The re-release of Leanna Renee Hieber’s Strangely Beautiful Saga continues! Last year, Leanna revived her out-of-print debut series with the launch of Strangely Beautiful, published by Tor. This new, author-preferred edition contains her first two books, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker and The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker, in a single volume with some new scenes and edits. You can see my review of Strangely Beautiful here. Now she’s back at it with the relaunch of the series’ prequel, Perilous Prophecy, coming out tomorrow, June 20. Formerly called The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess, the book had only been out a short time before the original publisher went under, so you may have missed it the first time around. But now you’ve got a second chance! If you’re in New York, join me next week for the launch party at the Morris-Jumel Mansion. If you can’t make it out, you can pick up a copy of the book at your local independent bookstore, or buy it online using the IndieBound link at the bottom of this post.
Perilous Prophecy is the prequel to Strangely Beautiful and takes place about twenty years before the events of the first book. The action is split between Cairo, London, and the Whisper-world as the Goddess and her Guard lay the foundations of her plan to strike back against Darkness. The central characters will be familiar if you have already read Strangely Beautiful. Beatrice is the fierce, but sometimes reluctant leader—torn between her desire to be independent and respected and her romantic feelings for her second-in-command, Ibrahim. Each other member of the Guard struggles with their own internal conflict as they are forced to choose between the home they love and the grand schemes of a mysterious goddess. Meanwhile, we also get a more personal look at the goddess Persephone, who exists only as a latent part of Percy in Strangely Beautiful. Persephone also has tough choices to make when the needs and desires of her current Guard conflict with her plans for a new Guard to support her mortal incarnation. When the story shifts to London, we see even more familiar faces. Alexi and Rebecca, as young teenagers, have just been chosen for the roles they are to fulfill in the Goddess’s plans. The prologue scene from Strangely Beautiful, in which Alexi and his Guard meet for the first time after being possessed by their guardian spirits, takes place toward the end of this book, giving an old scene additional context and new perspective.
Though Perilous Prophecy takes place before Strangely Beautiful chronologically, I feel that the books would be best enjoyed when read in the order they were published. Perilous Prophecy simultaneously fills in the gaps of Strangely Beautiful and also sets up the next and final book, Miss Violet and the Great War. Moreover, the action of the story is given far more weight when understood in the context of its consequences in Strangely Beautiful. Not to mention that seeing Alexi as an adorably awkward and frustrated teen will cause you to have far more ~Feelings~ if you’re already familiar with him as the severe and reticent professor he grows up to be. Peppered throughout are fun little origin stories, such as where Frederick the raven came from and why Alexi wears a red cravat, that explain small details from Strangely Beautiful.
Despite its many disparate characters, settings, and plot lines, the story of Perilous Prophecy is held together by the central theme of self-sacrifice. Sometimes this is literal, in the case of the Goddess who must die to become mortal—and if you’ve read Strangely Beautiful, you know that a couple of other characters ultimately give up their lives for the cause, as well. But each of the characters also makes smaller sacrifices throughout the story. They give up their homes, their families, their dreams of the future. But despite all the sacrifices, the book ends on an uplifting note, as Leanna’s books always do. And knowing the events of Strangely Beautiful means we already know their sacrifices are worth it, and will bear fruit.