Trigger warnings: Full list here, gore, body horror, surgery, eye trauma, torture, insects, graphic sex, dubious consent & lack of consent, incest
This is a self-published novel about a boy who can’t die, a professor who’s actually a god, and hunter seeking a new job. Val is a little freak with a heart of gold who seeks to understand all the people around him while he helps the professor, Dream, search for his brother, Mare, while newly-minted humanoid monsters called spiders wreak havoc in city centers. The reunion is fraught with danger at every corner, including a man called the Cardinal Major with literal daggers in his eye sockets.
It’s intense with some gorgeous writing and a compelling found family, Please heed the trigger and content warnings before diving into this one.
The worldbuilding in this secondary world fantasy is something that unfolds throughout the story, with very little info-dumping or even contextualization until absolutely necessary. There are the Pillars, humanoid manifestations of concepts like Nightmare, Dream, Indulgence, Restraint, and more, who are a giant family in a way reminiscent of Greek mythology where the lines between siblings and lovers blur (this is where the incest happens). There are also the Eyes, whose job is to protect the Pillars, humans with supernatural strength and tracking skills, like Hunter. And finally, the insects, like Val. It’s not clear how they originated, but there are definite mechanics and rules to their immortality and their self-awareness which is where the thematic work around the nature of humanity shines.
Val and Hunter have a chokehold on my heart. The way the author uses sex, attraction, and devotion, to explore humanity and human-ness despite literal and imposed monstrosity had me reeling. If you love shower scenes and sex scenes that are all character work, you are in for a treat. I particularly love how effectively RooFiction juxtaposes the nigh-unceasing violence that happens to Val with his inherent belief in the goodness and complexity of people. It’s bloody; it’s gross. The trans boy is full of metal and that definitely plays a part in every scene. Hunter, who is nonbinary, is also full of metal, and the exploration of aesthetic versus functionality there is fun to explore as well.
The character development in general is excellent and, believe it or not, this thing ends with hope in its heart. If you like darker fiction with prose that simply begs to be read and reread, consider checking this one out.