The Hierophant's Daughter by M.F. Sullivan
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
DNF at 30%
The Hierophant's Daughter is like jumping into the middle of a historical documentary without any knowledge of the context, types of people (or even species/breed) involved and political climate. It genuinely took me a few pages just to realize that martyr's were vampires (or a version thereof).
M. F. Sullivan has set-up a very complex alternate history for humans and woven in the (eventual) dominance of the martyr's by 2035(ish). This is the point at which we come into the story.
Even figuring out who the major players are and how they relate or connect to one another is difficult. Not only can one martyr have multiple names (they live hundreds of years I suppose it's fair) but they can also have many titles (i.e.: General, Lamb, etc.), plus then their relationships (i.e.: daughter, lover, spouse, etc.). All of which are used to refer to the same person at any given time. I had to read many paragraphs or phrases multiple times to figure out if the character referenced was the same as the one I thought had been talked about in the paragraph before.
I'm not sure how else to describe the descriptions and general 'ick' factor of Hierophant's Daughter. Except perhaps to say that it's icky, visceral and a bit too graphic for me. I tend to stay away from gory movies but usually a gory book doesn't bother me. Descriptions of decapitation, torture, infections, etc. have rarely phased me before. However the details that Sullivan gives regarding an eye impact (and the nerve connections) or the description of a child being (more or less) eaten struck me as a bit much. Maybe that's hypocritical of me to say given it's a vampire book but I just didn't need all the detail given.
The biggest issue I had was not the confusion or detail in which this novel is written; but instead how utterly boring it was. Do I really need/want to read 6 pages about a new eye implant being given to someone? Or do I need two pages of description of a house? Instead of showing, I found Sullivan was telling me things; and given they weren't that interesting to start with (or a bit too graphic) I just couldn't keep my attention on the story.
That's the other issue is I'm not sure what the plot is. After 30% read I think the plot is that the 'daughter' is trying to escape but I'm unclear on why or who or what her ultimate goal was. Without at least some semblance of direction or motivation it made the convoluted history and characters feel even more disjointed.
Hierophant's Daughter is a complex alternate history of Earth where vampires (martyrs) have taken over. There is a lot of science fiction elements to future Earth that are also focused on. Perhaps underneath all of the narration, descriptions and confusion is a solid political intrigue story; I just couldn't find it and didn't have the patience to keep slogging through.
It may be that this is a brilliant piece of work if you're willing to put in the time and effort to really focus 200% of your brain and time to it. For me that is too much effort for fiction. I'd rather read elaborate non-fiction physics (where at least what I'm reading has basis in truth) than navigate a fictional narrative that feels very indulgent.
Overall I feel like Sullivan wrote this from a place of self-indulgence. They wrote for themselves, to get the ideas on the page and not for the enjoyment of the reader. The Simarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien is similar in that it's not really for the reader; it's more to get the history and facts down so they can be referenced. Perhaps a character driven story or plot inside this elaborate world is possible by another writer but I think Sullivan's investment in this alternate history is so deep they can't claw their way back to a story that most readers want to sit down and enjoy.
To read this and more of my reviews visit my blog at Epic Reading
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley and BookSirens. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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