The Realms have split apart, the Stones of Elation have been hidden, and warnings of dokojin drift among the tribes.
The land and its people are corrupted. The Sachem, chief of the Unified Tribes, is to blame.
It is this conviction that drives Annilasia and Delilee to risk their lives. Afraid of the aether magic he wields, they enact a subtler scheme: kidnap his wife. In her place, Delilee will pretend to be the chieftess and spy on the Sachem.
Unaware of this plot against her husband, Jalice is whisked away by Annilasia. Pleading with her captor proves futile, and she rejects Annilasia’s delusional accusations against the chief. After all, the Sachem has brought peace to the land.
Yet a dangerous truth hides in Jalice’s past. As she and Annilasia flee through a forest of insidious threats, they must confront the evil plaguing the tribes and the events that unleashed it.
As Chieftess, Jalice lives in the safety of her tower while her husband the Sachem rules over the Unified Tribes. But her peace is suddenly shattered when Annilasia, once childhood friend now elite assassin, appears in the night, claiming that a tribe leader has been murdered and Jalice must leave with her to stay alive.
The rescue is quickly revealed to be a kidnapping as part of a plot to overthrow the Sachem, who Annilasia accuses of being a tyrant possessed by a dokojin. What follows is a dangerous journey through a tainted land, as Jalice struggles to sort truth from lies, and memory from illusion.
With elements of fantasy, horror and post-apocalyptic sci-fi, The Jealousy of Jalice is filled with action, tension and a twisting story. It’s one of those books that you have to read yourself to get a clear sense of the plot, which is winding but never meandering.
Aside from the distinctive cultures and environments that Bailey has crafted, I love how he blends mythology and magic, creating a unique world that entails demon-like beings, a soul realm, possession and dark magic. Its inventive, fascinating, and dark AF.
Between compromised protagonists, nightmarish creatures and the many conflicting agendas, this book is a grippingly gloomy read that will appeal to grimdark fans. There is a very clear and prevailing force of evil in the story, but whether or not there is an equal and opposite force of good remains to be seen.
I find this concept far more interesting than grimdark books that completely replace the philosophical forces of good and evil with their ‘flawed’ characters, which can mean protagonists are anything up to and including murderers and rapists. This doesn’t hold any appeal to me, and at times feels like edginess purely for the sake of not conforming to the genre’s traditional format.
Luckily, The Jealousy of Jalice is instead a dark fantasy with intelligence and heart. Characters are complex and yes, flawed, but they are a product of their circumstances and relationships with others, all of which are relevant to the story. The influence of evil is used as a metaphor but also as the consequence of their actions. As Rowena mentioned in her recent review, this book is an excellent example of how unlikeable characters can work very well.
While not heavily featured, a gay relationship is important to the story. A few months ago, Bailey described how The Jealousy of Jalice was influenced by his experience as a gay man growing up in a Christian household. Knowing this background gave this book personal significance to me, and I think the themes of guilt, shame, and a dual sense of identity are relatable for many people in different ways.
Regarding prose, Bailey’s is probably the most distinctive writing voice I’ve come across in self-published fantasy. His style is descriptive, with obvious consideration given to the tone he conveys through each word and phrase. In the very beginning, I was worried the language might feel slightly formal, but instead, Bailey’s style enriches the atmosphere of his story.
The writing really shines when it comes to the darker, horror aspects of the book. The nightmarishly visual and tactile language gave me a real sense of dread without the author relying too heavily on shocks and gore, though there is plenty of both throughout the story. Bailey has added a kind of Lovecraftian vibe that I imagine is hard to capture but makes this novel stand out.
The Jealousy of Jalice is everything I wanted it to be, and I’m excited to read the sequel. I often say this at the end of my reviews, but Bailey’s future works will definitely find a place at the top of my TBR, including his upcoming novella Amethyst.
Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours and Jesse Nolan Bailey for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
You can check out the full blog tour schedule here, and lucky people living in the US can also enter the giveaway (ends 1st October)! The winner will receive a hardcover edition of The Jealousy of Jalice, as well as some fantastic merch.
For everyone else, you can buy your copy of the book via Amazon. The hardback edition will be released tomorrow!
Trigger warnings: addiction, death of family