Book Review: Helen’s Daimones by S.E. Lindberg

A worthy sequel to a work of epic weirdness.

It’s hard to articulate what it feels like to visit the world of Dyscrasia fiction. It’s weird in the extreme but also eerily familiar. The visuals are especially striking. Here we have grotesque and apocalyptic images interwoven with visions of ethereal beauty. The constant gothic themes of decadence and fathomless antiquity serve only to enhance the reader’s sensations of awe. The world of Dyscrasia fiction also has it’s own peculiar laws, its own sorcerous rules, which possess the irresistible emotional logic of folklore and fairy tale.

There were a lot of vivid moments in this book that felt intensely cinematic and really stuck in my head. The two young heroines, Helen and Sharon, wandering through an apocalyptic wasteland, coming face to face with a hideous dyscrasia-ridden mutant building a nest of dead bodies and filth…the tragic Lady Sabina, preserved in a state of hideous and beautiful undeath, her womb a honeycomb of horrors…and of course, the vision of fiery sprites coming alive from a pyre of children’s dreams and nightmares. Lindberg’s intensely visual style creates a hallucinatory reading experience.

There are some notable differences between HELEN’S DAIMONES and LORDS OF DYSCRASIA, the first book in the series. LORDS was epic in scope, detailing the course of an apocalyptic conflict. HELEN’S has a more intimate focus, dealing with the foundation of a settlement now that the Ill Age has ostensibly ended. The two new central characters, Helen and Sharon, are sympathetic and relatable, and their simple humanity provides an excellent anchor point amongst all the weirdness of their world. My only real criticism of LORDS was that its weirdness sometimes made it alienating, but HELEN’S has the human touch throughout, and is always grounded in the emotions and needs of its protagonists. On a similar note, there also seems to be a superior balance in place between the wealth of visuals on offer and the internal realities of the characters. Because of this, HELEN’S feels more grounded and less abstract, whilst still being as relentlessly weird as the original. This feels like an impressive achievement. Structurally the book is somewhat meandering and episodic, which is by no means a bad thing. Perhaps the only downside is that HELEN’S lacks the epic, apocalyptic conclusion of its older sibling. Indeed there is no real conclusion, only the setup for the third book in the series, which I will naturally be reading very soon.