Step once again into the weird space between life and death, where souls are food for the strong-willed and the ruthless with We, the Two by Dominika Lein. We, the Two is Lein’s follow-up to I, the One, one of the coolest, creepiest short stories I read last year.
We, the Two focuses on two of I, the One‘s antagonists, the brother-and-sister team of Hanhoka and Hinim, etheric beings of great power who prey on souls and rule their realms. They make their way to a weird marketplace of souls, searching for souls to consume . . . but strange things are afoot, even stranger than the scene decaying city around them.
First are the cultists formerly devoted to a powerful being called Arcana, who now seem to worship Hinom, much to Hanhoka’s surprise . Then there’s the Soul Hunter who somehow made her way into the realm, capturing souls from under the twos’ noses. Even stranger are Hinom’s intimations that he plans to challenge the Almighty Himself so that their ability to consume souls can continue unabated. There’s a lot going on here in sixty or so pages. Like I, the One, you might find that you need to read the whole thing more than once, although Lein’s writing is more comfortable here, describing the strange and disturbing worlds and creatures with ease. We, the Two is a moody tale, dripping with macabre atmosphere. It’s very unsettling to think about these beings and their bizarre reality-shifting abilities and the way they eat these souls for sustenance.
One thing I appreciated was how Lein ties the events in We, the Two with those in I, the One. Note that I said We, the Two is a follow-up, not a sequel. I am not sure if her entire series will be presented out of order, but it works here–the conflict takes a little while to pick up steam, but you won’t notice given that it all takes place in a world unlike anything you’ve seen before. The confusion actually worked–having read I, the One previously made We, the Two begin in a disorienting fashion that quickly clarified as it raced towards the finish, pulling off that rare treat of being a satisfying cliffhanger.
This is a really interesting little series Lein has going on here, and as her writing and worldbuilding continues to get better, I can’t wait to see more. If you’re into strange tales with a tense horror vibe, I highly recommend We, the Two.