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RAIN OF THE GHOSTS
"You don't belong back there," the woman said gently. "Leave it all behind."
Rain nodded. That's right. That's right.
"You have the whole world to explore," the woman said warmly. "There's so much to see."
Rain could only nod. So grateful. So much to see. She wandered forward. The snow was white and warm and glowed softly, quietly. So much to see.
Well...it's finally time.
While I first acquired my copy of your inaugural novel a few weeks ago, it wasn't until recently that I managed to find the time to finish it; starting a new job the week before Christmas tends to eat up free time. But plenty of car rides to and from airports at the holiday season gave me ample time to breeze through the latter half of the book, and I've spent the last couple of days mulling over exactly what to say about it.
[NOTE: From here on out, there may be references to minor SPOILERS. If anyone hasn't read the novel all the way through yet, stop right here and go do so.]
If I had to boil down my reaction to RotG into a single word, it would be "intrigued." Reading through it, I felt transported back to third grade, making my way through "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone" for the first time. RotG has a similar "feel": simultaneously a single story and a rapid-fire barrage of future plot hooks, designed to impress upon the reader the sheer size and scope of the world it is building, while leaving room for that world to expand greatly in future installments.
Rain herself is a good encapsulation of this. As a protagonist she is simultaneously extremely likeable, and precisely the opposite. Hot-tempered, impulsive, abrasive, and constantly taking Charlie's loyalty completely for granted, she is...well, a teenager. She has a good deal of growing up to do, and it's hard to fully get "on her side" until she does.
But as this book series all-but-promises to be her Bildungsroman, I'm confident that Rain's gonna continue to grow on me. And her "voice" is so uniquely enjoyable that I'm very much EXCITED to go on that journey with her, so that's certainly a point in the character's favor.
The rest of the cast was a joy, for the most part. Charlie was, admittedly, probably the weakest link for me. I LIKE him well enough, don't get me wrong, but on this first outing I can't help but find him a little bland. He's more than a tad snarky, crushing hard on Rain, and possessed of the patience of a saint...but beyond that, I find it hard to come up with many descriptors for his character. Here's hoping that we get to explore his perspective and his history a little more in future books.
I adored 'Bastian/The Dark Man, however. His "I don't really know what to think about this" attitude toward being dead, oscillating between casual detachment and sorrowful contempation depending on the situation, felt very REAL to me, and made his scenes a constant delight. I don't know how long he's going to stick around, but I'm hoping that it's for at least a few more books. There's just something undeniably "cool" about having a ghost in a bomber jacket as one of your leads.
As for the supporting cast...again, "intriguing" is probably the best word I can use. Everyone's got their secrets, and you did a masterful job at teasing just enough information to encourage the audience to chase down every last one. From Miranda's father to whatever the deal is with Ariel, from Maq's and Obie's roles in all of this to Callahan's history...it's a brave new world, and I very much want to learn more.
Personally, my favorite character is hands-down, Judith Vendaval/The Tall Woman. Thing is, I couldn't possibly tell you WHY. Functionally, she does basically nothing to advance the book's plot.
But there's something about the "air" to her, even moreso than the other "mysterious" characters wandering the periphery of this story, that grabs me and won't let go. She's still at the inn at the beginning of the second book, according to the excerpts included at the end, so I doubt we've seen the last of her. And I am SO looking forward to it.
The plot itself is straightforward, but layered; at least three stories (Rain's present-day grief, the regrets of WWII resurfacing, and the "real" story going on behind the scenes, which our heroes are largely oblivious to) running through each other, with little hints sprinkled EVERYWHERE of more to come. It's not an unfamiliar feeling from your work...but it is a welcome one.
Without a doubt, the most enjoyable scenes from me were the two "Villain Tags" near the end - Maq and Obie confronting "Hura-hupia," and Callahan's meeting with his employer. Questions abound about this "Mr. Setebos," not the least of which being exactly how indicative his name is...but I'm comfortable being patient for THOSE kinds of answers.
The one other thing I want to comment on before wrapping this review up is the writing style. I've never read a novel precisely like this one in that regard, and in-and-of-itself that is neither a positive nor a negative trait.
Even if I didn't already know it going in, it wouldn't be hard for me to guess that the writer of RotG has gained much of his experience writing scripts for television and comics.
Take, for example, the frequent jumping of perspectives from one character to the next - some of it even within a single paragraph. A lot of readers seem to have found that quite jarring...and yeah, I won't deny that it threw me for a loop the first couple of times, even if I got used to it after a while.
But in a comic? This wouldn't seem remotely odd at all. All it would require would be separate thought balloons in the same panel.
Once again, though, there's nothing BAD necessarily about this stylistic choice; it's just...different. And in all fairness, you certainly took advantage of its narrative benefits. Maq and Obie would have a much harder time fulfilling their current roles if you had to devote a full chapter to them every time they needed to chime in.
In closing, if the main purpose of RotG was to ensure that I'd desperately want to read eight more books set in this world, then it damn well succeeded. True, my first reaction to learning that the structure of the series corresponds with a nine-item "fetch quest" was to bristle a bit...but there's enough to intrigue me about the first zemi that I'm quite excited to search out the rest.
What form do the others take? What are their powers? Where do they come from, and who made them? And what exactly IS the "true Mystery of the Ghosts"?
A deep widening groove. An oval ring. A larger, more circular ring. A shallow groove. A semi-amorphous cross. A thick equilateral triangle. And a small cylindrical hole.
One Key down, eight to go. This is gonna be one wild ride.
Thanks. Glad you like it!! Again, I'd ask that if you haven't already, please add a review to Amazon.