Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Romance In Fantasy Fiction: Endless Love In Teresa Frohock's "Where Oblivion Lives"


Intro: #RIFF #YOR

Excitement reigns right now because this is the eighth (infinite eight!) instalment of my Year of Romance (#YOR) post series on Supernatural Underground. Specifically, that is, Romance in Fantasy Fiction (#RIFF) and most specifically of all, romances that I've enjoyed over many years of reading. #JustSayin' ;-)

This month I'm staying on track with my intention to switch between older and newer works, and featuring Teresa Frohock's Where Oblivion Lives, which is Book One in a new Los Nefilim trilogy.

Teresa Frohock's Where Oblivion Lives (Los Nefilim Series) — Diago, Miquel, and Endless Love

Firstly, a little about Los Nefilim. Teresa Frohock's series, set in 1930s, pre-Civil War Spain, began with a series of three linked novellas, first published individually and then collected in one volume as Los Nefilim.

(You can read my post on the novellas here.)

I've said before that it's hard to categorize this series: it's historical fantasy, but it's also decidedly supernatural and paranormal in focus. It's also urban fantasy, being primarily set in Barcelona, but also has a distinctly noir-thriller ethos, with horror overtones.

Los Nefilim's central premise is the eternal conflict between angels and demons, in which the nephilim — the hybrid offspring of human pairings with the supernatural beings — serve as foot soldiers in the war between the higher powers. (The 'nefilim' of the series title is simply the Spanish form of 'nephilim.') In Teresa Frohock's story, begun in Los Nefilim and continued in Where Oblivion Lives, the cosmic conflict both mirrors and intersects Spain’s descent into Civil War.

The nefilim are not immortal, but are eternally reborn to serve in the war-without-end between heaven and hell. For this reason, the nefilim's maxim, "Watch for me" is both invocation and prayer, farewell and blessing, but may also be a curse.
The characters at the center of the Los Nefilim series and its incarnation of the eternal war are Diago and Miquel. Diago and Miquel are both nefilim and their love has endured down centuries and across lives. In Where Oblivion Lives they are married, both part of Los Nefilim's Inner Guard,  and raising Rafael, Diago's son from an earlier relationship in his current incarnation.

(How Diago and Miquel find and rescue Rafael from the demons is told in the linked novellas of Los Nefilim.)

One of the things I really like about Diago and Miquel's relationship in Where Oblivion Lives is that it is presented without commentary or explanation — beyond the story of their love and its evolution, that is. What's important about Diago and Miquel in this story is not that they are gay, although very clearly they are. But authorial commentary is unnecessary because their relationship, like every other aspect of this engaging story, speaks for itself.

Having said that, the story does reflect what it means to be gay in  a world that doesn't accept such relationships. The core of the story, though, is who Diago and Miquel are, as individuals and as a couple. Also their part in the larger Los Nefilim picture (which can be murky — this is heaven vs hell and immediately pre-Civil War Spain, after all.) What matters, too, is their commitment to each other—the endless love spanning incarnations—and to their son, Rafael, as well as to their friends and fellow nefilim. In Where Oblivion Lives this is chiefly illustrated through their loyalty to Guillermo, the leader of Los Nefilim—and his to them.

If challenged to come up with a single adjective to describe Diago and Miquel, the word would be "fidelity." They are faithful to each other, to Rafael, and to their values, even where those values cut across some of Los Nefilim's traditional loyalties and behaviors.

So if you like historical fiction and supernatural/paranormal fantasy, noir thrillers, dark fantasy and/or horror, together with lovers whose fidelity and commitment fuel an endless love, then I think you'll find a lot to like in Where Oblivion Lives and Los Nefilim. 

Note: It's not necessary to read Los Nefilim first to "grok" Where Oblivion Lives but it may give you a deeper appreciation of the world and the story.

Teresa Frohock
By way of disclosure, Teresa is a fellow Supernatural Undergrounder and friend-in-writing. I obtained my reading copy via our publisher-in-common, HarperCollins Voyager and my editor, the awesome Kate Nintzel.

Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry; she also blogs and occasionally interviews fellow writers. Her first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. The second,The Heir of Night(The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012, and the sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013.Daughter Of Blood (Book Three), was published in 2016 and Helen is currently completing the final novel in the series. She posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and is also on Twitter:@helenl0we.

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