Author: M.F. Sullivan
Publisher: Painted Blind Publishing
American release date: May 19, 2019
Format/Genre/Length: Kindle/Urban Fantasy/267 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes
Disgraced Governess Dominia di Mephitoli is on the run. Member of the Holy Family and one-time ruler of the land formerly known as Italy, her sole focus is on, besides staying alive, resurrecting her dead wife, Cassandra, whom she wears in a diamond around her neck. Rumor has it that the man known as Lazarus can help her with this. But, assuming he is not a myth, no one knows where to find him.
Seeking refuge with a family in a remote farmhouse, she realizes too late that the Hierophant—her father—is there, seeking to reunite her with the family. She knows better than to trust him, however, which he proves with his actions, killing the family and taking out one of Dominia’s eyes, as well as her incisors. Dominia is no ordinary woman, she is a martyr, as are all the Holy Family—the Hierophant, who is the head of the family; brothers Cicero and Elijah (also known as the Lamb), who are husbands as well as brothers, sweet innocent sister Lavinia, and Dominia. Once Dominia’s name was Morgan, but many years have passed since she answered to that appellation. Besides possessing special strength and abilities, martyrs subsist on a diet of blood and flesh, and are restricted in their movements by the sun. The Hierophant has walked among the people of Earth for many years, and claims to come from a distant planet, but no one can either prove or disprove his story, so it remains accepted as truth. At least for now.
Once the poor family is dead, and the Hierophant gone, Dominia flees once more, taking the family dog with her. Why, she isn’t sure, but it seems like the thing to do.
Dominia reunites with an acquaintance of hers, René Ichigawa, a Franco Japanese professor, who is helping her to reach Lazarus. First, they have to get to safety, which is a challenge considering both Dominia’s restrictions and her infamy. Her reputation as a ruthless general precedes her, and not in a good way. René’s plan is for them to go to Japan, which is one of the few areas not under the Hierophant’s control, via boat. When Dominia awakens in the hold, she is surprised to find the dog still there. René assumed he was hers since he wouldn’t leave her and followed them onto the boat.
All Dominia has to do is find Lazarus—assuming he actually exists—have him resurrect Cassandra—assuming he can actually do that—and keep from being killed by a member of the Holy Family… or anyone else, for that matter. This is one journey Dominia won’t soon forget.
The Hierophant’s Daughter is the first book in the Disgraced Martyr Trilogy. I received a Kindle copy of the book in exchange for my review. Before I had even finished reading the book, I had placed a pre-order for the paperback, which will show how very much I liked it, since I’d already been given a copy. The Hierophant’s Daughter turned out to be much more than I expected. M.F. Sullivan did a fabulous job of world-building, and gives us a creative and unique take on this world. The Hierophant is the benevolent (somewhat) holy father who has managed to gain control of most of the planet. It’s not hard to guess what his ultimate goal is. Martyrs are a unique spin on vampires. In this world, humans know they exist and co-exist with them… for the most part.
The Holy Family is most fascinating, especially the Hierophant. While I know in my head he’s the villain, it’s not quite so cut-and-dried as that, since he is at the same time terrible and compelling, a very charming man indeed. I found myself looking forward to seeing more of his scenes. Cicero is cruel and vicious but when it comes to his husband, Elijah (the Lamb, an obvious reference to Jesus), he would do anything for him, and the feeling is mutual (before anyone gets squicked out by them being brothers, they are not blood brothers, vampires don’t have children, and they were together as a couple before they even met the Hierophant). Lavinia is an unusual case in that she died while an infant, too young to become a martyr, yet she ended up growing even after death… so she is looked upon as very holy. Well, still waters do run deep.
Dominia is someone you have to admire for her strength and her character. She’s done many terrible things in her long life and she knows it. And yet, despite being a martyr, she is quite human in many ways, and vulnerable to making mistakes. Sometimes she just has no choice.
The more I read of this book, the deeper into it I got. The characters draw you in and make you want to know more. It’s a horrible world, and I wouldn’t want to live there, but reading about it is a different matter entirely. The biggest criticism I can make is that the author would have benefited from better editing. There are some especially stupid errors which should have been caught. But these do not detract from the overall value of the story.
There are so many things about it that I love, including the religious allegory. It’s a terrifying glimpse into a future that could be if vampires existed on other planets and came here to make this their new home. At the end of the book is a timeline that chronicles the Hierophant’s ascent, from the time of his arrival. It’s well worth reading.
I highly recommend this book, and can’t wait for the next volume in the trilogy to come out.