Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman

June 21, 2014
Between Two Fires by Christopher BuehlmanBetween Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman
Also by this author: The Lesser Dead
Published by Ace on October 2, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Horror
Pages: 464

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five-stars

“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.

five-stars

16 Comments

  • Mogsy June 21, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    Wow, high praise! Just checked my goodreads and only 5 friends have read and rated it, 3 of them gave it 5 stars. I actually have this author on my to-read list as well, but have Those Across the River marked instead of this one. Maybe I should hit this one first, since on average it has a higher rating, and plus you loved it 😀
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    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader) June 22, 2014 at 1:57 pm

      Those Across the River was his first book and was a nominee for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2012, so I’m not surprised you have that one marked. I’ve looked around and the setting is quite different, but they both have that historical fantasy/horror blend.
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  • Jessica @ Rabid Reads June 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    You know, I have been interested in this guy ever since he was recommended by one of my favorite writers. But that was for Those Across the River (not to be confused with, “In a VAN, down by the RIVER.” I really hope you got that, otherwise I’m going to feel like a big time dork). Anyway, the point is that I was already kind of interested in Buehlman, and now . . . now, I really MUST meet Thomas and this girl who lives with her father’s corpse. And I don’t even feel weird saying that, b/c clearly you loved it. Fantastic review, Lisa! Truly 😉
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  • Danya @ Fine Print June 23, 2014 at 10:19 am

    A quick catalog search turned up an audio copy of this one at my library, and I requested it immediately! I’m having a hard time coming up with fantasy titles I’ve read that are set in the 14th century, but it sounds like the perfect period for a nasty creature to go around wreaking havoc. Nothing like a big ol’ plague to obscure your bizarre supernatural murder spree, am I right?
    Danya @ Fine Print recently posted…ARC Review: Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly HarperMy Profile

  • Pat @ A Bitter Draft June 23, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    I tossed this on my list after seeing your praise just before you finished it but now I’m sold. Will definitely be reading it soon now.

  • Tabitha (Not Yet Read) June 23, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    Normally I don’t go in for anything dealing with biblical paranormal or fantasy because it just annoys me but this sounds so intense. Living alone with her father’s corpse – seriously? right oh then onto the never ending stack of mount to be read it goes. I can’t believe you didn’t have even one friend who’d read it – seeing as we all pretty much gobble up much of the like stuff.
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    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader) June 23, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      I have to admit, the biblical aspect of this was not the least bit appealing. But I decided to approach it as if it were any other fantasy book, perhaps with a fictional religion that was central to the plot. Religion is such a driving factory in history and conflicts that I just have to go with it.
      Lisa (@TenaciousReader) recently posted…Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman My Profile

  • Lynn June 24, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    This sounds brilliant – will have to have a copy! Methinks my TBR is going to suffer reading your blog!
    Lynn 😀

  • Maggie June 25, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I must read this book! MUST! Adding it to my list now. Thank you!
    Maggie recently posted…Review: Elusion by Claudia Gabel & Cheryl KlamMy Profile