This first-of-three novella dives straight into the deep end, immersing the reader in a different time for Earth (pre-WWII Spain) and a different (paranormal) social structure, with politics, power grabs, and factions which use heavy-handed, even brutal tactics against even their own allies. Frohock gets the majority of this scene-setting done in the first two chapters, which is remarkable, as by this time the plot is in full swing, the MC is under pressure to rescue his lover and at the same time, frustrated by his own history tripping him up both directly (in the form of a secret which now must be revealed) and and indirectly (via another person who will be dear to him and presumably traded off the other).
To achieve this rapid immersion, the author uses third-person in classic epic fantasy style, with a lot of narration and direct description. This is a fell tale being told in the darkened greatroom of an ancient mansion, not a light story being recounted over coffee at a sunny coffee shop. The description is heavy in the beginning, where the mood is set. It’s a lot of mood and I can see the rationale – to pull off the plot and supernatural element, you need to have a setting suitably dark, misty, and full of portent. Upside — the descriptions are woven into the action, the story always moves forward. Along with a tensely-constructed challenge for the MC, we get some strange characters with otherworldly abilities and some nicely contained magic. No arbitrary Harry Potter stuff, nothing indiscriminate. Everything counts.
By the end of chapter 3, the heavy lifting is done, the train is out of the station* and gaining speed. Frohock gently presses the accelerator through the next section, and things get seriously weird as the caper is pulled off, to great cost to the main character…no Mary Sues here, there is a cost to every gambit and these characters do pay. The story closes with a denounment which is the setup for the next installment of Los Nefilim, and the author foreshadows challenges to come. I’m looking forward to the next story as we’ve got a ton of worldbuilding out of the way in this story.
Whisky suggestion: Lagavulin 16.