Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Book Review: Consumed by Justin Alcala

Suspense Drives this Historical Fantasy of Nosferatu and Necromancers

You have to wake up from this ridiculous dream world of yours. There’s no nosferatu, necromancers, or missions from God. It’s just two crazed foreigners, a dead girl, and a pair of dim-witted detectives involved in a set of bizarre circumstances.” So said Nathan Brannick, protagonist of Consumed to one of those “crazed foreigners” about three-fourths of the way through the book. And it highlights one of the main reasons I really enjoyed the story. There are so many twists, so many paths I thought I was on but wasn’t, that for much of the story I was no more confident of my interpretation of events than Nathan was of his reality. I really enjoyed the suspense.

Underlying this tension is an intricate web of crosses and double-crosses among the forces of evil. A master tasks a slave with retrieving a source of power, but the slave decides to use that power against the master. The slave, in turn, takes an apprentice, who then plots to use that same power toward his/her own ends. And so on. It’s a fabric of evil, slowly unraveling violently as the plot advances. And then, there is the question of whether Nathan’s observations can be believed at all or are they just the product of the opium he turned to after his wife died? Perhaps his partner is the better source of fact? Can we believe the foreign witch-hunters who are apparently driven by the vision of an obsessive father? And finally, the unease is supported by a skillful mixing of history (e.g., Vlad the Impaler), folklore (e.g., Spring-heeled Jack), and fiction (everything else). It’s difficult to tell in which world you’re standing.

There are, however, a few issues that may reduce the effect of the book for any particular reader. For one, there are a number of errors in word usage and grammar. Most are minor, such as the misuse of then/than, but others may produce a bit of confusion, “… maybe he’ll at least confirm who that nutter, Mr. Feld, was why we found sitting outside the pub door.” More significantly, the story is told from the perspective of at least four different people, but these shifts come without warning. I was sometimes a couple of pages into a chapter before I figured out whose thoughts I was reading. Perhaps the author did that intentionally, but for my taste, the technique is more confusing than suspenseful.

While the shifts in point-of-view are somewhat disruptive, overall, Consumed is an exceptional read, filled with well-told, often-violent scenes of the unmasking of evil in Victorian London.

See on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3jRKB2b

(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)

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