the Little Red Reviewer

Lagoonfire by Francesca Forrest

Posted on: February 26, 2021

Much thanks to Annorlunda Books for providing an ARC of Lagoonfire by Francesca Forrest, out March 3, 2021.  You can read my interview with Francesca Forrest here

 

On the surface, Lagoonfire is a mystery starring an investigator whose best friends are retired gods. 

 

And underneath that first mystery was a garden that unfurled into verdant blossoms, as an entire world unfolded in front of me.  One of the many things I loved about Lagoonfire is how it felt like opening my eyes.  You know how you feel when you walk into a bookstore, or a library, or a museum you’ve never been in before and your face just lights up? Yeah, Lagoonfire feels like that.

 

Hmmm . . .  now that I really think about it, Lagoonfire isn’t a mystery. 

 

It’s about how the stories we tell shape us and our world and our beliefs. It’s about how the people we love will lie to us, to protect us. It’s about how love makes us selfish.  It’s about how easily the present can erase the past, if we let it. And we always let it.  It’s about how if we tell ourselves a story enough times, it becomes our truth, and a fact, and how facts are not always the truth, just the version of history we were convinced of, so we live as if the story was real, because that’s easier/safer than the alternative.  I really love stories like this, and I love how Forrest tells this story.

 

The sequel to Forrest’s 2018 novella The Inconvenient God, Lagoonfire works perfectly well as a stand alone. That said, The Inconvenient God (read my review) is an absolute treat, and absolutely worth reading, and worth reading first, because Lagoonfire has so many big reveals.

Lagoonfire was so good, it took me a few hours to come back to myself after I’d finished reading it. It took me a few hours to remember how to form words into sentences.  (Books literally floor me, ok?)

 

Decommissioner Thirty-Seven prefers that people call her by her formal title, not her real name. Her friends know her name of course, but she cringes when they use it.  If she has to, she’ll allow people to call her by her childhood nickname, Sweeting. 

 

She’s worked at The Polity’s Ministry of Divinities most of her adult life, and I should be very clear about what her profession entails. As a decommissioner, her job is is literally decommission, or “retire”, deities.  They become mortal, to then live out a regular mortal lifespan, and then die.  Gods no longer worshipped become truly forgotten. In the name of unity and progress,  the Polity has the ability to give mere mortals power over any god who roams the earth, as prayers to a multitude of local harvest gods and goddesses now become shiny modern devotions to the Abstraction of the Harvest.  The Polity views this as bringing harmony and equality to all. And should you forget that harmony and prioritizing the common good are virtues, the Polity’s job is to ensure that you remember.

 

The story opens with a freak flood at a new shoreline construction project. Decommissioner Thirty-Seven is asked to check in on her friend Laloran-Morna and make sure he wasn’t responsible.  He’s not just a retired guy that she’s friends with, Laloran-Morna was an ocean god that she decommissioned, she botched the job, and they became friends afterwards (long story).  And how could he be responsible?  Laloran-Morna lives in a 4th floor apartment, requires nearly 24 hour home care, and is practically on his death bed.  There’s no possible way he can make it to the seashore, so he asks Sweeting to go to the shore to pray in his place, to his lost lover.

 

Why does Sweeting seem okay working for The Polity? They seem authoritarian and kinda horrible!

 

Why do these retired gods seem okay with being mortal, and no longer having worshippers?

 

Why doesn’t Sweeting want anyone to know her real name?

 

If you’ve ever read a Francesca Forrest, you’ll know that what the story is “about” isn’t what the story is about. 

 

What if you were the god of a particular place, and that place no longer existed?

 

Calling Lagoonfire a mystery is like calling Buckinham Palace a building. Like, yes, it is a building, but it’s so much more than a building! 

As Sweeting gets more involved in figuring out who caused the flood, and trying to figure out who Laloran-Morna’s lover was, she finds she has to face her own history.  She meets people who know what her real name is, and who her family is, secrets she has tried to keep since she was a child. 

 

Lagoonfire is a such a pleasant story.  The characters are kind to each other, we don’t see any violence, we don’t see anyone come to harm.  These characters are full of compassion, no one is broody, violent,  or overly dramatic.  If you’re feeling a little burned out on grimdark or overly long epic fantasy, Forrest’s Polity series will scratch you itch for sprawling world building, mythology come life, and heavy consequences, without the grim, the dark, or the violence. 

 

That said, there’s a scene near the end that absolutely chilled me to my core.  Sweeting manages to brush it off with aplomb and professionalism, but if that had happened to me, I would have been anxiety-ing and hiding for weeks! That scene starts out pretty polite and nothing awful ever explicitly happens, which is why I never saw the terror coming.  It makes me wonder how much Sweeting goes out of her way, to avoid thinking about certain things.  

 

I still can’t figure out how Forrest crammed so much into around 160 pages.  There are retired gods who loving their easy retired lives, ridiculed history professors, mass rehousing and relocation by the government, how the elderly are cared for and sometimes forgotten, Big Brother, blackmail, and forced  changes on communities.  It seems like too much, doesn’t it?  But Forrest has laser focus on the mystery at hand, giving the reader just enough of the larger world to know they’ve barely scratched the surface.  

 

I do love stories like this,  where the world is huge but we only see a tiny bit of it.  Where history is so long that even gods forget who they were. Where  families tell stories to hide certain truths, and hide others in plain sight.  Where the government that employs you and feeds you, is also the government that is destroying your culture and your history and telling you you should be grateful. Sweeting has this whole huge life that she lives, and I’ve only gotten to see a few days of it. Once I’m out of her life, she’ll still go to work, she’ll still hang out with her friends, she’ll still be very intentional about what she says and does.

 

I hope Forrest writes more in this world.  She so perfectly gave all these little snippets of the world, that now I am absolutely itching to know more.  How did Sweeting and Laloran-Morna become such close friends? What was her childhood like, when she was living with her grandparents?  What were her parents like? That thing that happened, when she was little, how did the city move on from that?  Are retired gods really okay with their new situation, or are they masking their powerlessness with politeness? 

 

And if you’re thinking to yourself you can’t possibly cram another book into your TBR,  Lagoonfire is less than 200 pages, The Inconvenient God is less than 100.  These are gentle to read and easy to inhale stores that will make you think big thoughts. And if you’re a softy like me, they’ll likely make you cry.  You’d make space on your TBR for a Murderbot or a novella, right?

 

 

 

3 Responses to "Lagoonfire by Francesca Forrest"

[…] Their author, Francesca Forrest, suggests there will be more stories in her interview with the Little Red Reviewer. And I hope to see them soon. Forrest has a uniquely fascinating imagination that blends charming […]

Liked by 1 person

*scribbles down all three Francesca Forrest titles*
Yes! This is so what I want to read right now! 🥰

Like

oh, these are SO GOOD. they are like a warm hug!

Liked by 1 person

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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