Cannibal Hearts by Misha Burnett

Cannibal Hearts by Misha BurnettThis sequel to Catskinner’s Book continues the theme of individuals trying to live their lives between the looming threat of extra-dimensional entities and mundane reality. The rest of this review may contain spoilers for Catskinner’s Book.

This book is the second in The Book of Lost Doors series. James has recovered from the events of the first book, and is now working for a property management firm owned by the mysterious Agony Delapour. What is supposed to be a routine inspection explodes into a gun battle when James discovers a gang squatting in a property. Catskinner is, as ever, eager to protect James from danger, but can offer no help with what the gang were guarding. Or with the complexities, legal and mechanical, of the new legitimate business venture Agony is starting.

The entire book is from the point of view of James, maintaining the feeling from the first book that he is an ordinary person facing incomprehensible threats. However, both James and Catskinner have learned from their experiences, so grant the returning reader a more nuanced perspective on those threats.

As with Catskinner’s book the characterisation is strong. The existing characters are consistent with – but do not rely on – the previous book. New characters, both mundane and less so, are introduced as who they are not what they are, avoiding the feeling that any of them are there to be monster-of-the-week. Even bit part characters give the impression of having a life outside the narrow sections contained in the book.

The story moves at a high pace, interweaving several apparently unconnected plots. Unlike many thrillers, not all the sub-plots are revealed to be facets of the main plot, or even parts of the James’ emotional journey; some events touch his life only through his connections to other characters, giving further depth to the world.

Because the book continues the story of James, Godiva, and their associates, a significant proportion of the unnatural events are expansions of powers and groups already described. This does make the book superficially less inventive. However, the strength of the series continues to reside in the character-driven response to both extra-dimensional and mundane threats, rather than a James-Bond-like new toys thrill.

The new powers and groups that are introduced are handled with similar skill. