The Subtle Fiend is the second book in Jane Dougherty’s impressive Green Woman trilogy. You can read my review of The first book, The Dark Citadel, here. For full disclosure, since writing that first review Jane has reviewed my book Second Chance, which she really enjoyed. This hasn’t affected my views of her writing in any way but I like to be open about these things.
When reality becomes a nightmare, only dreams can save the world.
Deborah, daughter of the fabled Green Woman, has disappeared, and Hera, another grey-robed schoolgirl, has become the hostage in her place. Hera fears she will be left to languish, unnoticed and forgotten, in her prison cell. But the honesty in her eyes touches a young Black Boy, her prison guard—Amon.
Amon is destined for a military career, but convinced of the innocence of his prisoner, he begins to question the laws and values of his city. In befriending Hera, he risks his life by standing between her and the most powerful man in Providence—the Protector.
The Protector’s new hostage will serve her purpose. After all, one veiled girl looks much like another. But if Deborah has joined her mother and her host of myths and stories, the sham will be revealed. To hang onto power the Protector determines to destroy the Green Woman’s allies within Providence by lighting the sacrificial fires of Moloch. When the flames have burned out none will be left, not even the child at its mother’s breast.
As the flames of evil leap and dance in Providence, Hera and Amon resolve to defy the Protector, with courage as their only weapon.
The Subtle Fiend is the second book in Jane Dougherty’s impressive Green Woman trilogy, concentrating predominantly on the politics of Providence, and what a nest of snakes that city is. With the forces of Abaddon and the Green Woman building outside their protective dome, prominent members of society manoeuvre themselves into position to take advantage of whoever, or whatever, wins out. Sides are chosen in the ensuing power play but it is the normal people, and the Dananns in particular, who bear the brunt of the consequences.
I really enjoyed this book, probably more than the first, because it concentrated predominantly on Providence. The city-state is a fantastic creation, described by Dougherty so well that I feel I know the streets intimately. As the book progresses Dougherty introduces us to a large cast of characters until halfway through the book I started to worry I’d lose track of exactly who was doing what, where, but while the novel isn’t for a person who likes a simple narrative, Dougherty manages to bring all the threads together nicely for the denouement.
Well, when I say nicely, I mean ruthlessly. This is a dark book and Dougherty doesn’t flinch at showing humanity at its worst. Given the timing of reading this book during the 70th anniversary commemorations of the liberation of Auschwitz, it wasn’t difficult to see parallels in what was happening in Providence. Some may feel the subject matter a little dark for what is essentially a YA fantasy, but I applaud Dougherty for not only confronting the issue, but handling it in a sensitive way without losing any of the horror.
The only criticism I have is that the Deborah’s story, which is integral to book 1, while not being ignored, had lost some of the tension from earlier. This is just a minor point however, and I look forward to seeing how Dougherty takes that storyline, along with what happened here, through to conclusion. Highly recommended.
To buy The Subtle Fiend from Amazon.co.uk click here
To buy The Subtle Fiend from Amazon.com click here
Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.