Defiance in a Gothic Nightmare—A Review of "Non Serviam"

Published 22 May 2024
by Anca Antoci

Title: Non Serviam
Author: Sfarda L. Gül
Released: 07.05.2024
Buy from Amazon
4.11 (read)
Our review:
4.00 (read)

Today, I have another book from NetGalley to share with you. It’s interesting to note that Latin is still taught as a compulsory subject in Romania, even though it is never actually used. I find it fun when I stumble upon a Latin term or book title that I can easily translate. I’ve always considered Latin as useless knowledge until now. The last time I came across a Latin term in books was in Devri Walls’ Venators series, which means hunters. I’ll end my rant on Latin by saying the title translates to “I will not serve”.

“Non Serviam,” the debut novel by Sfarda L. Gül, is the beginning of a grimdark gothic fantasy series that transports you to a Venetian inspired world. Set in the city of Vencenza, a dark and intricate version of Venice, this book offers a lush world-building experience combined with political intrigue, all told through the eyes of its three main characters. 

What I Loved

Lush World-Building

The world of Vencenza is a marvel of gothic fantasy. Sfarda L. Gül’s prose paints a vivid picture of a city steeped in history and political complexity. The setting, with its dark alleys and grand canals, is beautifully crafted and immerses the reader in a place both familiar and fantastical. The intricate details of the city, combined with the rich political landscape, create a backdrop that is as captivating as it is foreboding.

Engaging Protagonists

The story follows three main characters: Giorgianna, Cesare, and Lucrezia. Giorgianna, a budding actor, finds her quiet life upended as she becomes entangled in the revolution. Her journey from a timid artist to a fierce revolutionary is compelling and emotionally charged. Cesare, the Machiavellian mastermind, brings a cunning and strategic depth to the narrative, orchestrating the rebellion with calculated precision. While Lucrezia’s character didn’t leave as strong an impression, the dynamic between the protagonists keeps the plot engaging and multifaceted.

Dark Twists and Political Intrigue

The novel’s dark twists and turns will keep you on your toes. The political intrigue is a highlight, with secret plots and betrayals that add layers of suspense and tension. The revolution against the tyrannical ruler, who has banned all forms of emotional expression, serves as a powerful backdrop for the characters’ struggles and triumphs.

What Didn’t Resonate With Me

Purple Prose

The writing style, characterized by elaborate and ornate prose, often felt like a double-edged sword. While it added to the atmospheric quality of the story, it also made the narrative feel cumbersome at times. The long, run-on sentences and convoluted structure could be exhausting, making it tempting to put the book down. However, keep in mind that the book description contains a note on this. So, if this bothers you, this book may not be for you. While the writing wasn’t my cup of tea, I went into this story knowingly.

Multiple Narrative Voices

This is another thing I knew right off the bat because it was in the book description. However, since I hadn’t read anything like this before, I wasn’t sure if I’d like it or not. Now I know it’s not my cup of tea, but maybe it won’t bother you as much.

The use of multiple narrative voices—first person for Giorgianna, second person for her flashbacks, and third person for Cesare and Lucrezia—felt disjointed. While this approach aimed to add depth, for me, it instead disrupted the flow and coherence of the story. The shifts in perspective required constant adjustment, which detracted from the overall reading experience.

Overwhelming Complexity

The dense world-building and intricate plot can be overwhelming. The novel does not ease you into its elaborate setting and extensive history, leaving you to navigate a flood of information. This approach, while ambitious, might alienate readers who prefer a more gradual immersion into a complex fantasy world.


Revolution and Tyranny

At its core, “Non Serviam” is a story of revolution against a despotic regime. The tyrant’s outlawing of emotional expression and the protagonists’ roles as banned artists create a stark contrast between oppression and the human spirit’s resilience. The novel delves into the sacrifices and moral dilemmas inherent in such a struggle, questioning what one must forfeit for the sake of freedom.

Art and Expression

Art as a form of resistance is a prominent theme. The protagonists, being artists in various forms, use their craft to defy the oppressive regime. This theme underscores the power of creativity and expression in the face of tyranny, highlighting how art can inspire change and challenge the status quo.

The Cost of Hatred and Violence

The novel also explores the toll that hatred and violence take on individuals. It raises poignant questions about the price of revolution: Can victory be achieved without losing one’s humanity? What are the personal costs of pursuing vengeance and justice? These reflections add a philosophical layer to the grimdark narrative, making it a thought-provoking read.


“Non Serviam” by Sfarda Gul is a grimdark gothic fantasy that offers a richly detailed world and an emotionally charged story. While its lush purple prose and intricate plot may not appeal to everyone, those who enjoy a dense and immersive reading experience will find much to appreciate. The themes of revolution, art, and the human cost of defiance are woven into a narrative that is as thought-provoking as it is darkly captivating. If you’re prepared to dive into a complex and challenging world, “Non Serviam” has a lot to offer.

Our final verdict: