on April 10, 2016 :
If you have read Melody and the Pier to Forever, Book 1 (if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?), you will recall the massive cliffhanger at the end. In the Epilogue, we get our first real look at the evil empire that Necrolius Anaxagorius has created. We find out that Necrolius is having people shipped in from all over Aquanus so that he can consume their souls and consign them to an everlasting hell.
On the docks, there are executioners making examples of those who fall out of line. Reading the epilogue, I couldn’t help but think that their victims were the lucky ones. They were able to move on. They were saved from a fate worse than death. Death is not the enemy.
… Not a very popular opinion.
And that’s where Otoro Queril comes in. This book follows the story of a man assigned in secret by Conor Kieran to those very chopping blocks. Every day, he executes hundreds of innocent men, women and children as an act of mercy. He does it to save them from being devoured by a monster that will enslave their souls.
Like Melody’s other side-story, Sole Survivor: The Story of Kaza of Theseus, this is a grim, bleak book which delves into the horrors of a fascist regime and doesn’t attempt to spare the reader’s sensibilities. There is a lot here which hearkens to the death camps of Nazi Germany. But whereas Kaza dealt with the initial shock of fresh trauma, this story visits characters who have been so long submerged in it that they’ve passed into a completely different mindset. There is significantly less internal monologue here than there is in Kaza or Montaigne’s other works. This bleakness is a reflection of the inner numbness that sometimes arises in the wake of long-standing trauma. The characters in this story never accept the world around them or the direness of their lives, but they have adapted. This is a challenging mindset that is not often explored in fantasy.
The other standout aspect of this book for me is the exploration of the ultra-thin line between evil and benevolence. On the surface, Otoro’s days are spent engaged in the exact same malevolent actions as his fellow executioners. But because his intent is compassionate, he transmutes cruelty into mercy. He actually injects holiness into unholy acts. Actions like these on some level redeem a world where evil is possible, because forms of holiness such as these could not exist in a universe that is all goodness.
When you live in a world that’s rife with darkness and violence (like Otoro’s, and like ours), it is hard to find hope in something that is only gentleness and light. The mind rejects it, because it doesn’t believe it can be real—and even if it is, it lacks the force and commitment to combat evil—which uses every tactic to its advantage. For this reason I believe that hope in a frightening world must itself be frightening.
And that’s Otoro Queril. And that’s why I love this book.
If you do decide to read it, I highly recommend you read the other books in the series first! Otoro Queril: Saeire Insu Executioner is a side-story to Melody and the Pier to Forever. Read Melody and the Pier to Forever books 1 and 2, and also read Sole Survivor: The Story of Kaza of Theseus. You could read Otoro as a standalone, but you’d be pretty lost. The other books give you the context you need!
(reviewed 12 days after purchase)