Snake Eyes by Hilary Monahan. ★★★1/2
Trigger warning: Sexual assault, violence
Snake Eyes is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. There’s no way I’m ever forgetting it.
Tanis Barlas is the daughter of the Lamia, a monstrous snake woman from Greek mythology who cares little for her human daughters. Yet she retains a tight control over all her offspring, and Tanis is forced to every month find a man for her mother to mate with and then devour. The only thing making her life bearable is her human girlfriend, Naree. But then two events change Tanis’s life forever. Her mother’s ancient enemies, the Gorgons, arrive in Florida hunting them, and Naree becomes pregnant. With Naree in danger, Tanis will do whatever she must to keep her lover safe.
Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Snake Eyes is pretty darn gross. There’s lots of violence, blood, and gore. The book opens with Tanis kidnapping a man who abuses his wife, taking him to her mother, who transforms him into a snake monster and then mates with him. Snake Eyes had a lot of bits where I was like “wtf” and “this is possibly the weirdest and grossest thing I’ve read.” And yet I kept reading. In fact, I read all of Snake Eyes in a single day. It might be weird and gross, but it’s also compulsive.
On the bright side, if you’re looking for a book that’s centered around female characters, queer positive, and body positive, Snake Eyes may very well be the book for you. Almost all the characters who drive the plot are women. The Lamia only has daughters, no matter what type of genitalia those daughters may have. While Tanis isn’t human and can’t really be described in our terms, she does sort of bring in trans and intersex issues. In the author’s note, Monahan says that Snake Eyes is the first book she wrote after she came out, and she truly succeeded in writing a story that’s delightfully queer.
Tannis is clearly an anti-heroine, what with being technically a serial killer or at least an accomplice to one? She’s a character who’s entire life consists of her being stuck between a rock and a hard place and doing whatever she can to get out. I liked her quite a bit. On the other hand, I feel like Naree didn’t have that much character. For me, she never really moved beyond a plot device that exists to motivate Tannis. If she was the only woman in the story, you can bet that I’d be complaining about this a lot more. As is, I’m willing to let it lie.
From what I can tell, the Gods and Monsters series is a shared universe. Goodreads lists Snake Eyes as the third in the series, but it stands completely alone. The two previous books are both written by other authors. I don’t think I’m going to check out any more books in the series, but I will be looking for other books by Hilary Monahan.