It begins with music: discordant nightmare notes played on a lost Stradivarius. It’s a nightmare the half-angel, half-daimon Diago Alvarez cannot shake.
Closing his eyes, he took several calming breaths. Swathed in darkness, he listened for the opening passage. Just as he teetered on the verge of sleep, he caught the violin’s distant strains teasing their way into his brain.
It’s my lost Stradivarius—I know its voice like I know my own.
The music gained resonance as the composition took form. It’s written for a violin and begins with an attack and punch against the strings—three quick jabs of the bow—strike, strike, strike—followed by a pull to slur the chords—
Now he had it. If he affected a portamento, he might avoid the nightmare while holding onto the nocturne, but then….
The nightmare in his mind strikes at the heart of Diago’s fought-for hearth and home. He fears failing his husband Miquel, his leader Guillermo, and especially his seven-year-old son. Yet Diago cannot shake the desire to follow the notes and find the source of his nightmare.
T. Frohock’s Where Oblivion Lives is about the warring factions among the nefilim—supernatural beings who keep the peace between fallen angels and daimons—but it’s also about the bonds of family and friendship across reincarnations.
Diago is Los Nefilim, the community of half-angel, half-daimon beings based in Spain in 1932. Guillermo is their leader, and knows Diago from several past lives. For when the nefilim die, they are reborn again as children, knowing what they are, but with imperfect memory of their old lives. Again and again, they must find each other, as Diago has found Miquel and Guillermo, now many times over. They were once enemies—Diago was once a rogue—but now they have become a community again.
Yet Diago is haunted by memories, and the resonance of the Stradivarius, which echoes from a previous life. Eventually, the memories of one specific previous life begin to haunt all of them, memories involving a fallen angel bent on opening the door between worlds. The whispers of the past eventually lead Diago to a most terrifying haunted house, a place where Diago’s allies, his enemies, and a foe almost beyond reckoning, await him.
Where Oblivion Lives is the kind of story that casts a spell on readers, immersing them in words as vivid and resonant as the music the nefilim imbue themselves with as they weave their magic.
Every character is brought to rich life: Diago, full of love, and compassion, and a grief that still haunts him from his time in the trenches of the Great War. Miquel, his stalwart husband, who chafes at the boundaries imposed on their relationship by the mores of the era. Guillermo, a sometimes ruthless leader who must measure the lives of individuals against of the safety of his whole community, who has learned the lessons of hubris. Ysa, Guillermo’s young daughter, who must learn to control her power. A Rhine “maiden” who takes Diago across the river; two creepy and secretive brothers who occupy the haunted house; more who you will meet and be unable to forget, like a snatch of melody looping in your mind’s ear.
This is not a book that stops to explain the worldbuilding. Rather, Frohock places the story in a context that eventually reveals itself, becoming fuller and clearer as it races toward its final stanzas. The roving points-of-view help keep readers oriented toward the stage, providing a fuller picture of what the nefilim are and why Diago is so important to them. And the narrative never loses track of the people within it: who they are and what they mean to each other.
If you are the sort of reader who wants to know more, there is Los Nefilim, a collection of three stories that constitute a prequel to Where Oblivion Lives. Reading this book made me want to run out and buy that one, not because the story is incomplete, but simply because I wanted more of it. These characters refuse to give up their hold on my reader brain and instead remain with me, wandering around my imagination. I can only assume Frohock is not a fallen angel invading my dreams.