The Space Between Two Deaths had a fascinating premise, very little modern literature focuses on Sumerian culture, religion and mythology. I thought that the story started off very strong with the sack of Uruk by the army of Nippur which throws off the balance between the land of the living and the netherworld. As a result of this imbalance a rift opens up in the earth leading down into the netherworld. Here is where I felt the author missed an opportunity – though the rift did play a role in the lives of the main characters, the larger implications of the rift on Sumerian society was ignored, it was as if no one else was affected by this supernatural event. It had seemed as though the author had set the scene for the dead to rise and overwhelm the living, for mythological creatures or deities to assert their influence, but none of this occurred.
The rest of the novel was, in essence, a family drama. Though some aspects were interesting, I personally found all the main characters to be rather unlikeable and as such I felt it difficult to become emotionally invested in the tale. Temen, Meshara and Ziz were all callous and self-interested without a sense of care or concern for the other members of their family. Temen was violently abusive and lacking in work ethic, Meshara was deeply resentful and happy to abdicate any sense of maternal duty, and Ziz thrilled in carrying out theft and violence with little sense of consequence. Themes of physical and sexual abuse, child marriage, slavery, mutilation and even cannibalism seemed to be casually thrown into the book without much commentary or critique.
I think my favourite parts of the book were the chapters narrated by the crow, who was the least problematic and most interesting character. I did really enjoy the ending, (at least for Ziz and the crow). Overall the book beginning and ending of the book are very strong, its just the muddle in the middle that I’m not sold on.
Thank you to NetGalley and GenZ Publishing for providing a e-copy of this book for review.