The Void Ascendant by Premee Mohamed fantasy book reviews horrorThe Void Ascendant by Premee Mohamed fantasy book reviews horrorThe Void Ascendant by Premee Mohamed

The Void Ascendant (2022) follows Nick Prasad as he tries to reconcile himself to a universe dominated by the Ancient Ones. The book brings to a close Premee Mohamed’s magnificent VOID trilogy.

This review contains spoilers for the two previous books, Beneath the Rising and A Broken Darkness.

Seven years have passed since Earth was destroyed, and Nick escaped into another world, one ruled by the chaotic, Lovecraftian beings called the Ancient Ones. Nick survives here by serving the royal family who rule as proxies for the Ancients. He is their Prophet. In his time there, he has presided over human sacrifice and worse. Nick is steeped in grief, still, for the loss of everyone he loved, and guilt and horror for the terrible things he has seen and done to stay alive.

When Nick and his non-human companion, called merely The Advisor, are abducted by a group of resistance fighters, Nick feels the fragile net of survival fraying around him. Resistance to the Ancient Ones only leads to the destruction of the fighters, their families, their villages, their entire planets. The only way to “survive” in this place is to hope the Ancient Ones don’t notice you. Now, a charismatic leader named Yenu wants to be noticed. She wants to get the attention of the Ancient Ones and destroy them. This forces Nick back into memories of his childhood friend Johnny, a child genius, prodigy really, who entered into a covenant with the Ancient Ones in order for more knowledge and power. Johnny, who on Earth was hailed as a hero and savior for her renewable energy breakthroughs, her labor-and-life-saving devices, turned against the Ancient Ones. She and Nick fought a war against them, which destroyed Earth.

Yenu’s plan is sheer insanity. Aeons earlier, the Ancient Ones warred with another group of beings called the Elder Gods. The Elder Gods failed and lie dormant in prisons throughout the realities. Yenu plans to wake them, sure they will fight on her side against the Ancient Ones. This is a terrible idea… but it might work.

Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed It’s difficult to review the book without committing huge spoilers. I will be as coy as I can. There are many things to love in this story as well as the story itself, and I’ll start with a list of those. Mohamed’s descriptive powers are amazing, and they are on display here, one world after another, ranging from the cosmic and bizarre to the terrifyingly mundane (picnic tables and chairs, for instance). Her characters are complicated, often contradicting themselves and changing their minds as they struggle to comes to grips with the right thing—or the most strategic thing—to do. The author’s commitment to the Lovecraftian universe, while making it originally her own, is complete here. The multiverse is huge, unknown, strange, often terrifying, often wonderful, beautiful and terrible.

This book is Nick’s journey, as he clings to what he believes is his one remaining value; keep people alive as long as he possibly can. First-person Nick refers to himself as a coward and lets others call him coward, but he isn’t. He simply doesn’t think fighting will do any good. Yenu forces him to confront, over and over, his conflicted feelings about his childhood friend, a monster fighter who was a monster herself, a narcissistic girl who needed the adulation of others, who needed to be seen as a hero. Nick still hates Johnny, but he can’t stop loving her and will never be free of her. Meanwhile, he goes along with Yenu and her group at first because he has no choice, and later because hope has insidiously wormed its way into his heart. Nick is used to being the sidekick, but he has a bigger part to play in the “jailbreak the gods” scheme than he first realizes.

Usually, when characters rehash the same arguments over and over, or make the same character mistake again and again, I get impatient and testy. This group discusses the merit of the plan repeatedly, and they should. There are deep fundamental issues raised that won’t be solved in one good discussion. The nature of loyalty and trust surfaces again and again. Nick is driven by his view of the—I was going to write “world,”—universe, and that view is shaped by personal shame, disillusionment, grief, and trauma. He does not recognize loyalty or friendship when it is standing beside him, yet he still acts time and again to save the lives of others.

The core of this book is Nick’s relationship with Johnny, and the extreme act he commits at the end is more breathtaking because we’ve watched that relationship through all three books.

The book is filled with strangeness, darkness, epic battles and chases, magical ships, otherworldly prisons, banter, 1990s pop references and even a nod to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, reaching a conclusion that is plausible and deeply satisfying. Mohamed owns cosmic horror, and it shows. She gives us a story that cuts to the heart and leaves us with a breath of hope.

Published in May 2022. SURVIVAL HAS CONSEQUENCES. Seven years ago, the last survivor of Earth crashed through uncountable dimensions to a strange new world. Nick Prasad found shelter, and a living, as a prophet for the ruling family—servants of the Ancient Ones who destroyed his home. Now, he’s been offered a chance to rid the multiverse of the Ancient Ones, past and present and forever, although he’ll have to betray his new masters to do it. The first step is jailbreaking a god—and that’s the easy part…


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.