This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclaimer policy for more info.
With the way the world is, I know many of us probably don’t want to read a book set post-cataclysm. Rest assured, Elysium Girls might seem like a book for the tough-skinned but it is more than about a society thrown in a savage game for the Goddesses of Life and Dead. The story of Elysium Girls is full of hope. The themes of the book center on found family, and the spirit of a human heart.
cover designed by Phil Buchanan
published on April 2020
In this sweeping Dust Bowl-inspired fantasy, a ten-year game between Life and Death pits the walled Oklahoma city of Elysium-including a girl gang of witches and a demon who longs for humanity-against the supernatural in order to judge mankind.
When Sal is named Successor to Mother Morevna, a powerful witch and leader of Elysium, she jumps at the chance to prove herself to the town. Ever since she was a kid, Sal has been plagued by false visions of rain, and though people think she’s a liar, she knows she’s a leader. Even the arrival of enigmatic outsider Asa-a human-obsessed demon in disguise-doesn’t shake her confidence in her ability. Until a terrible mistake results in both Sal and Asa’s exile into the Desert of Dust and Steel.
Face-to-face with a brutal, unforgiving landscape, Sal and Asa join a gang of girls headed by another Elysium exile-and young witch herself-Olivia Rosales. In order to atone for their mistake, they create a cavalry of magic powered, scrap metal horses to save Elysium from the coming apocalypse. But Sal, Asa, and Olivia must do more than simply tip the scales in Elysium’s favor-only by reinventing the rules can they beat the Life and Death at their own game.
I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Who wouldn’t want to read a book with a steampunk horse on the cover?
I absolutely enjoyed reading this book from beginning to end! Firstly, the world. The setting is a mix of historical fiction and dystopia. Set in 1935, Oklahoma has been taken by the Goddesses of Life and Death, set apart from the world, and used as a game board of sorts. The Goddesses give the people ten years during which they must set aside a third of their harvests for the Goddesses. Ten years for the survivors to bring order to their society. The entire premise of the book was way too interesting for me. I love the mix of historical, steampunk, and magic. Kate Pentecost’s description of life in the book was gritty and brazen. The author described the way of the new life from the food rations, to the dwindling religious faith, to the racism within the community.
Sal is a strong and smart heroine who refused to be used as a piece of the game. Although she starts out isolated from the community, chosen as Successor, and falls from grace, Sal never gives up. She believes that being chosen by Mother Morevna as Successor is what would make her be accepted by the community but Sal’s confidence in her magic blooms best when she no longer thinks of pleasing people. It is when she is accepted by the girl gang witches in the Desert of Dust and Steel that she grows into her identity. Asa, a demon turned human, could have been easily side-lined but instead, he’s like a bubble joy amid the catastrophe. I adored his character! When he was a demon, Asa had been completely obsessed with humans and now that he has the chance to be human, his fascination with human behaviour is both funny and off-putting to those around him.
In the Desert of Dust and Steel, the gang of witches is everything and more than I could have expected! I love how fierce they are when protecting each other. Their loyalty to their found family goes beyond a co-dependence to survive in the desert. Each of the girls was well fleshed out and I would have loved to read even novellas about their backstory.
Back in Elysium, we follow Lucy – underworld beauty mogul and Sal’s friend – who is trying to figure out the cause of the Dust Sickness. I really wished we had gotten longer chapters of her. Lucy doesn’t have any magic. She works to study the Dust Sickness that has been plaguing Elysium, even working as a nurse at the local hospital. I enjoyed reading of her determination and how she was willing to figure out the “game.”
As for historical accuracies, I can’t vouch for any as I am not knowledgeable on American history. However, I found the plot to be well thought out. The storyline never bored me, though I did feel the story only picked up once Asa and Sal were exiled. I liked that the first part of the book focused on showing life in Elysium – the social order Mother Morevna had governed – as it showed how vastly different life outside of Elysium was. I did not find the plot boring me, and all the characters piqued my interest. This is definitely a book I would recommend to those who have enjoyed reading The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco.
🌺 Do you enjoy reading historical fantasy?
🌺 Do you know of other books with a gang of witches?
🌺 Which steampunk animal would you like to accompany you in a post-cataclysm novel?
If you enjoy my work here at Camillea Reads, consider helping me by donating to my buying me a coffee through ko-fi, using my Amazon affiliate link or joining my Patreon. You can also subscribe to my Youtube channel and new podcast, Totes and Tales.