Reviewed by Sarina
TITLE: Trampling in the Land of Woe
SERIES: The Patron Saints of Hell #1
AUTHOR: William L.J. Galaini
PUBLISHER: Scarlet River Press
LENGTH: 225 pages
RELEASE DATE: October 16, 2015
As World War I rages on Earth, Hephaestion, lauded general and soul mate of Alexander the Great—and now a citizen of Purgatory—embarks on the darkest, most challenging journey of his existence: descending into The Pit of Hell to rescue his king. Chased by Hellbeasts, hunted by Jesuits, and aided by unexpected allies, Hephaestion tests the bounds of loyalty, dedication, and even death as he faces the greatest demon of all: himself. A blend of steampunk and Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, Trampling in the Land of Woe drives through the cobblestoned streets of New Dis, soars above The Pit in airships, and then stumbles down into the terror-ridden rings themselves. Steam-powered trains, zeppelins, and ornithopters zoom by in a mash-up of literary proportions, all to answer one question: What will one man do to understand the meaning of love and truth?
I’ve only read The Divine Comedy once and it was a little over ten years ago. Despite all the time that has passed since I last picked up my copy of the book, I can still clearly remember the impact reading through it had on me. Trampling in the Land of Woe falls in kind of the same category for me; I may not read it often but even one time through is enough to leave an impression, both for the creativity that went into it as well as the overall journey taken.
Much like The Divine Comedy, this book won’t be for everyone though if you’ve enjoyed Dante’s works I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll enjoy Trampling in the Land of Woe as well. This is the story of Hephaestion, whom most people should have at least heard of when studying Alexander the Great in any number of History classes. After spending millennia in Purgatory waiting for Alexander to join him, he comes to the realization that if he and his lover are ever to be reunited, Heph will have to go to him deep within the pits of hell. The story that follows, while originally about reuniting lovers, became instead about the journey and the changes those that undertook it underwent along the way. While primarily about Hephaestion, the cast of secondary characters was varied and interesting and I found myself caring for them just as much as I did the main character.
This is a slower paced book and there wasn’t a great deal of action in the first 40% of the book or so but I appreciated the author’s attention to detail and the way things were put together. You got to see people from quite a few different time periods featured throughout the story, which was nice, but what I really loved was how the technology from Earth slowly filtered down into the afterlife so that you had steampunk elements of technology side by side with the earlier forms of weaponry like swords and shields. Also, while I had been hoping for a kind of romantic reunion between Hephaestion and Alexander, this is not a romantic story. The reunion between the two men was completely unexpected and lent a bit of a bittersweet note to the last part of the book but, like the rest of the story, it was well done and hammered home all the ways the journey into hell had changed Hephaestion.
While a difficult read at times, this was totally worth it. I really enjoyed all the different elements that the author blended together throughout the story and as this is listed as the first book in a series, it’ll be interesting to see what he comes out with next. History buffs or fans of mythology and Dante Alighieri should look into this book as I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. If you’re also looking for something different that is more adventure based and with less romance, this might also be for you. 🙂