After taking on the fae in 2010’s The Replacement, Brenna Yovanoff turns her considerably skilled pen to the subject of angels and demons in The Space Between. The story begins in Pandemonium, the steel garden realm of demons so exquisitely captured by artist Nekro (Anna Dressed in Blood) on the cover. Here we meet the emotionally detached but secretly tormented Daphne, the daughter of Lilith and Lucifer. Daphne has only really ever connected with her half brother Obie, who unlike their demonic siblings, doesn’t work in ‘Collections’ but rather helps the half human/demon children on Earth. This is the first of many role reversals that occurs in traditional angel-demon mythology in this book. When Obie tells Daphne that he’s leaving Pandemonium permanently because he’s fallen in love, and then vanishes, she offers to make her first visit to Earth and find him.
Pandemonium and Earth are very, very different, and Yovanoff captures the alien-like Earth from Daphne’s perspective with subtle but evocative details that made me feel every bit as much a newcomer to this planet as her. Sensory experience in Pandemonium is dulled almost to the point of nonexistence. What would normally be perceived as knife-like ice cold winter wind on Earth, is something to be marveled at and memorized for Daphne. The taste of salt is a novel thing that she consumes with almost childlike relish. Everything is new and bright and often overwhelming for her.
Even love is foreign and a little frightening—to her.
Daphne’s quest to find her brother leads her to the last half human that Obie tried to help, the suicidal and heartbreakingly sad Truman. I can’t remember the last time I encountered such a tragic and self-destructive character. In the wake of his mother’s death, Truman has determinedly turned away from every aspect of his life. He drinks, he sleeps, he eats only enough to keep his skeletal frame from collapsing. Death is the escape that calls to him, the only answer to the sorrow that consumes him. Daphne finds him passed out in a filthy bathroom mere minutes away from embracing the death he has so long pursued.
The girl who cannot feel and the boy who doesn’t want to. The slow but steady awareness that blossoms between Daphne and Truman can’t even rightly be called love because he has shunned the concept and she wouldn’t even know how to recognize it. But Yovanoff writes the tender first flickers of something with such achingly beautiful moments that grow in frequency and intensity as the book progresses, until all three of our hearts beat in sync.
As captivating as the love story is, the mythology is worth noting too. Rather than building on the extra-biblical story of Adam’s first wife Lilith, Yovanoff takes that seed story and spins her own version complete with basically good demons, and vicious disemboweling angels. The more well-known demonic figures from the Bible such as Lucifer, Beelzebub and even the child sacrifice demanding deity, Moloch, are portrayed if not good, than relatively harmless, helpful, and even compassionate at times. Roman Catholics may find a few of the themes and religious implications objectionable as some of their traditions and dogmas are specifically mentioned (there are probably more than the few I noticed, so a Catholic might pick up on more). However, the depictions and mythological liberties taken by Yovanoff are such that even those with deep religious convictions will see that apart from the terms, the demons and angels in this book bear little resemblance to their traditional religious counterparts.
Although written in third person, there is an intimacy felt with the characters in The Space Between that borders on uncomfortable at times, but only in the sense that as a reader, the experience is almost voyeuristic. That’s because Brenna Yovanoff splits open the very hearts of her characters—literally and figuratively—and lets all their raw pain, hope, and desires bleed over every beautifully written page of this book. The romance that develops between Daphne and Truman can not even be called unconventional. It, like so much of this book, is just other. The plot takes some very unpredictable turns and he ending may leave some scratching their heads, but the writing is just lovely and the characters will carve their way into reader’s hearts for long after the last page is finished.
Abigail Johnson is slightly obsessed with the Merry Sisters of Fate and the books written by it’s members. Are you a fan of these soulful supernatural scribes too? Share the love on Tor.com Urban Fantasy Facebook and Twitter accounts.