Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman
Also by this author: The Lesser Dead
Published by Ace on October 2, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Horror
“Buehlman...slips effortlessly into a different kind of literary sensibility, one that doesn’t scrimp on earthy humor and lyrical writing in the face of unspeakable horrors.”* The year is 1348. Thomas, a disgraced knight, has found an orphan of the Black Death in a Norman village. An almost unnerving picture of innocence, she tells Thomas that the plague is only part of a larger cataclysm—that the fallen angels under Lucifer are rising in a second war on Heaven. But is it delirium or is it faith? She believes she has seen the angels of God. She believes the dead speak to her in dreams. And now she has convinced the faithless Thomas to shepherd her across an apocalyptic landscape to Avignon. There, she tells Thomas, she will fulfill her mission. There her true nature will be revealed. And there Thomas will confront an evil wrestling for the throne of Heaven, and which has poisoned his own soul. *Kirkus Reviews
Holy Hell. This book. I’m not even sure where to begin. I found this in my library’s audiobook selection. Gave it a closer look as it seemed to be neither YA nor PNR. That’s quite an unusual (and desirable) find given my library’s more typical offerings. I went to check out what others thought of it on Goodreads. And. NONE of my 100+ genre reading Goodreads friends have read it. Seriously? This made me have some doubts. Surely if it was worth a read, someone would have read it by now. I mean, I think I read a lot, but I don’t even come close to going through books like some of my pals on Goodreads. But, it sounded interesting, and it cost me nothing but a bit of time to check it out. I figured if I didn’t like it I could just find something else, no harm done.
But I never lost interest. Instead I was pulled in to what I first thought was going to be more of a Historical Fiction type of book with just a bit of Fantasy bend to it. And it definitely is a historical fiction setting/feel with beautifully crafted prose that flows easily. The story takes place in France, the year is 1348 and the land and people are ravaged with plague. Just the plague is horrifying enough. Then add in war and the cruelties of mankind. The book made it clear, this was quite a dreadful time and place to live.
Oh, but don’t stop there. Let’s bring in the supernatural. And not in a typical fantasy type of way, with dragons soaring overhead, or sorcery being tossed about, but more in a lurking, terrifying, perhaps rip you asunder, you don’t know what the hell just hit you (or them) kind of way. And then beyond the gore, there is also the daunting presence of something else, some otherworldly beings dipping their hand into the works, trying to control the affairs of men to serve who knows what hidden agenda. This book is creepy. This book is violent. This book is FREAKIN FANTASTIC! And no, not just because it is creepy and violent. It’s how the characters and the setting and the creepy parts all worked together. It just seemed to find an excellent balance. This is also not a book for the faint of heart.
I really enjoyed the character Thomas, a fallen knight that has been traveling with some quite despicable brigands. But then he meets a girl; an orphaned girl living alone with her father’s corpse. But, something about this girl is different. She sees things and knows things that are beyond explanation. I absolutely love the dynamic between Thomas and this girl. I hate to say too much more for fear of spoilers. But trust me, this is a journey I won’t soon forget.
This book was an unexpectedly wonderful and terrifying find. Like I said before, if you are squeamish, or shy away from books with rape or graphic violence, put this book on your never read list. But for those of you like me that are fans of dark and gritty fantasy, definitely add this one to your list. It is well worth the read.
And a quick mention for the audiobook format, it was excellent. The narrator did a marvelous job with the suspense and using just the right inflections on words to get across any dark humor. A book depends heavily on the narrator’s ability to be turned into a successful audiobook and as much as I loved this book, he obviously did a fantastic job.