Book Review: Land of the Beautiful Dead by R. Lee Smith

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Title: Land of the Beautiful Dead
Author: R. Lee Smith
Reviewer: Ivy @PoisonIvy70
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Length: 751 pages
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis
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.

Ivy

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Comfort zone? What’s that:  I’ve read a whole lot of books the last few years. I’m pretty comfortable in the romance genre, and honestly, I didn’t think I had any firsts left, but I was wrong. I haven’t really been drawn to post-apocalyptic books (though I love The Walking Dead) and I wasn’t sure about this one. I’d seen good things about Ms. Smith’s earlier works, but I mean, we’re talking about stories involving possible non-consensual sex/rape, alien/non-human heroes, violent and brutal worlds that are as far from safe as you can get.

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So…yeah. I was like, no thanks. Not my cuppa. I like being the fluffy bunny. Then I hit a bit of a book slump, and my twitter friend Lexxi spoke so highly of this, I couldn’t resist. I am so glad I listened to her.  R. Lee Smith showed me why I should risk my cottontail every once in awhile. She took me by the hand and lead me into a world that dominated my thoughts for days, left me wrung out and loving every bit of it. Told from third person perspective of Lan, the world is merciless and it captured my attention in ways I did not anticipate.

Brutal world: Azrael is Lord of the Beautiful Dead, able to raise the dead, though he himself is not a dead man. He simply cannot die. He unleashed The Eaters (aka zombies) on the living, took over the world and now resides in what is left of England, in the capital he has renamed Haven. Lan, after the death of her mother, travels from her small village called Norwood, for an audience with Azrael. Lan and Azrael’s battle of wills takes center stage through most of the book, as Lan asks for Azrael to end the Eaters. Azrael has vowed to never end them, as they protect Haven and its inhabitants. Lan is just as determined to change that, since they’ve almost wiped out the human race, and her mother turned into one. She never wants anyone else to suffer that devastation, seeing their loved ones turn into mindless eating monsters.

Erotic Horror?: I think this was a good warning for me, and I didn’t go into the story thinking I was getting a straight romance. It’s not, though I love that the romance is a big part of this twisted tale. There aren’t wild and crazy sex scenes, though most have an unexpected heat. I’ve seen it described as having elements of a horror fairy tale, and I think that’s as close to the mark as anything else. Macabre and creepy at times, sweet and heartwrenching at others, I couldn’t look away.

Suffering, thy name is Azrael: Azrael is in my top 5 ever tortured heroes, ever. The atrocities he’s committed and the atrocities he’s had committed against him, helped to shape him and you really get a chance to understand his actions. He is not a bookboyfriend that is going to captivate you with his amazing looks. He is horrific to look at, but his tender side, and his connection with Lan, make you melt and root for him to find love with Lan. Azrael has other mistresses, or dollys, as Lan calls them, and normally I would shy away from this with a vengeance, but I could accept this because of emotionally, it’s all Lan, no contest.

Lan’s emotional journey is fantastic: The story is from Lan’s perspective, even if told in third person, and you get to see the best and worst of her without filters. Funny enough, her best and worst feature is the same – her stubbornness. It is admirable at times and frustratingly bullheaded at others, but she’s never dull and I appreciate her honesty. She’s not perfect but she’s as fascinating as Azrael in her own right.

As in any good fairytale: You need huge obstacles, torture, tragedies, and ultimately a HEA. There is all that and more in this story. At approximately 751 pages, it’s a long read. I love it but be forewarned that this takes its time unfolding and I spent the last 30% or so finding myself in tears at the most unexpected moments but I closed my kindle with a smile on my face.

I think it could be edited to tighten up the plot, but I loved exploring every facet of this world. The secondary characters that populate this, from Mr. Wickham, Lan’s tutor, to Serafina, Lan’s caustic and hilarious handmaiden and Deimos, the unwittingly sad captain of the Revenants, they all left their impression on me. Each contributed moments that enriched this story and made this world come as alive as a tale about the dead can get.

Please ignore the cover: If there’s anything I didn’t like about this, it would be the cover. No, it’s not even remotely good. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s pretty shiteous, but that is not an indication of the writing within. Really. If I had judged this book by its cover, I would have missed out on an excellent read.

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So emotional, haunting, bittersweet yet hopeful all at once, it’s hard to put it into words how much I enjoyed this read. It’s one of those books that will stay with me long after I turned the last page. My favorite of the year. I highly recommend this for those willing to enter this post-apocalyptic world. I loved it.

– Ivy

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