"SHE WOULD DARE ANYTHING TO SAVE THE WORLD FROM HIS RULE.
EVEN HIS BED.
He ascended from the darkness years ago—Azrael the Eternal, Azrael the Undying, Azrael Who Is Death—bringing with him the black rains, the fires, the souring of the sky, and the Eaters. Now he rules in the walled city of Haven with his favored Children and his dead court, while all that is left of the living struggles to survive in the ruins of a world that used to be their own. But even as extinction looms, humanity will never surrender to their monstrous conqueror.
For Lan, this brutal life has been the only one she’s ever known, but she still believes it can change. If the war can never truly end until the Eaters are ended, she will go to Haven, to Azrael himself, and demand he end them. To her surprise, she does not immediately die the hero’s death she expected. Instead, Azrael offers her a chance to convince him, and all she has to do is submit herself to the chill embrace of the lord of the Land of the Beautiful Dead.
From the author of The Scholomance and The Last Hour of Gann comes a new vision of erotic horror! This book contains explicit sex and gore and is intended for mature readers only."
❖ ❖ ❖
I am a huge fan of author R. Lee Smith's work. I loved Last Hour of Gann, Cottonwood, and despite it's gory content, Heat. That's why it pains me beyond me measure to give Land of the Beautiful Dead a low rating. Unfortunately, this latest addition just wasn't up to par with Smith's previous novels.
To start, the world-building was weak at best. Some aspects of the world-building didn't make sense and didn't feel fully fleshed out. Azrael's origins were never fully explained. What is he exactly? By the end it's still a mystery.
The plot was also weak. One of the problems is that the blurb is a little misleading. According to the blurb, Lan expects to die a "hero's death", but the truth is that Lan isn't a hero. She is just an impulsive girl driven by grief so she never actually has a plan of action. Therefore, events just happen to her as she meanders through the story. Also, events never felt truly tied to an overall story arc. Certain events felt contrived solely to move the story forward.
In terms of the Hero and Heroine, there was very little growth and change for either Azrael or Lan. There were some mild changes in Azrael, but he never truly evolves. I think without Lan, he would revert back to his initial tendencies. Also, while I understood, to a certain extent, his cruelty towards humans, I couldn't understand his cruelty towards his own people. Once I learned how they were created, and their feelings and will when it came to Azrael, his behavior and treatment of them didn't make sense. Especially since he supposedly created them out of loneliness. I thought this bit was inconsistent.
In regards to Lan, she never evolves at all. In fact, she devolved as a character. She started out somewhat interesting, then became dumb, selfish, and self-absorbed as the story progressed. Her mission of ending the Eaters only came into play whenever it was vital to the plot. Otherwise, her entire focus was on herself and Azrael's relationship with his other consorts. And she does something so stupid and ridiculous that I almost DNF'd the novel because of it.
As to the love story, it lacked depth. Their love was pretty much based on nothing: Azrael loving Lan seemingly because she treated him like any other man, and Lan loving Azrael once he gave her an orgasm. It was never quite clear why they fell in love. Still, even though Azrael was cruel, he was oddly likable. Lan, on other hand, was extremely unlikable with very little redeeming qualities. I couldn't understand what he saw in her.
There were also editing errors sprinkled throughout the story. Enough that I was pulled me out of the story on several occasions. I think this novel could have benefited from one final edit before being released.
Sadly, Land of the Beautiful Dead was a disappointment. I wouldn't discourage anyone from giving it a shot, you might like it much more than I did, but if you are new to R. Lee Smith's work, then I would recommend starting with Last Hour of Gann or Cottonwood.
Final Rating: 2.5 stars