Burn Slowly, Fabio Casto

Burn Slowly, Fabio Casto

Burn Slowly (Original: Bruciate Lentamente, translated Sarah Jane Webb)

I really hate having to quit on a review read. Unfortunately, Burn Slowly was one of the ones I had to give up on. Part of the trouble I had with the story was the use of language. While it was fluently translated from the original, the narrative style was so densely-worded that the pace of the story was almost brought to a halt, and even deciphering what the story was, was challenging. For the record, my first language is English, but when I’d got a third of the way into the book, and still hadn’t come across enough to indicate whether I was reading a science-fiction tale, or a thriller, or the hallucinations of an unhealthy man on drugs, or even where any of the three options might be eventually headed, I’m afraid I stopped trying. To my regret, there is only so much time I can spend on forcing myself to read something I’m not enjoying.

From what I was able to gather, the book may have had some strong points if my stamina hadn’t given out at the pacing. Among other things, the author had clearly done some research into ancient legends to support his book; the characters were definitely well-fleshed out. It just wasn’t enough to persuade me to keep pounding my head on the prose.

Raven’s Peak, Lincoln Cole

Raven’s Peak, Lincoln Cole

Raven’s Peak: World on Fire Book 1

Raven’s Peak takes a unique twist on urban fantasy, painting a thin veneer of normality across a reality of madness, murder, and demons, held back by the forces of the Council, a quasi-religious Star Chamber that works in total secrecy. However, the Council has its back to the wall, and their decision to bring one of their top hunters out of the black site prison where he’s been since he got too good at thinking like his prey precipitates the events of the whole story.

Lincoln Cole has managed to weave a lot of the Christian mythos of demons and exorcism into this plot, and the result is a nice mix of the darkness of ‘The Exorcist’ and the choreographed violence of ‘Kill Bill’. While I felt that the book could benefit from another proofread, the author’s talent and imagination were more than enough to draw me into the book, and his story and characters kept me there. The contrast between Haatim, a privileged son of the mundane world, and Abigail, a Council hunter trying to claw her way back after a demonic possession that cost her her mentor and most of her standing in the Order, is particularly well done.

Although Raven’s Peak is clearly the first in a series, it makes a strong standalone read and avoids the temptation to end in a real cliff-hanger. Abigail is guaranteed to please any reader who prefers heroines whose IQ exceeds their bust size, and the layers in the plot combined with the depth of the characters offers rich ground for many future books. I’ll be looking forwards to the next one.

Reviewed for Knockin’ Books.

If There Be Giants, Ellison Blackburn

If There Be Giants, Ellison Blackburn

If There Be Giants

Mallory Jacks and her best friend, Paisley Bourne, had an unusual hobby as children; with Indiana Jones as their role model, they explored the hills around their Cornish homes, collecting every scrap of history they could find. Years later, Drs. Jacks and Bourne, once again working together, are summoned to a farm where the farmer has uncovered a possible henge site. At first glance, on a rainy English day, neither doctor suspects that there’s anything more unusual about the find other than the fact that it’s unusual to find a henge buried. However, as they begin to unearth the stones, they make a discovery that has the potential to set both the scientific and the religious communities back on their heels.

If There Be Giants is a story of archaeology and myths, giants and visions, set in Cornwall, the seat of all British legend. Ellison Blackburn has created a story richly woven with archaeological detail and Christian mythology, and peopled it with her strongly-characterised protagonists. The wealth of technical detail provides a brilliant contrast to the supernatural elements, while the characters deal with very human concerns; a flaky grad student, trying to conduct a dig in the rain, an unreliable car; all of which underscore the unbelievable facts that the dig uncovers. This is one of the author’s strongest books to date, a fascinating debut to the new Watchers series.