Review: Miael: Family by Grae Alexander
I do not normally read horror fiction, my preferences lying elsewhere, but I have been requested to review this book through a Goodreads group I participate in.
Spoiler Alert: I will be mentioning a few things in this review that may spoil the end of the story for you.
Miael: Family is a short work of horror fiction, set in the Ozark Mountains. The timeframe of the story is not specific, but is generally contemporary. The story centres around an eight year old girl who lives in poverty in the backwoods of the Ozark mountains. Jessica is the daughter of a white woman, Darlene, the town slut, and a black man who was hanged by a gang of locals for his relationship with Darlene. Desperate to better her situation, Darlene agrees to take up with Saul Bell, an abusive drunk and live with him in his cabin in the back woods. The racially mixed Jessica is rejected by her step father and sexually abused by him and her half brother.
One might think this situation is horrific enough, but it serves only as background for the actual story the author wishes to tell. Jessica is tormented by visions of an invisible friend, Miael, who visits his own form of insults and abuse on the young girl. Through a series of dialogues we learn that Miael is quite real, a phoenix who has been cast out of heaven for some unnamed transgression along with his lover, the seraph Zaharene, who happens to be presently embodied by the young Jessica. Jessica is unaware of her present incarnation and Miael has taken it upon himself to enlighten her to her true nature and be reunited with him.
Through a series of events it becomes clear that Miael is the embodiment of evil, and through the story he draws Jessica into his wickedness. He tricks her into murdering her half brother and cannibalizing him, and follows it up with the eventual murder of her step father, Saul, and her mother Darlene, all for the apparent reason that she will inherit a life insurance policy and be able to flee with Miael. The story ends with little Jessica in the courthouse awaiting assignment to a foster home.
This is all pretty horrific stuff, though the author’s style of writing helps draw the reader through the unsavoury events to the end. Fans of this type of fiction may find it a lot easier to finish than I did.
From a narrative point of view, the story has some weakness. Regarding plot, it is never actually clear who the antagonist is through the story. Miael begins as an overt antagonist, set to draw Jessica into a dark world, yet as the story progresses, he becomes her protector as well as her tormentor. The characters of Darlene, her lover Burt, Saul and the step brother all become antagonists for the little girl to struggle against.
I have some problems with the portrayal of Jessica. Though stated early in the story that she is eight years old, her actions and her thought processes come across as someone much older and I found myself surprised later in the story at the reminder of her age. I do not think the story portrays a realistic response of an eight year old girl to such a situation, and so did not view Jessica as a believable character.
The POV is fluid through most of the story, jumping from head to head of different characters within single chapters. If intended as omniscient third person, the execution of it is somewhat weak, in my opinion.
The final ending of the story is somewhat flat, with little of the real conflict of her relationship with Miael having been resolved. It becomes clear by the end that this is but the first in an intended series of stories about Miael and Jessica.
Despite my lack of familiarity with the particular genre, the story is reasonably executed and imaginative and might be worth the attention of dedicated horror fans.
- Paperback: 156 pages
- Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform (20 July 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1533622671
- ISBN-13: 978-1533622679
- Product Dimensions:: 12.7 x 1 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 231 g
- Customer reviews: 3 customer ratings