4 out of 5 stars.
I received an ARC of this work.
Hallie and her sister live on a tired farm in the middle of a country at war. Word comes back that a hero has ended the war by cutting out the heart of the invader’s God, but Hallie keeps finding twisted, unnatural creatures on the edges of the farm, and her brother has not returned yet. She and her sister are struggling to maintain the farm when Hallie hires a veteran to help them with the chores. She hopes that he can help them stem the flow of monsters before her brother will not have anything to go home to.
The most unusual thing about this book is that the main theme was not about the war or saving a farm from ruin, but about the psychological and emotional trauma of being an abuse victim. Both Hallie and her sister Marthe were abused by their father growing up, and a large part of this novel is dedicated to how they are relating to their pasts and to each other as a result of those shared experiences. As the pressures of running the farm and the war loom larger, cracks develop in their relationship that neither has the tools to fix. It is a very realistic look at how childhood trauma can impact future relationships for what is essentially a fantasy novel.
The writing and pacing are slower and very somber. If this book was a painting there would be a lot of greys and blacks. Everyone is tired, sad and distrustful. Everyone is sick of the war and watching mangled young veterans limp back from the front lines. The hero who won the war has vanished, and the defeat of the enemy has not stopped his foul creatures from coming. Though the ending does end up being happy, this is not book that should be read by someone in a bad mood, as it will only intensify it.
The most notable flaw in this book is that some of the description of scenery and actions are a little confusing. I wasn’t sure what I was reading a few times and that threw me for a loop. Other than that though, it was a personal and poignant fantasy novel, mostly concerned with the day-to-day cares of a small farming family.