NOTICE: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:
Title: Trampling in the Land of Woe (The Patron Saints of Hell #1)
Author: William L.J. Galaini
Publisher: Scarlet River Press
Release Date: September 14, 2015
Genre(s): Fantasy, Steampunk, Horror, Adventure
Pages: 204 (eBook)
As World War I rages on Earth, Hephaestion, lauded general and soul mate of Alexander the Great—and now a citizen of Purgatory—embarks on the darkest, most challenging journey of his existence: descending into The Pit of Hell to rescue his king. Chased by Hellbeasts, hunted by Jesuits, and aided by unexpected allies, Hephaestion tests the bounds of loyalty, dedication, and even death as he faces the greatest demon of all: himself. A blend of steampunk and Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, Trampling in the Land of Woe drives through the cobblestoned streets of New Dis, soars above The Pit in airships, and then stumbles down into the terror-ridden rings themselves. Steam-powered trains, zeppelins, and ornithopters zoom by in a mash-up of literary proportions, all to answer one question: What will one man do to understand the meaning of love and truth?
What I First Thought:
I’m always up for reading any story that deals with historical events and characters, especially ones that I know and love learning about. I have read stories before with queer characters and I’ve read stories that mentions or briefly show the love between two characters of the same sex. However, I have yet to read a story that focuses solely on a queer main character and their love for another. I’ve been interested in a while, and I’ve really wanted to broaden my personal library with queer fiction, especially after reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and getting interested in her other book Carry On. However, I have yet to find the latter and I haven’t had the time (or money) really to comb through the shelves for those kinds of books. So I was rather excited when I was offered a chance to read and review Trampling in the Land of Woe. It was an added bonus that it was about Alexander the Great and his famed lover, and dearest friend, Hespaestion!
The first thing I want to say is daaaaaaaaaamn! This story is overflowing with creativity and imagination that outshines almost everything that I have ever read. The author’s depiction of Hell and how it changed with the times on Earth was absolutely fascinating. I loved how the author mixed old and new technologies together so effortlessly, creating wonderful images of blimps and old fashion naval ships with steel parts.
Galaini’s depiction of Hell and ascension was fascinating to read and definitely made me think. It was nice to see that characters from any religion could make it into Heaven, really outlining the idea the importance of people’s good deeds in life and not their core beliefs. It was also refreshing to read of people who ascended to Heaven after they spent time in Purgatory or Hell, that where you end up in death doesn’t have to be the eternal. All of these things, while appearing in a work of fiction, are definitely interesting food for thought.
I believe my favorite part of this story was meeting all the various characters that appeared in Heph’s journey. You meet Vikings, Jews, Celts, old Christian abbots, characters from fallen empires, and characters who predate the Egyptians. The minor characters were always fun to read and interesting to read about, especially the female characters. Out of the entire cast of characters, almost all of the female characters that were mentioned were totally over-powered and badass in their own way, with magic, great weaponry, and fantastical tools. I can’t really tell you who my favorite character was without giving any spoilers, but they’re all pretty fantastic and they each had an interesting role to play in the story and Heph’s overall journey through Hell.
Heph’s journey through the story was rather interesting to read, even though his main goal seems to be doomed to fail, even from the start. It was a rather bumpy ride from start to finish, mostly because our Hero has decided to take on a nearly impossible task and everyone keeps telling him that he won’t succeed. Almost everyone he meets tries to persuade him to move on from his love for Alexander, to dissuade him from descending into Hell to find him, but they always help him out in some way. I find that to be rather interesting, because in most books those kinds of characters only serve one purpose and it’s to distract the Hero from their journey. However, most of these characters in Trampling in the Land of Woe are also Heph’s greatest allies and friends, helping him in whatever way they could. Heph’s journey into the deepest parts of Hell was interesting to read because of the characters he met, the people who helped or opposed him, and the wonderfully imaginative depictions of the Rings of Hell. Heph’s personal odyssey to find Alexander the Great was one that I had mixed feelings about, and I’m still not sure whether I cared for it. His travels were rather exciting and wonderful to read, especially with the author’s unique voice and descriptions. However, there was so much build up, build up, build up that when you think you got to the final conflict and it’s over within a few pages, you’re suffering from whiplash, and there’s still more to read. All of the last twenty pages pretty much left me feeling unsettled, which may or may not have been the author’s purpose.
While the resolution of the story was unsettling and still leaving me to wonder how I actually feel about it, I still liked reading about the progress that Heph’s character made. It was interesting to see how his character transformed from being single-mindedly driven to thinking beyond his love and loyalty to Alexander. And while I couldn’t really connect with Hespaestion, his overall character journey was nice to read about.
As my first queer fiction, I enjoyed it and felt that it was rather tame. Overall there’s no romance in this story, just in the flashbacks that Hespaestion has to when he was alive. Those memories were actually rather sweet, for the most part, and I really enjoyed reading about their loving actions and adventures. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, who like me, wants to broaden their shelves and read something out of the norm for them. It is rather tame in the queer romance, so I believe can serve as a nice stepping stone into harder queer fiction.
The story is rather gory in some places, and I actually squirmed at some of the descriptions. This may be a turn off for some readers, while other may like it. For those sensitive to gore, I would definitely not try to read this before bed if you decide to give this book a try. For those who love gore, this book probably won’t phase you and may prove to be rather fun.
This book is a fantastic read for anyone who wants to get into the Halloween mood. There’s hideous monsters, torture, and grotesque scenes that all really fit with the Hell scenery.
I would also recommend this book to anyone who wants a good, imaginative story. The author’s imagination is spectacular and his writing ability really helps flesh out that imagination. The characters are very unique and come from all walks of life, lending interesting advise and beautiful quotes. Really, this could be a great read for anyone that isn’t squeamish about gore or queer main characters.
Overall this story was fantastic. I loved reading the book, for the most part, and enjoyed all of the minor characters, and the work and creativity that went with it. Galaini had a wonderful writing style and his descriptions of everything were breath taking, making it easy for my brain to paint the story. I would have given Trampling in the Land of Woe full marks, but the conclusion left me unsettled and I just couldn’t relate to Hespaestion. Some of the minor characters I really liked and I related to them more, but their time in the story was too brief for my taste. However, I feel like this story was still pretty good and was definitely not your typical Hero’s Journey. I think I’ll be sticking around and seeing what other books in this series will bring.