblivion Lives. I went ahead and bought the next book, Carved from Stone and Dream and you can be sure as hell, I’ll buy the next and last of the series, A Song with Teeth too.
We are in 1939, a few years after the events in Where Oblivion Lives. The second World War is just around the corner, though our characters don’t know that yet. They are more concerned about the Spanish Civil War and Franco taking over – not least thanks to Jordi Abelló, Guillermo’s half-brother. As well as the new German leader, Hitler supported by Die Nephilim’s Queen Jäger who plan to invade France as quickly as possible. Los Nefilim has to retreat and while Ysa, Juanita, Rafael, and some others are already in Paris, Miquel only just stepped over the border waiting for Diago, Guillermo, Carme, and Feran to cross the Pyrenees. But plans have that annoying trait to never go as intended.
I would rather not go into the details regarding the plot as it’s something you have to experience yourself. Events in Carved from Stone and Dream take place within 48 hours or less. Not sure if this is the reason, but the 350 pages long book felt more like 100. It’s a super-fast read and a highly engaging one. Then again, I’m biased, because I just love these characters so much and if it was up to me, this book easily could have been 600 pages long for all I care. And I don’t even like chonky books.
To my surprise and delight, Carved from Stone and Dream introduces Rafael as a POV character. It takes a while to wrap one’s head around the fact that he is 15 years old already. A Civil War is not exactly a time period you would want to grow up in, and young Rafael had seen his share of horror already. Thankfully that did not break him and he had become a remarkable – if still brash – young man. We also get to see a different side of Miquel and Diago. They kind of switch roles, and this time it’s Miquel who is going to need Diago’s unwavering support. I said this before in my Los Nefilim review, but really, my most favorite part about this series is the relationships of the characters.
Miquel closed his eyes and inhaled the scent of him. “And you were surprised. Do you remember that? You said I was a fool; that only mortals fell in love at first sight, because their lives were like those of butterflies, short and filled with fleeting beauty. You said no one could possibly love you.” But I did, and I do, and this is all backward and wrong, because I should be saving you.
Frohock in this book brings in another layer regarding angelology with the Watchers or as they called here, the Grigori. As much as I enjoy the plot and the characters, I also enjoy how she uses mythology in her fiction. So. Cool.
The Los Nefilim series never shied away from being dark and dealing with heavy topics, and Carved from Stone and Dream is not an exception. While Spain and France face oppression by either their nation or another one, the characters deal with their own fears and nightmares. Be it drug-induced or otherwise. Bringing drug experiments into the picture was an interesting choice and one that’s probably not very far from what actually happened during the war, or maybe even before that. Though it was likely much more brutal than what we glimpsed here. Just flip up any historical book on Nazis and you’ll see.
Carved from Stone and Dream raises the bar yet even higher in a series that keep giving ever more excellent books. I already can’t wait to read the last book, but I’m also dreading it, because I wouldn’t mind spending eternity with Diago, Miquel, Rafael, Ysa, and all the others. If there is only one historical fantasy series you’ll ever read in your life, then Los Nefilim should be the one.