This reprint of the prequel to Hieber’s Strangely Beautiful series weaves Greek mythology into a supernatural Victorian England and Cairo. The novel provides the series’ origin story. A manic and flighty, but peace-loving Persephone plots with her mortal six-member Guard to free the world from unquiet spirits and the ruler of the underworld, Darkness, a god who shifts between handsome man and skeleton. As in the Greek tradition of gods, Persephone has faults and doesn’t always consider fully the well-being of mortals. Each of the six Guard have distinctly developed characters in harmony with the role they play as one of the Muses: Memory, Art, Intuition, Healing, Heart, and the Leader. While romance is easy for some of the Guard, the two top members stubbornly resist their powerful draw with Victorian decorum, providing the romantic focus.
Hieber uses language reminiscent of the era. The atmospheric depictions of London and Cairo are otherworldly. Being a prequel gives the book, appropriately, a slightly unfinished feel, with the worst yet to come. Recommended for readers of gas-lamp fantasy, Victorian and paranormal romance, or dark fantasy.