Friday, November 02, 2012

Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman

I was originally planning to review another book today, but last night I finished Christopher Buelhman’s new book, Between Two Fires and I absolutely loved it.
It’s 1348, and France is a mess.  The Black Death has spread across a land still reeling from the Battle of Crecy in 1346 where the flower of French knighthood was defeated by the English.   One of those knights is Thomas.  He’s been disgraced, stripped of his lands, turned brigand in a country where first war, and now plague and famine dominate the landscape.  In a village in Normandy, he meets Delphine, an orphan girl convinced she’s been given a mission by God’s angels – to go to Avignon and set things right.  Because the plague is more than just a disease, it’s the work of fallen angels determined to destroy humanity.
Reluctantly, not even knowing why he helps her, Thomas begins the journey across France.  They’re joined by Matthieu Hanicotte, a priest trying to make sense of God in a world that God has apparently abandoned.   At every step of their journey, they’re confronted with horrific obstacles that test them physically, mentally, and spiritually.  In the end, Thomas must decide whether Delphine is a misguided child, a witch, or truly a messenger from Heaven, but more importantly, he must decide who he is and what he’s willing to do. 
This is one of those books that defy categorization.  It’s well researched historical fiction, it’s fantasy, it’s horror.   There’s a strong plot, but there’s equally strong characterization and character growth.  The writing is atmospheric without being  wordy, and the dialogue rings true to the characters and period without the flowery speech you sometimes see in historical fiction. 
For a book with similar feel and theme, try Douglas Nicholas’s Something Red reviewed here earlier this week.  If you’re intrigued by the period and want to know more about the 14th century, check out Barbara Tuchman’s classic A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century or for a factual account of the Black Death, try Norman Cantor’s In The Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World it Made.


Carolyn said...

Or Connie Willis' Doomsday Book about a time traveler trapped in the plague year when a modern epidemic strikes the home base of the time equipment.

Christopher Buehlman said...

I don't often comment on reviews of my own books, but I just have to say I'm delighted you enjoyed it, and impressed to see a public library producing such a fun website. Thanks for the props, and I hope the good people of Virginia Beach know how lucky and well-served they are.