4 out of 4 stars
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Time had little meaning for Alezair, an immortal soldier for hire with no memory of his past. He gloried in his work, and that was satisfaction enough. Then, across a battlefield, she appeared. There was an instant pull of familiarity, but wariness as well. Swiftly she approached him. A furious flurry of blows left him bruised, bloody, with a broken nose, and possibly a couple of ribs. He could only watch as she dissolved into black smoke and disappeared, mockery in her eyes. “Who was she? More importantly, why did looking at her evoke the feeling of reverence and razor blades?” A deep need to follow her clawed inside him. In less than a moment, no matter the consequences, he made his decision and 'traced' after her.
Warning: To anyone who is extremely rigid in their beliefs or unwilling to consider even fictional alternate interpretations of spiritual belief systems: stop here. You may find this narrative offensive.
The Antithesis: Hymn of the Multiverse, by Terra Whiteman, is the first in an ongoing series of (so far) nine books. Herein, we are introduced to a full-fledged and beautifully rendered alternate universe where good and evil are not as we conceive them. They are merely perceptions formed in the eye of the beholder. Heaven and Hell exist, as do angels and demons, but not as we envision them. In the world Whiteman has created, angels and demons are simply people. Like humans, they have their own foibles, virtues, and variances of intent. They are not omniscient; none are wholly good or wholly evil. Get ready to have your ideas about good vs. evil, Heaven vs. Hell, and love vs. hate turned on their heads. Leave all preconceptions at the door.
Our story follows the afterlife of Alezair 'Justice' Czynri, a former soldier of fortune, now a newly minted member of the Vel'Haru. They are the judges of which soul belongs to what realm in an ultimate battle to determine who will rule. To do this, the Vel'Haru are pledged to keep 'The Contest' between Yahweh and Lucifer free from corruption and deceit. Basically, this is a huge game of Life, with the souls on forty different planets as the stakes. The goal is to pit nature vs. nurture and see which wins. Can humanity's intrinsic morality (Heaven) exceed their penchant for immoral action (Hell)?
The book is written from Alezair's point of view, and it is through him that we meet our cast of characters. Leid, the mysterious woman to whom he is irresistibly drawn, is the Justice Commander of The Vel'Haru Celestial Court. Each of our two leading protagonists has been given well-thought-out purposes, personalities, characteristics, and backstories that merge seamlessly into the narrative. This also applies to recurrent side characters. The depth of each persona the author has achieved irresistibly draws you into the story. You empathize with each character. Now, what you feel for them will differ (i.e., love, affection, irritation, hate, etc.) For instance, I loved Alezair almost as soon as I met him, but some things he did and said (especially his chauvinistic streak) engendered the desperate need to push him out of a high window. Curbing this urge was his eager openness to learning, his unapologetic, snarky sarcasm, and his self-deprecating humor. "I supposed I’d chalk up 'thief' to my newly designed list of character traits, right under 'Nexus rogue' and 'impulsive moron.'"
I very much enjoyed reading this book. I would describe it as fantasy with a dollop of sci-fi and an enticing dash of potential romance. However, I must admit that having at least a basic understanding of metaphysics, human psychology, and world religion will make the book easier to understand. The only real issue I had was that in the (few) intimate moments she had with Alezair, Leid broke character from being the bada** commander and became the helpless damsel. Why? The rest of the time, she was as likely to pounce on Alezair (and not in a good way) as to look at him. The sudden change in personality was jarring.
As I found only six countable errors in the entire book and had only one issue, I happily award The Antethisis: Hymn of the Multiverse 4 out of 4 stars. I would recommend it to anyone 18+ with an open mind who is willing to look beyond the scripted definitions of polarizing concepts. At times the narrative is quite gory (including one violent scene involving a baby that I will never get out of my head *shudder*), and there is quite a lot of cursing in the book (F*** seemed to be Alezair’s default curse word.) There is a constant sensual undertone to Alezair and Leid’s ‘relationship,’ but it is kept sizzlingly low-key throughout the book. Due to these items, I cannot recommend it for the under eighteen crowd. Be ready for the ending. It's a jaw-dropper that will leave you begging for more.
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