Friday, August 12, 2011

Black & Orange by Benjamin Kane Etheridge -- review

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   Forget everything you know about Halloween. The stories are distortions. They were created to keep the Church of Midnight hidden from the world. Every October 31st a gateway opens to a hostile land of sacrificial magic and chaos. Since the beginning of civilization the Church of Midnight has attempted to open the gateway and unite with its other half, the Church of Morning. Each year they've come closer, waiting for the ideal sacrifice to open the gateway permanently.

This year that sacrifice has come. And only two can protect it. Martin and Teresa are the nomads, battle-hardened people who lack identity and are forever road-bound on an endless mission to guard the sacrifice. Their only direction is from notes left from a mysterious person called the Messenger. Endowed with a strange telekinetic power, the nomads will use everything at their disposal to make it through the night alive. But matters have become even more complicated this year. Teresa has quickly lost ground battling cancer, while Martin has spiraled into a panic over being left alone. His mind may no longer be on the fight when it matters most... because ever on their heels is the insidious physical representation of a united church: Chaplain Cloth.

***BRAM STOKER AWARD WINNER, Superior Achievement in First Novel***

And here's what I thought:  Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, not because of the costumes, or the pumpkins, or the candy (ok... actually, the candy is pretty fun) -- but because I find its origins and history somewhat fascinating.  And, the dark side of me just loves it, as well.   So, when I was contacted about reviewing this book, I thought it would be right up my alley.  I had expected an interesting story, and had prepared myself not to expect too much, seeing as it's the debut book from this author.  And .... I was blown away.  

Deftly written, this book is fantastical and imaginative, with richy written characters.  There's a good mix of the real and the magic, with a bit of horror swirled in.  The nice thing is --- just when you think you know what's happening in the story, and what's about to happen next, the author takes a twist.   I like stories like this, where I'm invested in the characters, and I can't predict what's going to happen to them.    I also liked the creativity of the whole story -- the idea of the Nomads and the Church of Midnight, and the gateway. 

I really enjoyed the writing in this book -- there were sentences that I just savored.   Example: "Even Cloth's black and orange eyes were two smoky discs.  Yet the heart had a burgundy hue so ferocious that it looked like something from a surreal dream, an apple galvanized with cinnamon steel." (p. 17)   Delicious.  I also liked the feeling of this book --- like there's something shadowy lurking behind you, moving just out of eye's range when you turn to look -- that whole tingly feeling of something not being quite right.  

I don't know if this is a book for all readers, but if you like a bit of horror mixed with the fantastic, and you like elegant, descriptive writing, I believe you'll be in for a very enjoyable read. 

First sentences: "Where was Tony Nguyen?  Where was the Heart of the Harvest?   Martin couldn't answer that.  He'd lost his gun, his mind could not conjure another mantle - he was powerless.  The answers he desperately needed escaped him.  He just ran.  Teresa wove through a field of tall grass and he followed.  The brittle blades swept across his face, snapping and hissing as they went.  The children flooded into the field, their dark orange jaws snapping in concert with the disruption in the grass."

Thoughts on the cover:  Completely suits the story.  Love the typeface used for the title, and how the colors are dark, so you have to peer at it a bit to see all the details.   I do like how there is some celtic ornamentation worked in, as well.


Anonymous said...

Oooh, this looks awesome. I've been looking for good October-y books to do a proper Halloween party on my blog this year - looks like this will be going on the list. :D

vvb32 reads said...

like the sounds of this with its horror swirl and matching cover.

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