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Maledicte by Lane Robins

Miranda, a girl child of the goddess-devastated Relicts, is destined to be a whore, but she has the companionship of her street crew to fill her days. Until her beloved Janus, who has the misfortune of being the bastard son of a nobleman short on heirs, is torn from her.

Miranda leaves her mother, determined to find Janus, to kill Lord Last and reclaim her companion. She takes shelter beneath the altar of Black-winged Ani, the goddess of vengeance responsible for the devastation around her, and emerges as Maledicte, goddess-ridden avatar of vengeance, and is determined to successfully pass as a male. In this new guise, Maledicte is taken in by a deviant count and taught the ways of twisting men and women to do his will, while doing that of the count. All the while just waiting for the opportunity to strike, for Black-winged Ani is not a patient deity, and vengeance must be served.

Maledicte is decadent and beautiful- language and languorously dangerous characters distract readers from the violence hovering just beneath the surface so that even as the crisis point of the book is reached, the reader is no more used to the bloodshed than when the book started. It is far too easy to write a book in which a reader becomes jaded to the violence and deviance contained within. Maledicte deftly avoids that trap, and pulls every necessary wince and gasp out of the reader as a result.

It is a book about love, and most of all about trust. It is about the ways people change over time, and the desperate way in which we cling to the shades of the people they used to be. Robin’s does some wonderful things with language, skillfully writing a book that contains beautiful prose that does not distract the reader.

If you are looking for a different, dark sort of fantasy, give Maledicte a read. It is stunning.