Content Warnings: depicts graphic violence and sex
In 2017, HorrorAddicts.net ran the Next Great Horror Writer Contest. Over the course of the season, the writers (myself included) submitted horror writing of various types and competed for the top spot and the final prize of a book contract with Crystal Lake Publishing. The winner was Jonathan Fortin and the book was Lilitu: Memoirs of a Succubus.
I have waited literal years for this book to come out. Jonathan Fortin embodies the heart and soul of what it means to be a horror writer and I’m absolutely privileged to have competed against him. Lilitu shows the countless hours of hard work that he put into crafting his story.
HorrorAddicts.net helped to find a truly gifted author and bring a wonderful work of horror out into the world.
In 1876, Unbeknownst to the masses of Victorian England, humanity is about to change forever. The immortal denizens of the Earth—the vampires, the lilitu, and the necromancers—are tired of hiding in the shadows of the night. They’ve hatched a plot to take the world for themselves.
Maraina never felt as if she belonged with her aristocratic family. She never felt pretty enough or charming enough. She was stifled by a future that held no hope for her. That changes with The Nightfall. When the demons rise to take England, Maraina faces a choice: renounce her humanity and become a succubus, or remain human and die a slave.
She is introduced to the world of demons by Salem, a powerful incubus who is fascinated by Maraina’s strength of mind. But the new society brought about by the immortals is just as cruel and evil as the one that they overthrew. Maraina may have forsaken her own humanity, but she won’t turn her back on it entirely.
Soon she finds herself at odds with Salem, as both he and the world spiral further into darkness. Maraina must find a way to save everyone from evil on all sides, in a way that only a demon can.
Though Lilitu is a long book, it never feels that while reading it. Scenes flow together seamlessly, each action leading to the next in a manner that pulls the reader along. Fortin lays the groundwork for plot twists early without giving too many clues that would reveal them. The result is a gripping story that keeps the reader engaged throughout.
The heart of the story lies with Maraina Blackwood. Maraina is a feminist icon trapped in the Victorian era. Plagued by the restrictive values and burdensome expectations of her time, Maraina is often her own worst enemy. Watching her grow to discover her potential is satisfying. She explores what true humanity means outside of mortality and damnation. Though her understanding of the world is turned on its head, she finds the core of who she really is.
Salem is a fantastic antagonist. At first, he’s sexy and alluring, his dark nature luring Maraina in. As the book progresses, the very things that made Salem appealing begin to lose their shine. Salem changes throughout the book, but it is not a fall from grace, rather a reveal as the scales fall from Maraina’s eyes. Salem becomes more purely himself in all his sinister glory. He becomes a more powerful enemy as Maraina herself comes into her own power.
In Lilitu, Fortin has created a wholly unique and fantastical world. The elements of the Nightfall perfectly highlight the injustices faced in Victorian England (and today). It’s clear that Fortin did his research. The details of Victorian society are seamless, creating the perfect backdrop for the horror elements that are introduced. The mythos of the immortal characters is thorough. Fortin hints at a much deeper world than the one that’s presented in Lilitu, making the reader hope that there will be more to come.
Fortin’s writing is deliciously gruesome. He strikes the perfect balance in his descriptions between the beautiful and horrifying. The emotions of the characters come through clearly and the horror to come creeps up slowly, giving the reader a sense of dread that can’t quite be explained.
The story is a delight to read but provides more substance than a shock-and-awe horror thriller would. Lilitu explores the nature of sexuality, war, and morality. Fortin lays bare themes about prejudice and justice that are just as timely now as they are for the characters.
In Lilitu, Jonathan Fortin has created a horror masterpiece that defies many genre expectations. He weaves together elements of social commentary, coming of age triumphs, and Lovecraftian horror with ease, packaging them neatly in a story that leaves no room to put the book down.