Lake’s brother Devlin was murdered right in front of him. Simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time…Or was he?
The Sigil by Shakeil Kanish and Larissa Mandeville is the first part of a dark urban fantasy duology with a gay protagonist, that tackles questions such as the morality of segregation of societies, the effect of the cult of excellence on our youth, and how the bonds of found family can overcome any obstacle.
And it does it all with nether-monsters, a magical academy, and a main character who walks in slow-mo.
As far as Lake is concerned, there’s nothing special about him. Denied from every college he applied to, he’s taken his role as an average gay man in stride, despite having an adopted brother that excels at everything he tries. He’s not happy with his lot in life, but he’s not going to fight it either. Fighting isn’t the kind of thing Lake is good at, after all.
Everything changes when Dev is murdered in front of his eyes. Convinced that Dev somehow knew of his impending death, Lake investigates his brother’s murder, only to stumble on more than he could ever imagined.
Magic is real.
And he’ll do anything to be a part of that world.
As always, beware the trigger warnings. You’ll find them at the bottom of the review if you have concerns about whether this is the right book for you.
The first thing you need to be aware of about The Sigil is this book is dark. Not needlessly so—it’s certainly not akin to a slasher film. Every bit of violence and gore has a purpose, and the authors take care that there is relief to the tension so it’s not one giant emo moment. It’s not spooky, nor is it gore-fest.
This reads more like a gothic horror than anything, where the darkness is a feeling of being unsettled, that things may not necessarily all turn out in the end. It’s interesting to have some of the same tension and emotion of a classic gothic horror in an urban fantasy story that is very modern and diverse. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition, especially when you add in that there are also more humorous moments. It leaves a taste that is at once familiar and unique, harking back to different traditions but combining them in a way that lends itself to the diverse ensemble cast.
Keeping that in mind, if you are one of those readers who need a happy ending, this may not be the book for you. It’s a great novel that I really enjoyed personally, but it is dark, and the ending reflects that.
If the possibility of a not-so-happy-ending doesn’t deter you, and the thrill of a chill down your spine piques your interest, I’d like to add there’s also magic, monsters, average heroes, friendly demon possession, gay pining, and a whole lot of snark. What’s not to love?
What I Liked
The Sigil has a decently-sized cast of characters, with two point of view characters, Nova and Lake. I much preferred the chapters where we were brought along Lake’s journey, as I found that Nova rubbed me the wrong way on a personal level. But even as I didn’t love her as a person, I could see the strength of her characterization.
That’s one of the hallmarks of this novel—unique characters with autonomy. Kanish and Mandeville created a unique group that each have their own idiosyncrasies and backgrounds that come to life on the page. I especially liked the backgrounds and characters of Stone and Knox, along with Lake of course.
The truest indication that I’m interested in a book is when I’m tempted to skim forward to see what happens further into the book, not out of boredom, but because the tension is palpable enough that I get anxious. This isn’t something that happens to me often, as I’m usually able to compartmentalize, but I found myself having the urge many times. This book just got under my skin.
The plot had a lot of twists and turns, and though I did have an inkling as to the puppeteer behind the mayhem, I didn’t nearly have the understanding of the ‘why’ and ‘how’ that came to pass by the end of the book. I also never would have guessed some aspects of the ending, and I have to mention—this left me with one of the strongest ‘book hangovers’ I’ve ever experienced. I was actually distraught, because Kanish and Mandeville had gotten under my skin, and made me really care about these characters. I became invested in their stories, and the end result left me reeling.
Death, Grief/Loss, Graphic Violence, Gore