"Readers will savor Cole’s narrative as it unfolds across a series of conversations that are by turns probing, poignant and hilarious."– Kirkus Reviews
This sequel to Cole’s (Henry’s Re-entry, 2014, etc.) epic fantasy The Pleasure of Memory (2013) sees disparate members of an ancient order preparing for battle against a villainous fire mage.
The art of magic, which is based on the mysterious Caeyl stones, is dying out in the land of Calevia. Following the events of the previous book, the thieving rogue Beam is also dying, but luckily he has the Caeyllth Blade, which houses the rare Blood Caeyl stone. Inside a vast crypt, his friend Chance Gnoman, along with the Baeldonian giant Jhom, place the physically ravaged Beam inside a tent so that the magic stone can heal him. Elsewhere, another Baeldon named Wenzil interrogates his captive, the Vaemysh Mawby, and learns that they are both members of the Lamys te’Faht (the Eye of the Faithful), part of a lineage of cleric knights who await signs of impending dark times. According to the occult order’s legends, the rise of a Fire Caeyl Mage will herald the end of civilization and the return of the Divinic Demons. It turns out that Prae the Biled, Chance’s nemesis, is that mage, and it’s up to the Lamys te’Faht to halt his demonic army. Sibling smugglers Lucifeus and Malevolus, however, have already caught some Vaemysh trackers on their lands who appear to be demonically possessed, which escalates the war. This second volume of Cole’s saga, like the first, uses dialogue-heavy chapters to illuminate the meticulously crafted corners of his world; one of the most thrilling tells of the exorcism of a demon being. The difference in this installment is that the stakes have risen sharply, and fantasy readers should strap in for a dark, twisted ride—even if most of the narrative merely sets up a potentially more intense third volume. Cole’s prose is evocative, as always; he describes Beam’s injuries, for example, as a “torn map of flesh.” There are also great philosophical moments, as when Wenzil says, “Hope’s a deep well....Sometimes there’s water at the bottom, sometimes there just ain’t.” The very best chapters deal with Beam’s inward journey and expose the startling history of Calevia. Overall, this book offers great rewards for Cole’s loyal readers.
A weird, wonderful installment of a fantasy saga that’s inching toward greatness.
Cole’s (The Pleasure of Memory, 2013) novel is equal parts snark-filled road trip and bittersweet confrontation of past sins.
Henry wakes up in a gas station bathroom, crusty with vomit and missing both a shoe and his wallet. Exiting, he finds himself in New Mexico, his car nowhere in sight and his memory lost to a weekend of boozing. This is his re-entry into a miserable life spent guilt-ridden over how he treated Zoe, his wife, who’s been dead for four years. Naturally, his first stop is a bar just steps away. Clarence, the philosophically inclined bartender, insists that he drink some water. During the ensuing back and forth, Clarence calls Henry out on carrying needless emotional baggage. Eventually, Henry leaves and begins hitchhiking; he meets a string of fascinating people, including Rev. Joshua White, a social worker named Mrs. Pena, and the stunning Alice—a dangerously perfect companion who’s on a yearly pilgrimage with her siblings. Henry joins Alice and company in their van, hoping to reach California while reluctantly cleansing himself of the idea that he’s no good for people. Has Zoe’s ghost trapped him, or can Henry be salvaged from this self-destructive epic outing? Cole’s tale of impossible redemption is, sentence for sentence, a textural feast. Fabulous lines like, “He collected friends the way a lumberjack collected trees...[they] only complicated his plans,” pop on every page. Equally marvelous is his dialogue; Clarence tells Henry, “You like the drama because it makes you feel important, gives you a sense of purpose, a reason for not being dead.” Readers will savor Cole’s narrative as it unfolds across a series of conversations that are by turns probing, poignant and hilarious. From his time with Rev. White, readers learn that Henry is a relentless cynic; from Mrs. Pena, that he’s softer than he appears. Alice, with eyes like bright green kryptonite, threatens all of his bourbon-drenched defenses. By the end, readers will wish these terrific characters could stick around longer.
Cole maps out a propulsive emotional journey.
In this sparkling debut fantasy, a rogue swordsman gets caught up in a war between elemental mages.
