A gritty urban fantasy read with elements of magical realism.
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I actually read this book about a month ago via NetGalley. And I got so busy extolling it to friends in real life that I completely forgot to write a review on it. Duh. Though the final version isn’t available until the end of January 2018, it is well worth the wait.
So what is this book?
Smoke City by Keith Rosson. The narrative deftly weaves between two central characters: a self-destructive has-been artist and the umpteenth reincarnation of Joan of Arc’s executioner. But wait, it gets weirder. “Smokes” or ghostly apparitions have begun popping up around California and other areas for no apparent reason. And guess where these characters are each ultimately headed?
That’s right. California.
One thing I love about this book is the structure. Rosson inserts clippings from news articles and excerpts from journal entries at the beginning of certain chapters to give the reader background on the characters without creating an obnoxious info dump. I’m especially impressed by the news articles which are meant to span several decades. The author expertly adjusts diction, sentence structure, and tone to denote the changes in reporting styles over the years.
Mike Vale, the aforementioned painter, and Marvin Deitz, the former executioner are complex and realistic characters. Marvin finds himself in and out of the psychiatrist’s chair for his “delusions,” and struggles with the weight of misdeeds from his past lives. Vale is a lost soul chained to alcohol and guilt, getting into trouble again and again as punishment for his screw-ups. This isn’t a happy-go-lucky story, but it is a satisfying one.
Rating: 5 out of 5