There have been some major developments in the short time since Alezair Czynri stormed off to the Nexus to reclaim his memories as Qaira Eltruan, at the end of Book One. Lucifer has decided to declare all-out hot war on Heaven and go to battle. He loves Yahweh like a son, but he can no longer stand to see his people suffer and he hopes that a full-scale war will force the conflict to finally be resolved.
Into this volatile situation comes an enraged Qaira Eltruan. He knows now that he was once ruler of Sanctum and a race known as the Nehelians, of which he is now the only survivor. For decades he’d waged war against the angels, an alien race who took refuge on his planet and then refused to leave. Qaira loathed their then-commander, Lucifer Raith, so much that he slaughtered thousands of his own people in an attempt to assassinate the angel. He finally learns why Alezair was so captivated by Leid – Qaira met her 900 years ago, fallen deeply love with her, and spent a blissful decade as her husband. Then it all ended when Qaira’s act of mass murder pushed Leid into chaotic, destructive state. She slaughtered the Nehelians and reduced Sanctum to rubble.
Leid appeared to be on the verge of another such rampage at the end of Book One, but she appears to have recovered for now, and just in time too. She has to deal with the husband who she has deceived for over a century, and with the war that’s about to be fought. Hell’s forces greatly outnumber Heaven’s, so to even the odds the Vel’Haru Judges decide to fight for Yahweh and the angels.
That’s not the only battle everyone needs to worry about. Leid is still expiring, and needs to be killed or she’ll start slaughtering people by the thousands. Unknown to most, she’s also at risk of being infected by the Scarlet Queen – the same infection that caused her to wipe out most of the Vel’Haru, and all the Nehelians centuries before. Qaira doesn’t care about the war, but he does care about Leid, and he asks Yahweh to create find a cure for her before it’s too late.
The Antithesis: Book 3α reads like an explosion, and not just because Qaira is back, angrier and more powerful than ever. Fighter jets take to the skies, guns start firing and deadly war machines are unleashed. Angels and demons alike become cannon fodder, and when the Vel’Haru Judges descend to the battlefields they reduce the demons to blood and gore.
But it’s not all action. There are some very interesting character dynamics in this book. Leid and Qaira have to deal with their very odd relationship. For over a century Leid has worked closely with the man who was once her husband, but remained cold and business-like around him, never revealing his true identity. She also wiped out his entire species, but then again Qaira was responsible for the act of mass murder that caused Leid to be possessed by the Scarlet Queen. It doesn’t take long for Qaira and Leid to forgive each other and get back to the bedroom to start screwing each other’s brains out, especially now that Qaira is a Vel’Haru too and can keep up with his wife. The pair still love each other very much and Qaira is desperately trying to prevent Leid’s imminent expiration, even though she has accepted her fate. He only lived with her for a decade before losing her for nine centuries and he can’t stand how unfair that is.
Qaira hasn’t changed all that much, although he’s trying to. Sort of. He still has a temper like a tornado on a bad day, but he makes a few attempts at impulse control. Leid remarks that he’s no longer Qaira Eltruan or Alezair Czynri, but some sort of fusion. That seemed true at first, but in my opinion it didn’t take him very long to rediscover his old self. I think the real test of his personality will come when he encounters Lucifer, which unfortunately doesn’t happen in this book. However, I have to admit that Qaira has better reasons to be so angry this time around:
For the last nine hundred years I’d been trudging through existence without my memories; a century of which I’d been serving as a Judge in Purgatory, working for Leid Koseling… beneath Yahweh Telei and Lucifer Raith. Truly, I’d been played the fucking fool.
The Archaeans had once feared me, and now I was working for them. I was helping them in their societal and political struggles. I was fucking aiding in their perseverance, within a world that had once belonged to me.
I was now a Vel’Haru. Leid had turned me into the very filth that I so dearly hated; that she hated.
And then I remembered that she slept with Samael Soran. My wife, while I was even there!
But trust Qaira to be unreasonable anyway:
I was standing within a crowd of whites disguised as Nehelians, living in considerable comfort, within a world that was once mine. These phonies deserved death. No, they deserved worse than that.
Yes Qaira, because it’s all just about you. And of course he’s still insanely obsessed with Leid, willing to risk the deaths of thousands, perhaps millions, as long as she lives and he can be with her.
I have to say that I’m getting just a tad annoyed with Leid. In Book One, she was an extremely cold character and I didn’t care much about her. She was more lively in books two alpha and beta, and I now know why she became so sombre, allowing me to empathise with her a bit. However, this is a woman who single-handedly committed two acts of genocide, one of which led to extinction of an entire race, save one member. And now she’s at risk of doing it again. Leid, in my opinion, is way more trouble than she’s worth. On the other hand, I’ve always hated conventional love stories, but I’m ok with this really fucked up one.
As in the previous books, most of the story is told from Qaira’s POV, but occasionally switches to other POVs. Thus, we get to see a bit of Yahweh, one of my favourites. Like Qaira, I tend to see him as the little boy genius from the previous two books, but he’s more like a twenty-something now. He’s far less vibrant, because he carries the weight of the war on his shoulders. He was the one who turned angels into demons, and although he did so to save their lives, the physical changes that he caused led to the current conflict.
There are some chapters from Lucifer’s POV as well. He’s in torment, having expected that Yahweh would soon have to surrender to Hell’s greater forces. Instead, the Vel’Haru’s assistance caused many more deaths than Lucifer expected. Afraid that Yahweh might be killed, Lucifer keeps holding back from a full onslaught.
An interesting new major character is the demon playwright Belial Vakkar. Belial had been working for the Vel’Haru in book one, and he came running to them after Lucificer’s new General, Samnea, tried to kill him. Belial escaped thanks to his pyrokinetic powers, a secret that he’s keeping from everyone. He reveals himself to be a talented marksman though, and becomes a surprising asset to the angel forces. Belial, for whatever reason, is very English and quite amusingly so. It’d be nice to see more of him – and his powers – in the next book.
I do have a few issues with the book. Lucifer goes to war claiming that his people have suffered for long enough, but aside from a cold climate they really don’t seem to be doing too badly, it’s just that the angels have a better deal. The Vel’Haru seem to think that helping the angels is a good idea, but instead it just leads to a longer, bloodier war. I also don’t know why the other Vel’Haru don’t kill Leid, knowing what a threat she is. It’s tradition to kill Vel’Haru before they expire and go insane, so why hold back this time, when Leid is even more dangerous than most? It’s really just Qaira standing in their way, and the senior Vel’Haru could overpower him [my apologies to readers and the author: it was pointed out to me that Leid's infection by the Scarlet Queen makes her significantly more powerful, and therefore able to defeat the Vel'Haru who do in fact make an attempt to kill her. I'd forgotten about this. Oops...].
As with the previous books, I have some issues with the writing, and as I read I keep wanting to slim down sentences or choose a different word. A common phrase in this novel is “a frown thinned my lips” and this one in particular kept nagging at me. And as before, this doesn’t bother quite as much as I expect it to. I tore through this series, which is weird for me, because I seldom read series, and why I try, I seldom get past book two, even if I like it. I don’t know what exactly makes The Antithesis different for me, so I’ll just have to let my enjoyment speak for itself.