Jessica Penot's Death's Dream Kingdom is a stunning masterpiece, telling the tale of Cera, a woman who transcends the ordinary after her murder. In life, she lives the life of the average wife and mother of three; in death, she becomes extraordinary.
After a man slits her throat while she is jogging, Cera is initially unaware of what has transpired, waking in the grass and thinking she fell; however, she has not awakened to the world that she knew, greeted by Sin, a woman in a white slip who has come to take her "home." She refuses to believe that she is dead, returning home to her sobbing husband and children, who cannot feel her caress or hear her voice; "She was there, but they couldn't hear her."
As time passes, her children grow and move on, and Cera, who can see into her husband's dreams while she lies beside him, sees him beginning to dream of other women as "time tarnishes all images and their memory of Cera was fading." When Sin returns to her, she relishes in being touched and seen again, no longer invisible.
She is "more than dead but less than alive" and is persuaded by Sin to spare herself the suffering of becoming a ghost, haunting her family, watching them move on. She quickly becomes entrenched in the netherworld between life and death, filled with ancient gods, ghosts, and demons, discovering that Earth is composed of two kingdoms, "one for the living and the other for the rest."
While there was nothing special about her in life, Cera has mysteriously been singled out by those in between worlds as "special," becoming a reaper, guiding the dead home. She possesses "gifts and visions" and has "lived and died a hundred times at moments when the stars crossed and her gifts were needed," leaving her ancient lover, Arawyn, a banished underworld god, to wait for her to return to him again. Their fates have been intertwined for "millennia" from the days when Cera was a priestess who offered herself to him, taking mercy on the village girls and sparing them. As Cera becomes more entrenched in the politics of the netherworld and her fate, Penot leaves readers breathless as the story unfolds.
Penot creates a truly artistic and original representation of death and the afterlife, drawing readers in, quickly consuming them with the story of one woman's fateful journey of ordinary to extraordinary, and holding them riveted as they unlock the secrets of Cera's fate. Death's Dream Kingdom creates an extraordinary world for readers, engrossing them with the folkloric depiction of old gods, The Underworld, and those who walk the earth, invisible to mortals.