Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Theodora’s Descent by JE and M. Keep

About the authors:

J.E. & M. Keep are dark fantasy fiends.

With a lust for fantasy and science fiction, they bring you an eclectic selection of works. They write for both male and female readers, with rich detail, developed characters and settings, and explicit sex. All stories are erotic, with many dark romances, and they range from demons and elves that jump into bed at the slightest provocation, to the slow, exquisite tortures of denial. Fall in love with the characters, root for the villain, and always come back for more.

About Theodora’s Descent:

Dante’s Inferno and Hieronymus Bosch - that’s what this book was. I have to admit that I didn’t pick it at first. Prolific as they are, I’ve never read these authors before, and to be honest, I never have any idea what Ingrid Hall is going to throw at me next (hurrah! I love surprises!), so I really had no idea what to expect, and no pre-conceived notions.

Theodora’s Descent started out as a pretty staid gothic novel. Can I say boring? It started out pretty boring. Ho-hum. A young woman inherits her aunt’s estate. Guess what, she’s rich. Guess what, she’s beautiful. Guess what, she’s strong and independent and very modern for her era. And oh, guess what, there’s a dark and mysterious set of stairs leading downwards that she simply must explore.

I’m sorry but my eyes glazed over and I was about to throw it back Ingrid-ward. I’m not sure how many more times I could hear that Theodora was petite. And that her large, pale blue eyes shimmered. And she had a tiny frame. And that she had lustrous golden hair. Gawk.

But then - oh my gosh. How did I ever get past the first few chapters? I have no idea but thank God I did. What an absolutely mesmerising read. Once she does descend those very suspicious stairs, she finds herself in a nightmare. I’m not exaggerating; a nightmare. Creature after sickening creature attempt to kill, devour, enslave or rape her, each more grotesque than the last.

That’s when Bosch’s work sprung into my mind.

I used to pore for hours over his work, the twisted details of his perverse imagination fascinating and disgusting at the same time. And this book was exactly like that. Theodora’s story is so sick it became fascinating. And much as the authors dwelt on their main character’s perfection at the start, so too did they dwell on the horrifying ugliness of the creatures that she found in the world below.

I couldn’t stop reading. It did tend to go on… I think I would have liked the book to have been shorter, and an epilogue about eight chapters before the end did throw me rather, but it was lengthy. But the surprises were well-timed and cunningly laid. Like the traps which Theodora falls into time and again, the reader falls into icky gooey rotting traps too. Clever.

The authors’ hero is a monster. I’m not kidding, he’s gross. But they play with our understanding of a hero most beautifully, presenting us with what we have come to expect from him and yet questioning the need for him to be attractive. Or even - um - human. I found it interesting on so many levels. The story, and especially the characterisation, made me consider quite deeply what is necessary in our protagonists in order for us as readers to find satisfaction. What makes the hero heroic? What makes a villain villainous? (Or in this case, many many villains villainous?)

Think Beauty and the Beast - but the uncut non-Disney version. This is the X-rated version that comes on TV after 11pm. Beast is not just a little fluffy round the ears, he’s actually got extra pairs of arms, triangular eyes and a snake-like tongue. I kid you not.

So, basically, Theodora descends into the bowels of hell where it’s dark and creepy and everything that moves is a threat. Except for one guy (I use the term loosely) who wants to protect her. She spends the rest of the book trying to escape either him or everything else. And most of all to get back to the surface where she came from. Of course he doesn’t want her to leave, but he also wants her to be happy, so it’s a little tricky. Will she fall in love with him? (ew, gross!) Will she ever leave? And what would happen to him if she did?

A simple story. But told in such a fascinatingly creepy and mesmerizingly tangible way, you’ve just got to see it for yourself.

You can find out more about JM and E Keep here on their website http://jmkeep.com/

Where they have an enormous list of novels and novellas for you to browse - there will surely be something for everyone.

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