The Hierophant’s Daughter by M.F. Sullivan is the first book in the Disgraced Martyr Trilogy. It is a brilliant combination of dystopian, horror, cyberpunk and science fiction elements set in a richly constructed, alternate history of Earth.
In 1974, a visitor from another world came to the Earth. The Hierophant then began a slow and methodical political, religious and military takeover of the planet. Immortal, and backed by an army of genetically altered, cannibalistic humans known as Martyrs, his domination is imminent. Those humans who could afford it, fled to the safety of Mars leaving their poorer counterparts behind to fight an endless battle for freedom and survival.
Dominia di Mephitoli is a ruthless, battle hardened Martyr. Immortal. Lethal. Her exploits on the battlefield in her father’s, The Father’s name, are legendary. But love is the ultimate transformative power and Dominia has fallen hopelessly in love with a human woman. Cassandra eventually joins her wife in immortality as a Martyr, but a devastating tragedy results in her death.
Immortality, when your heart has been wrenched from your chest leaving an aching void, is an excruciating torture. Dominia can’t face spending an eternity constantly aching for another moment with her wife. She must find a way to bring her back regardless of what it takes or who she must betray. Even if it means turning her back on her family to seek out a man rumoured to be able to resurrect the dead. But running from the Hierophant is no easy task, and he is not keen to let her go. Especially not when the culmination of his grand project, one that will end any hope humanity has of winning the war, is at hand.
General Dominia is as anti-hero as they come. She is a martyr, feared by humans both for her appetite and her ferocity in battle. She’s killed countless as the leader of the Hierophant’s army or simply as her next meal. Heck she’s even referred to humans as garbage. And then there is her selfishly hell-bent determination to resurrect Cassandra. So why is it I find myself cheering for her? Perhaps it is an empathy for her utter disillusionment, for the sting of familial betrayal, for the soul searing pain of losing a loved one? Perhaps it is her desire to try and become the better person her wife hoped she could be. Whatever the reason, I find her character to be so compelling.
The Hierophant is a megalomaniac from another planet bent on world domination. Cunning, ruthless and feared by Martyrs and humans alike, he is the quintessential villain. Cassandra is the love of Dominia’s life and the catalyst for the Martyr’s rebellion. However, we are only given glimpses into her character through flashbacks. Her story is a tragic one nonetheless and I am curious if we will see more of her character in the sequels. There is also a great supporting cast including my favourite, a rather intelligent canine companion.
The Writing Style
This book is a phenomenal example of world building. The history, politics and the social and religious systems are so detailed and intricately woven throughout the narrative that I felt entirely immersed in the world. It is complex and there is a lot to digest. The detailed timeline at the end of the book (that could be read first to get a better understanding of the history and setting) demonstrates how much went into the construction of this world. This book is not a quick read, it is heavily laden with detail and description, but it is full of action, twists and interesting ideas, and so worth the effort.
It’s like Sullivan tossed all of speculative fiction’s sub genres into a blender and cranked it on high for this book. And it really works! I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of different genre elements and how they weave together. I also adored the very visceral nature of the book. It is deliciously graphic, rife with violence and grotesque imagery.
While the majority of the book is well written, I did find myself stumbling occasionally over some lengthy sentences and having to go back and reread them for clarity. For the most part however, I was utterly enthralled. Also, the reader should be advised there are some pretty graphic scenes, a lot of violence and the portrayal of suicide in the story.
If you desire being truly transported to another place, this book will envelop you in a dark and rich world brimming with flawed and compelling characters, action, violence and interesting twists and turns. It ends on a cliffhanger and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for book two.
Excerpt from The Hierophant’s Daughter by M.F. Sullivan
But the dawn that called her to her senses had found her miles from her cabana. The Pacific northwest and its sullen coastlines were known for their morning haze, so where had it gone? She’d felt so stupid, sitting with her coat spread beneath her, hidden in the darkest, driest place she’d managed to find. That foolish feeling remained until sweet Cassandra appeared, her rich honey hair wet to a dark-taupe tangle of curls that streamed over her shoulders and clung to her breasts like the seaweed of a mermaid’s fabled locks. Then, this woman with her tumbling hair and her big eyes saw the martyr hidden in the cove and, likewise amazed, let her brassy limbs fall free from her body. In the sun, she almost glowed.
“You’re that Martyr general.” Without a trace of fear. “I know you. Dominia right?”
Yes, yes, Dominia, yes, general, yes, martyr, yes, yes, many things. Oh, agony! What to say? What trouble, words! “I feel like I’m interrupting something by being here.”
“Interrupting? Oh!” Those hands began to move, and so did seated Dominia’s, until she conquered instinct – but there was no stopping her voice, which pleaded, “You don’t have to,” before tapering off in a sad note of embarrassment. At the exquisite stranger’s smile and the way her body relaxed, the General’s self-consciousness faded.
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Series: The Disgraced Martyr Trilogy
The Hierophant’s Daughter
The General’s Bride
Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9780996539579
- Publisher: Painted Blind Publishing
- M.F. Sullivan Online
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