Helfyre by Mariel Pomeroy

Hot Off the Presses scours the internet for newly published debut books from unknown authors, and saves everyone else the trouble of actually reading books to find out if they’re good or not. New posts every Tuesday, or maybe Wednesday? This is meant for entertainment purposes only, not serious consumer advice. And there will be spoilers.

Sometimes I get to read a power fantasy, where a pimply nerd invents a machine that makes him irresistible to the girl who ignored him in third period. Sometimes I get to read a romance about a main character whose fetish is being miserable. And sometimes, I get both. Helfyre by Mariel Pomeroy is a dark romance named after an Axe body spray, in which the reader learns a lot about a fictional world and its singular beef with the protagonist.

The story begins with Aheia running across a desert, afraid and alone, trying to make it to some sort of border. There’s a death eater chasing her, but I guess she’ll be fine if she can cross into Aljira. They don’t have an extradition treaty with death eaters. She makes it across the shimmery fantasy border (which, shockingly, is not described as “coruscating,” in flagrant violation of sf/fantasy law), and collapses smack into the arms of Some Dude, who saves her from certain doom. Aheiea is immortal, which means she attained the visual age of twenty eight and stopped there, so it wasn’t clear to me at first what was at stake or what she was running from, but as the first chapter went on it became clear that I was going to have to let go of a lot of questions. The amount of front loading, eyebrow waggling, and unexplained terminology is just bonkers. I will elaborate.

When Ahehe first meets the male lead, he is described as a demon, which is not italicized, and a Leviathan, which is. Also a Nephilim. No idea what any of this means yet. Also he has an Avarice, or is an Avarice? He is later identified as Al Shaytan, of course. He can bend shadows, the way that Ah-Ah-Ah’s Dioscuri people can bend light, except she doesn’t have her light powers anymore, obviously. In any case her kingdom is ruled by winged Maleks (or possibly Mithras), not the race of her mother, who is dead, as I’m sure you already assumed.

One thing I’m not going to dock points for is cramming how hot the dude is into her chapter. Yeah, it’s a little weird that she would be focusing on that when she’s dying of thirst and sand and stuff, but it always annoys me when the hot bod description happens in the man’s perspective chapter. You know what it is? I just figure out why it bugs me. You know how guys are constantly taking dick pics from a top-down angle? What the hell is that? Am I supposed to imagine having that attached to me? Give me a photo from, to put it delicately, the diner’s perspective, and maybe we’ll talk.

Our hunky love interest is Arioch, an evil handsomeman who gets a thrill from watching Aihaheay suffer. I mean, presumably you, the reader, are supposed to get off on that as well; Helfyre XXXtreme is one of those dark romance stories where you watch a reader insert endure wanton abuse for hundreds of pages. Before he will agree to grant asylum to the stranger dying in the desert, he makes her do a highly sexualized soul binding ritual, with hair pulling and everything. There’s dubcon kissing, and a “good girl” that will either make your skin crawl or your seat damp, depending on what sort of parties you’re no longer invited to.

Believe it or not, I’m not going to shit on Pomeroy for putting abuse and porn in the blender. Helfyre by Monseigneur Frollo is very upfront about what it is. Have you ever cut into a delicious looking BDSM cake, only to find it full of 50 Shades candy corn? You know what I mean. You read a chapter where Christian complains about women who use safe words, and you’re like “Well, that retroactively changes how I feel about everything I’ve just read.” Yeah, you’re not gonna get that scene in this book. Right out of the gate you’re reading lines like “He wanted to see what it looked like when she truly begged, and imagined it would be so fucking pretty.”

Aiiiiiii wakes up and fights a bed, which, it turns out, is her bed at home. Surprise! It was all a dream. She is back in Keloseros, ruled by her father Ophion, the thing she was running away from in the first place. Fresh off a description of our heroine getting Weinsteined moments before death, we get to see her receive a routine beating from her father’s henchmen, while he watches and licks his lips. Pomeroy doesn’t specify, but I assume just out of sight there is a conveyor belt of injured puppies for him to continuously kick. But just then, Fifty Shades of Bruise wakes up again in Aljazeera, under Arioch’s care. It all being a dream was all a dream! Bet you didn’t see that one coming. Something I didn’t mention before is that the handsome monsterman has the ability to make her aroused with the sound of his voice, which he does frequently and randomly, as a joke. So we get descriptions of pain, anger, and abuse interspersed with sudden desire to get boned.

Some of the worst flowery language is poured over Arioch’s head. He has “a stare that spoke of burnt secrets and gray ash, eyes that were flecked with embers, dark and angry.” He has shadows on top of shadows next to his shadows. We can’t have grains of sand; sand comes in kernels or granules. In addition to the thesaurus abuse, some words are spelled weird for fun, like magyck. I’m not counting in this category made up words that we have to figure out along the way, like achlys, eyrid, and the various demon curse words. That’s fine. It’s all about finding the right balance of “The Fnang-Blade coruscated with a resplendent luster under the two suns of Thoop” and “Sword shiny.”

Given all that, is Doritos Helfyre Sour Cream n’ Onion worth checking out? The Baroque prose was a lot, but I doubt most people will find it cringe-worthy. The nazty bits are spaced out very deliberately to keep the reader sweating through their white gloves and hoop skirts. I would say maybe don’t buy it as a gift for someone who is likely to read the annihilation fantasy as romanticizing self harm, or the abuse as passion. But then again, if you have the temerity to buy a book like this as a gift, you’ve earned the right to do as you please. Overall it’s a pretty good piece of artsy erotica if you like it rough and full of pseudo-Herbonic mythology. Helfyre is seven dollars on Kindle.

I coruscated all over myself when I read this review.

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