By Pain of Death – eARC Review

Title: By Pain of Death
Author: Suzanne Clay
Series/Number: N/A
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling,
Age: Adult
Publication Date: May 6, 2022
Publisher: Suzanne Clay
Themes: Chronic Pain, Disability, Trans MC, Anxiety, Agoraphobia, Death, Reference of off-page sexual assault,


Can the winter in his heart be thawed?

Hades has lost track of the passage of time beyond sorting the deceased into their eternal homes. With each arrival of another soul, the agony they experienced in their final moments seeps into his ichor. It is a painful, isolated existence within Hades’s palace, but far safer than returning to the Underworld beyond its doors.

Hades’s predictable days are interrupted by the arrival of Hermes with a stranger of a deity that Hades can barely recall. When the god introduces himself as Seph and explains that he needs a safe place where his life-entwined mother can’t follow, Hades is forced to confront the loneliness that dwells deep within him—and his personal belief that he deserves little more than death as well.

By Pain of Death is a 9,500-word low heat M/M retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth with a disabled protagonist and a trans man love interest.

This book is intended only for adult audiences. Content notes may be found in the book’s front matter and on the author’s website.

Thank you so much to the author for a review copy of this book.

For starters I’m going to say that retellings are usually not my thing, but the synopsis of this one really hooked me. It just made the story seem so wonderful and warm even though it takes place in the Underworld.

I really adored Hades and Seph. Hades was lovely to read from. The poor man had been alone for so long that the idea that anyone would want him was startling. I also loved how much he wanted to not be like his siblings. Even within this very short story there was discussion of sexual assault, death, disability, and love. I thought that it was really lovely how the two accepted each other, not despite their differences, flaws, and experiences but because they look right at the other as a whole and love it all.

This is a book that I’m going to need to read over and over. It is so quotable and I devoured it in one day. I will need to go back through it and mark all the moments that were lovely and powerful and so relatable.

I highly recommend this book. The atmosphere was absolutely wonderful and magical. I loved the characters, the journey they went on together, and their love for each other.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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