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silkyzacuto

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A member registered May 25, 2023 · View creator page →

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there is so much fiction out there about anxieties, about crises….climate anxiety and capitalism anxiety and technological anxiety and so much is good but…….so little of…this, which functions as commentary on societal anxieties about an unknown unimaginable future but told not as much an internal negotiation with this anxiety as much as a vision of a different way of being. this brutally merciless respect for human dignity. the idea people can and must scrounge up the agency to exercise their right to fucking deal with the truth when it’s dumped at their feet.

the first book of Sehhinah is focused on how every single person knows about and has access to theurgy, a staggering amount of power to conjure phenomena and material from their very souls, but which is made so boring-sounding and normalized in their society that even a philosophy major hears about it and goes "why bother?" the concept of the holy are a thing that – if it was in the horror-genre – would be a late-stage twist that’s supposed to be assuming you will react with horror about the horrific treacherous nature of reality and g-d, but here has been taken for granted and dealt with for thousands of years in the first scene of the series: there's a whole lifetime after doing that. and then we get to explore the whole society that takes for granted these assumptions! sehhinah is not the kind of utopia that’s a fake mask built upon a tortured kid in the basement who the Powers That Be have secretly put there which would definitely collapse otherwise. it’s a utopia built (incidentally, only by the lack of knowledge to do otherwise) upon a sleeping girl (nam'ir) who hid herself and took herself out of active existence because she convinced herself her Being would destroy the world. and g-d would NOT have had a total horrorstricken psychic breakdown about realizing someone did this and thereby that person subverted the knowledge of everyone like her and gave Them 6,000 instead of merely 1,000 years’ worth of insufficiently informed arguments for the covenant!!!!!!! in this setting, the truth-suppressing world-controlling ‘evil’ that was holding the society in place was scrupulosity…??!!!

before the cataclysm when a god (teśena) subjects another god (g-d) to the revelation of a whole theology-foundation-shaking upending of what is possible in the world, the characters who don’t know what they’re really talking about say, about all the delightfully bizarre things about sehhinah: "it's fine." but they’re not saying 'it’s fine :)))))’ about a horror. the truth is not 'it’s horrible’, because 'horrible’ is not the only negation of 'fine.’ 

(a line very throwaway and tangential, but also emblematic: "yenatru's pretty sure fine is the last thing tamar would say about it. worth it she has said more times than he can count.")

my favorite book ever? one of. 

have read this story multiple times previously, but i'm constantly impressed by the surprising but fitting choice for tamar at this point in time to NOT yet be mega-hot and harsh and metal and radioactively blazing the way she is later, in The Stars That Rise At Dawn. even contrasted to her in the prologue of Stars, before she actually gets burned – it’s not (just) the burning itself that made her as Herself as she became in the main series its like, the reverse? being able to see another person (the nameless tongue-price, but mostly safirah! who IS so hot and incredible and intense at this point), created the contingencies of tamar apprehending an awakening desire, knowing so intense a Want making tamar become Herself enough to act on it (and then seeing allowed her to become even more herself, in a constant feeding-itself process lol), and curdled similar reactions in eliya......it's cool lol. the way safirah here bears so much more resemblance, not exactly in content of personality but in form of diamond-hard power and presence, to Stars-era tamar, than tamar here bears to her Stars-era self. 

i'm also impressed with how insufferable and suffocating Eliya manages to be in her brief phone-call appearance, giving some further hints to exactly what Tamar ran away from and had no idea how to explain herself to in Stars.

Most of all I'm impressed with Safirah. Here, as in Stars and Lives, very casually, unselfconsciously, and self-assuredly packing way more background assumptions that turn things on its head into a brief sentence than basically anyone else.

Despite having the best cover, this is definitely the weakest entry in the series. However I'm not really upset about that, the character of Celyet and the incredible worldbuilding/theology-related reveals and cliffhanger near the end that feels almost jarringly-good/complex compared to the rest of the book actually serves as a meta-level demonstration of this series's themes, and it kind of fits the structure of the series (the third book blows everything out of the water).

Celyet is one of the most relatable characters I've ever encountered specifically regarding an achingly profound and almost crippling hypersensitivity to the prospect of being misinterpreted and seen wrongly. I've never quite seen this depicted elsewhere, and the way it dovetails with the late-story reveal of What she is, is really thought-provoking for. I also enjoyed the depiction of Jibril the angel a lot, they are quite annoying, yet also touching and beautiful. And is much more edgy, daring, and abnormal than the fallen angel Lucifer from the previous book; though not nearly so much as G-d, or Tamar or Safirah the humans.

This book (and the rest of the series) has been an obsession of mine since I read it 2 years ago, and as a Jew with an intense relationship to the communities and experiences of mysticism, otherkin, guttertrash, and also psychosis and other madness, I have never before discovered a book that combines so many unrelated ideas that are appealing, recognizable, frankly poking, and wrestling to my worldviews and culture into one single book. 

The setting is a pair of motorcycle-filled Levantine fantasy cities with 1930s-ish technology and a casual, blithe attitude to the presence of angels, morally equivalent fallen angels, magical manifestations of people’s souls that are given businesslike and normalized legal protections, gnomish bucolic demons who run orphanages in the wilderness, or harsh and half-mad street merchants and authors scorched into disability by G-d-fire. (G-d is an endlessly curious, mirthful, and flamingly harsh inhuman beautiful entity with no words or body but a very strong and specific sense of personhood; though in personality They more resemble a devil. And those attracted to Them are more arrogant, amoral, and abnormal, like my favorite character Tamar, who has what many would call an inflated ego in her demanding greed and bargaining for a most extreme experience.) 

The plot focuses on the minute implications (personal and in the worldbuilding and internal history) of the concept of Theurgy, as the de facto main character Eliya learns it, which is maybe the best take on ‘soul magic’, or magic that comes from one’s soul, achieved through careful pondering and self-understanding of identity and interiority.  Anyone who has strenuously pondered their own gender, sexuality, or neurotype would find it recognizable (but more expansive).


Favorite book of the year this was published, when I was having a monthslong manic episode and back to back psychotic spirals. There is nothing like a work of fiction that can stretch to meet the amount of lurking paranoia and social horror your mind generates, to show the worst things in the world happening and then drag on still alive, and taking you with it, letting that horror texture reality instead of ripping holes in it. Thank you.

Incredible incredible stuff. Overwhelming and difficult to get through in the best way, I found it impossible to read it without basically carving out time to pace around alone during breaks. Thank you for such harsh-clear and disrupting writing, scenes will linger in my mind forever after this point.