Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Scarred and Flawed

Scar Night

by Alan Campbell

Published by Bantam Spectra

2 Out of 5 Stars

I desperately wanted to love this book, but to quote Gregory House quoting the philosopher Jagger, "You can't always get what you want."  There are so many amazing concepts in this book, but that's part of the problem--there are so many potentially engaging ideas brewing in here that it's like Campbell couldn't decide on just one so decided to toss them all in at once.  The result is that no one idea or character receives the full attention it deserves.  For instance, the most compelling character is Carnival, a several thousand year old angel who, to maintain her immortality, must drink the blood of a mortal each month.  She terrorizes the town of Deepgate when the moon goes dark--Scar Night--and she seeks out her prey.  When she does kill, she inflicts another wound upon herself as punishment for once again sating her need.  As a result, her body is lined with scars.  She is at once a demon and a pitiable creature.  She alone would have made a fascinating focus for the book, but, no, we have to be introduced to a cast of hundreds.

Some positives:  Campbell has done a stunning job of creating a complex and thought provoking mythology that explains how the city of Deepgate, built in an abyss and cradled by a network of chains, came into being as a means of honoring the fallen god of chains, Ulcis.  Campbell's descriptions help the reader envision such an unlikely setting as though it could truly exist (therein, though, lies another problem with the book--the lengthy and sometimes unnecessary descriptions slow the narrative pace down). 

On the cover, Hal Duncan proclaims that Scar Night is "A gripping, ripping yarn which rattles along at a great pace."  If by "gripping" he meant lackluster and by "ripping" he meant tedious, then I agree with him.  If not, then Hal and I must part ways in our requirements for great fantasy.

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