Helen Lowe, is a novelist, poet, interviewer and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013 and Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night Series, Book Three) is forthcoming in January 2016. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we.
by Helen Lowe
In “Fantasy Heroines That Rock My World” I am shining a spotlight on my favorite Fantasy heroines, not only revealing who they are but why I believe they kick butt and take names as characters.
To give just a little background, Teresa Frohock’s Miserere: An Autumn Tale is centered in Woerld, which is one of four interconnected realms of existence: our Earth and Woerld, Heaven and Hell. Woerld is the battleground in which fighting orders based on all of Earth’s religions battle to contain the hordes of Hell , which are constantly striving to break out, overwhelming first Woerld and then Earth, with the ultimate objective of retaking Heaven.
When I first read Miserere, I wrote to Teresa afterward that it was a story which “spoke to my heart.” The character that spoke to me most strongly in that respect was Judge Rachael Boucher, whose former lover betrayed her, abandoning her to Hell and possession by a demon. When the story opens, we learn that although Rachael escaped Hell, she is still fighting the demon’s possession—a fight that is now balanced on a knife edge since no exorcism throughout the subsequent years has been able to expel it:
“She was slipping. A tendril of fear burrowed into her heart; she killed it before it could take root. Fools whined.”
This early quote illuminates Rachael’s character: she is staunch—and tough as an old tree root. She has to be, because otherwise she would not have withstood the demon this long, but also because the possession means that she is effectively outcast in her own community. Shortly after the book opens, she is dispatched shortly to finally bring in the former lover who betrayed her. Yet all the while:
“The Wyrm scratched against the back of her mind, rapping, tapping, seeking a way into her so it could use her for its own, but she cried aloud…and drove it back.”
Rachael isn’t just staunch in spirit, she is also a fighter:
“Rachael shrieked like a demon and just before Speight’s horse could run her down … [her] blade bit deep, and the animal screamed. The forward motion of the horse dragged Rachael for several feet, then Speight’s mount went down … Rachael rose like a spirit to drag [Speight’s] head down and plunge her knife into his throat.”
Yet the reason Rachael spoke to my heart as a character is not only because of her fierce courage, but because she tempers it with self-discipline:
“…for one blind moment she wanted to run him through with her sword … For once she wanted to let the rage she harbored in her heart give her license to kill. But she didn’t.”
Not only does Rachael not give in to rage or the desire for revenge, she is forced to trust her judgment in almost impossible circumstances—when it seems her former lover may not be the traitor after all and she must rely on his help to expel the wyrm:
“She looked at Lucian, tears of blood streamed down her face … and mouthed, Help me. Her body convulsed…”
The title of the book, Miserere, “have mercy”, is also a clue to its theme, particularly in terms of Rachael and Lucian’s difficult backstory. But although Rachael’s final judgment in terms of that past may be to “have mercy”, it is not an out pass for the real betrayal that occurred.
“ ‘Love doesn’t cure everything.’ She signed and rubbed the patch over her missing eye. ‘We can’t go back to the way we were before all this happened.’ ”
I’ve posted on my concerns about re apparently “consequence-free” fiction before, so I am pleased that Miserere does not fall into that trap. This is entirely consistent with Rachael’s character. Part of her strength is that she feels deeply, so the betrayal of love, as well as redemption of that betrayal and the love itself, is not something that will be glossed over lightly. Quite aside from her role as a Woerld judge and having to remain true to that calling regardless of her personal concerns.
Staunch of arm and of spirit, but also self-disciplined and willing to trust her own judgment against the odds; not least, merciful: small wonder that the character of Rachael Boucher spoke to my heart. In fact, she downright rocked my world.