Sexual exploitation, drugged non-consensual sex, violence, and suicidal ideation
The Fire Slayers by PJ Braley is an immersive and at times disturbing sci-fi exploration of collective consciousness.
Set in the Egyptian desert shortly after WWII, we’re introduced to the dashing, brutal, and secretive Venzel and his odd colony of ‘brothers.’ A human raised as part of the telepathic Lysostian colony, Venzel is in charge of procuring women to be his brother’s ‘brides’ and the mothers of their inhuman children. When he falls in love with one of the brides, he takes her for his wife with disastrous results.
There are parts of this book that crossed lines for me. I don’t object to controversial or graphic work. However, I do like these kinds of things to be labeled or at least hinted at in the descriptions provided. If you’re like me and would prefer some trigger warnings ahead, this book does include sexual themes including non-consensual (drugged) sex, harem situations, and human women bearing alien children. There is also extreme violence and suicidal ideation, especially at the end, that may be disturbing to some.
The best part of this book is its depiction of brother and father-son relationships. I really felt the bond between Zsiga and Venzel, and then later between Venzel and his son Timaeus. Braley gently and intimately depicts the small moments that make men into devoted brothers, sons, and fathers. Every relationship she builds lovingly and is willing to burn to the ground savagely.
The alternate-Earth world of the Lysostians is equally detailed and finely wrought. The picture she paints of the collective is consistent and terrifying. Their inner workings are dark, patriarchal, and unyielding. She spares no detail of how devastating this collective is to the main characters both physically and emotionally.
While I was pulled into the world, I can’t say I exactly enjoyed this read. As someone who loves a strong female lead, I struggled with the passivity of the female roles in this plotline. I was also disappointed with the lack of rebellion in the main characters’ responses to the collective. That said, if you’re looking for immersive world building and dark romantic themes, you’ll find plenty of drama and doomed love affairs in this novel.