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Between Two Fires is a well written 14th century period piece that expertly intermingles vivid scenes of plague ravaged France with Christian mythos to provide a fantastical horror story that reads like historical fiction. I am not a great horror fan so to say I "liked" this book wouldn't be quite right, but I was completely captivated by it. Christopher Buehlman is masterful in his writing - his characters are so genuine, the settings so sharply etched, the plot so intricate and imaginative that I was engrossed throughout the book. I felt a bit dazed at the end of the book coming back to the 21st century after this total immersion experience in 1348.
I have to thank Audible and Troy's review for giving me a nudge to look at this book. I'm don't normally read books in the horror genre, but I am a huge fan of good writing and this book ranks right up there with the best. And, it paints such a clear picture of this period of medieval history that it is likely to be appealing to those who like historical fiction as well as those who enjoy a good scary story.
It's not a book for everyone - the book covers a dark period of history when the Black Death rampaged through Europe and many of the characters are rough, vulgar people so it is not surprising that there are graphic scenes of violence and a fair amount of cursing and crude language in the book. I did not think the violence or bad language was gratuitous, but I know I like to know before hand when a book is one I want to listen to in private. (One oddity in regard to the vulgar language, Buehlman seems to have no difficult referring to various parts of female anatomy in very coarse terms, but male anatomy was demurely referred to as "the groin" and "his verge" which struck me as a little strange.)
Steve West does a terrific job with the narration. He pitches his voice just right to maintain the growing tension through the plot progression and does a good job with voices as well. One tiny criticism - scythe, a word used many times in the novel, does not have a K sound in it. Not a big deal, but I do think audio production people could do a better job picking up that sort of thing.
This is not a book for the faint of heart or those with delicate sensibilities, but it is a fascinating and well-written story.
19 of 19 people found this review helpful
Christopher Buehlman is my new favorite author and oh boy does he know how to deliver a jaw-dropping, stomach-lurching, hair-raising apocalyptic tale of heaven, hell and pure evil! That’s right, this story is not for the faint of heart but if you can handle blasphemy, foul language, outrages monstrosities (both physical and emotional), disturbing descriptions of demons, disease, plague, murder, mutilations and gore then this audiobook is definitely for you.
We follow the trail of a disgraced knight, a damaged priest and a young orphaned girl who travel together to reach Avignon for a purpose not entirely clear until much later. What is clear is that the girl is ‘chosen’ and her visions guide the group through 14th century France’s countryside. Amidst the deadly outbreak of bubonic plague there are other things more sinister and the three face trials that range from the supernatural and celestial to the physical and psychological. Their journey is swamped with deliciously described battle scenes, personal struggles and outrageous horrors. Devils and mythical monsters abound since heaven has failed to answer, while Hell’s minions revel because God has fallen silent. Good vs. evil, dark vs. light, sinner vs. saint and demon vs. angel. There is also redemption, renewal, faith, mercy, sacrifice and love.
“Between Two Fires” is impressively detailed and well-written. The main characters are deeply developed and their adversaries are also well defined…and so maliciously murderous that one can almost smell the carnage. There are masterful passages of supernatural warfare, grotesque cruelty as well as moments of tenderness and lighthearted banter. With Steve West’s pitch-perfect narration, I was hooked and I found it near impossible to stop listening.
I can’t believe I had not heard of Christopher Buehlman but you can bet I will not forget him. In fact I’ve already purchased his book, “Those Across the River”. I need more please...more Buehlman for me!!!
4 of 4 people found this review helpful