Beam has spent most of his miserable life as a thieving blade-for-hire. Now, walking the Nolandian Plains of Calevia, he’s finally happy. After spending two years robbing the graves of Vaemysh savages, he now has a rare red gem—carved in the shape of an eye—that will make him rich. When Vaemysh hunters eventually catch up with him, Beam enters the Forbidden Forest, where he takes refuge in a cave. Nearby, Chance Gnoman, the Water Caeyl Mage, discovers that something (or someone) has tampered with his magical stone sentries, which protect the land. But before Chance can confirm his suspicions, Prae the Biled, a Fire Caeyl Mage, kidnaps Chance’s teen apprentice, Luren. Beam, meanwhile, learns that his cave opens into a crystalline cathedral. Inside, he communicates with warrior spirits that tell him he’s actually the savior of the hated Vaemysh race. He takes up a Caeyllth Blade before setting out toward Chance’s domain, where the mage is besieged by Vaemysh soldiers and a demon named Wonugh. When Beam and Chance cross paths, can they trust each other enough to battle Prae the Biled together? Cole is a confident, wry talent who sets scenes exceptionally well, lending Calevia a beautiful sense of place: “The shimmering Nolandian plains rose and fell like landlocked waves rolling away into...the massive sky.” Much of his prose is similarly spirited, as when Beam’s body “serenaded him with a melody of aches and pains.” Most importantly, Cole’s system of Caeyl magic is clearly and engagingly presented, and readers will look forward to seeing it in action. Such scenes, however, are often overshadowed by Cole’s tendency to pad them with runaway dialogue; the characters, though clever, can sometimes sound as if they’re bickering simply for the author’s own entertainment. That said, Cole has an epic tale to tell, and hopefully the sequel’s pace will do justice to his fabulous world.
A talky but slow-burning fantasy novel, driven by thoughtful magic.
Cole’s noir fantasy sees an assassin turn against those who pay him while preparing the ultimate revenge.
In Old Detroit City, Diego Valerius Vega kills criminals. The city’s evil Masterminds pay him well to take “unwanted garbage off the street.” His rage traces back to a campground in Montana where, at age 9, he witnessed his mother’s violent death at the hands of the one currently known as his Arch Nemesis. Within a week, the end of a 20-year cycle will reopen the Rift and return this Monster to the campground. Diego has been living only to avenge his mother, but according to junkie Billy Gums, something’s happened to Bess Smith, a prostitute Diego has sworn to protect. Billy eventually reveals that Bess had been working a Supervillain’s private party when things got rough. Diego and his partner, Berny Duende, check the girl’s apartment to no avail. The heroes pay one of her neighbors, the keen-eared Eleanor, to call if Bess returns. Then they head to a strip club run by Frannie, the woman who took in Diego after his mother’s murder. The crime fighters learn that Oliver Brighton (of the infamous Brighton boys) and his gang pummeled Bess. Diego hopes to find Bess and settle up with Oliver before his showdown with his Arch Nemesis in Montana. Fortunately, the duo has unusual skills. Diego can shape-shift and Berny has visions prompted by certain smells, but neither anticipates the tempest fate has in store.
Though Cole’s (The Burden of Memory, 2016, etc.) latest may seem like a straightforward urban fantasy, it dives deeper into the characters’ psychologies than readers may expect. Berny, the narrator, is tortured by memories of the enigmatic Whitecoats who gave him powers when they “opened that hidden door to [his] skull and flipped on their secret switches.” Diego, a successful albeit murderous riff on Batman, uses flames, smoke, and claws to dole out justice. Yet Cole winks at the strict superhero dynamics that fans love to dissect, like the exact nature of the bats and red spiders with which Diego assaults criminals (“They descend…like the breath of God”). Instead he focuses on pulpy atmospherics, crafting startling visual moments and prose that revel in depravity (“Her left iris looks like a blue gem resting on a bed of red velvet”). Cole scales back the roaming dialogue that flavored his previous works but unleashes Berny’s bristly commentary: “The air reeks of sulfur and despair and hopelessness.” The narrator wonders whether Diego can “save the ones you love” and still “suckle the breast of Vengeance.” Such flamboyantly noirish lines put him in good company with Frank Miller, artist and writer of the Sin City graphic novels. Overall, Cole remembers to ground Old Detroit as a human place, like when an “old couple” feverishly makes out in Frannie’s club. Only in the grim finale is the book’s title explained, as he pushes his characters toward their least expected destinies.
This urban fantasy’s got a quick wit and a thick mood.