In The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker, we met Beatrice Smith, a member of the Guard that preceded Alexi Rychman’s circle. The Perilous Prophecy is a prequel, focusing on Beatrice’s time in the Guard and on the goddess Persephone as she makes preparations for the war against Darkness. While this book is set earlier than the two existing books, I recommend starting with The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, because the Grand Work is explained there in more detail.
Beatrice is the daughter of a British archaeologist living in Cairo. As the story begins, she and five other young people in Cairo receive the call: they are to be the next Guard. At first it seems almost too easy. They settle smoothly into their new lives and couples begin to form. But then Persephone sends the group to England, and everything changes. Beatrice and her Guard are faced with the prospect of finding purpose in their lives when they thought they’d already found it.
Meanwhile, Persephone is weakening after centuries spent in the sinister Whisper-world, and Darkness is persecuting the spirits of the Guards that have come before. Persephone’s only hope of reuniting with her lover, Phoenix, is to take human form and become mortal. Here we get to see Persephone in her divine form and get to know her better than we did previously. Leanna Renee Hieber avoids the trap of making her too perfect and instead gives us a complex character. She can be capricious — in part because she’s losing it, and in part because a certain degree of flightiness is just part of her nature — and at times I was angry with her right along with Beatrice even as I had a great deal of sympathy for her.
Perilous Prophecy features a touching love story between Beatrice and her fellow Guard member, Ibrahim, two incredibly stubborn people from very different backgrounds. Running alongside that is the story of another relationship, a platonic one: that of Beatrice and Persephone. Stoic and reserved, Beatrice is the perfect foil for Persephone’s utter emotional openness, and Beatrice has just the right kind of personality to dispense “tough love” to a goddess!
Like the previous books, Perilous Prophecy is written in Hieber’s lovely, old-fashioned style. She evokes the literature of the period and also incorporates it into the story, particularly in one terrifically tense scene in which two characters use a passage from a novel to convey emotions they’re too shy to confess any other way. The mythology is compelling, the emotional journeys are moving, and the treatment of diverse religious backgrounds is beautifully done: all who work toward good are seen as having common cause, no matter the external differences.
The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess may well be my favorite of the Strangely Beautiful books so far. Certainly it had me reaching for the Kleenex! I only wish it had been longer. After the conclusion, Hieber includes a teaser for book four, Miss Violet and the Great War, which will tell the story of the daughter of Percy and Alexi. I can’t wait.