Existential Erotica

The Saint - Tiffany Reisz
This was how it would be. 
This was how it would happen.
This was the beginning.
This was the end.

I didn’t want to read this immediately after receiving the galley. Not for lack of any interest, I was actually more interested with this prequel series than the final book of The Red Years. It’s just that I’m not always right as rain after finishing a Reisz book. I always need a few days to forget a little, recalibrate perspectives and get reacquainted with my comfort zone after being teetering on an existential and theological edge with these characters. She always makes me hold my breath until the very last chapter (barring spoilers), makes my gut twist for the looming end, shaking like a junkie knowing the next fix isn’t available yet… its never a comfortable experience.

Yet I’m still shaking.

But with two popes getting canonized by the Vatican into sainthood this weekend as I finished Søren and Eleanor/Nora’s beginnings, I find I couldn’t have picked a better time to read this, almost two months away from its actual release.

Everyone who will read this book is already a fan of the series, so the question now will be if it delivered? 

While I still think The Prince is the strongest book in the series (some of the pertinent plot points from that book even got rehashed in this one) The Saint had its moments of merit. It had Reisz’ standard fare of sharp wit and humor, elegantly constructed arguments and rebuttals, from the mundane to the philosophical, flowing through characters that have so many dimensions and layers. It’s quite impossible not to miss them when its all over and the wait for the next one begins. 

I’m still a little conflicted on how I felt about their first meeting (too urban fantasy for what this was tying to sell) but I thought Søren and Eleanor’s moments together in the early years were quite enchanting. I love their theological discussions, their blatant chemistry in their conversations and in what is left unsaid. There’s an underlying feeling of pragmatic fondness and respect in the subject matter of faith. Not the archaic esteem of Sunday Bible Study but there was no cynicism either. All these adding to the richness in the history of a troubled, self-destructive teenager and the person she found her salvation in.

It’s impossible to complain about the heroes in a Tiffany Reisz book. She does them so very well. So well, that I still haven’t figured if my inherent dislike of the women is just the jealousy speaking. 

My issue with this series has always been Nora and her lack of any perceivable vulnerability. As a precocious sixteen year-old, she still suffers from this utterly ridiculous levels of perfection with even more ridiculous problems in the vein of boobs that are too big, attractive men having the spontaneous urge to throw themselves at her feet and being too good at boosting cars (I liked the Gone in Sixty Seconds homage, but the premise of that crime was poorly constructed (view spoiler)). True, she has her familial issues but somehow, I’m finding it hard to view those as problems for Super Elle (I mean, she even had the gift of foresight at one point). Perhaps I was expecting a better contrast between Eleanor and Nora than what this presented me with. Because Eleanor, at certain stretches, just came across as Nora wearing combat boots. 

I did find her almost-innocent preconceptions about Soren before she knew his secrets quite refreshing, but in the bigger scheme of things, I could imagine worse heroines for this series so I’m starting to learn to pick my battles with her.

I’m not sure I’m a fan of Reisz’ recurring preference of telling the story this way i.e. through Nora’s recollections. I suppose fans ofThe Mistress wouldn’t mind, but I wasn’t entirely happy with how that book panned out. I’m not terribly thrilled to see Nora find a Wesley 2.0 to leave for Søren four books after. Nor am I excited to revisit and once more try to fathom the incomprehensibly complex and messy dynamic between Nora, Søren and Kingsley. I’ve conceded that I’m much too vanilla to claim any form of understanding towards their plights relative to each other (individually yes, together no). I wanted a clean, linear history of their past. I got that and more here (not necessarily liking the ‘and more’ part of the bargain).

I do have to admit that the pacing and readability of this series has steadily improved with each release. Whereas I remember being mostly distracted while reading The Siren, I managed to shout at two people who attempted to have a conversation with me while I was reading The Saint at work. 

Overall it was an entertaining addition to the series, one that still falls short of the bar The Prince has set. It still remains to be proven if this was a necessary addition to The Red Years... oh who am I kidding, any form of Søren is a necessity. The kind that makes me feel a little bad for the readers who has written off erotica entirely from their prospective reads. 

”Forever,” she said.
And he said, “Everything.”
The deal was done.