High Commander Rin Tallow rules with fire and steel. In the midst of a campaign to exterminate satyrs from her lands, a small band of rebels infiltrate her camp and assassinate her. The instant before the she dies time stops.
Rin wakes in the far future, taken by time travelers to pay for the atrocities she has committed. She is sentenced to a life of hard labor in the Pit of Hell. The judgement passed against her actions introduces doubt and a creeping fear that she may have been the horrible villain she is accused of being. She must escape before she is broken by the punishment of Hell and the condemnation of her past, but escape isn't easy, and in the process she learns dark secrets about Hell and its hidden true purpose.
There is more to Hell than just pain and fear. For the first time, Rin is confronted with people who aren’t interested in her family and titles. She finds friends and enemies and a woman she might fall in love with. This introspective story follows as Rin navigates a turbulent emotional sea that is just as treacherous than the guards and fires of Hell.
Sometimes, we don't get what we deserve. Sometimes that's a bad thing and good people go unrewarded, but sometimes it's a good thing and those of us who have done terrible things get a second chance.
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I've read an early version of this book as a beta-reader (which, for those of you who aren't familiar with the term, means reading the book before it's published and giving the author your feedback) and even then, it struck me as original, moving and thought-provoking. Since then, Mary Irving has made some changes based on her beta readers' feedback and worked with an editor to make the novel even better. Today, I'm happy to share my impressions.
The main character is Rin. She’s a ruthless High Commander whose goal is to eradicate satyrs - the creatures living in her world alongside humans. She starts out being quite unlikable (which isn't a bad thing at all, especially taking into account her atrocities), but the author offers a great insight into her mind as well as a compelling backstory, making her feel human and real. It was fascinating to watch her character arc, but I won't say more in order to avoid spoilers. Other characters also felt real and were quite interesting. The majority were humans, but there were a few satyrs as well, and it's always a pleasure for me to see non-human characters.
The plot is straightforward, linear and easy to follow. I also found it very original!
The world the author constructed is compelling and imaginative. There is enough world-building for the plot to make sense, even though it only deals with the aspects of the world that are directly related to the events, so we don’t get too many details about what’s outside of those situations. However, it’s clear that the author has thought everything through, and the elements that the readers get to explore are interesting.
The prose is rather utilitarian, but the scenes are set and described well, allowing for immersion. The writing was clear and easy to read.
I really enjoyed the book! What stood out to me from the very beginning was its originality. It was unlike any book I’ve read. It kept me invested throughout the whole story. It was emotional, deep and thought-provoking, posing questions about redemption, justice and human connection. The main character started as a villain, yet the author made me sympathize with her when she was dehumanized and treated with cruelty. It made me think about the justice system and the way people often treat others when they believe they did something wrong, mercilessly destroying their lives without a second thought or a possibility for redemption.
It is a testament of the Mary Irving's skill that I found myself admiring Rin's resourcefulness, persistence and courage despite hating her. The internal process of her change was fascinating to watch.
I also really enjoyed exploring how a person from the past would interact and try to make sense of advanced future technology. For the lack of a better explanation, it was a tasty spice that added complexity to the flavor of the novel.
Another thing that I liked a lot was the moral grayness of the majority of the characters and the institution they found themselves in. The novel left me with a lot to think about.
You might enjoy 'Escape From Hell' if you are looking for an original, thought-provoking story, like morally grey characters and internal journeys leading to change.
Check out my interview with the author!
Mary Irving works as a material scientist in research and development and her passion is writing. She enjoys working to build narratives and explore new ideas. Her day job involves discovering and helping people understand real life systems, and in writing she loves using that same fascination with systems and the way the world works to build her own worlds. She enjoys drawing and painting both with traditional mediums and digital. She is drawn to expansive worlds and complex magic systems with engaging characters.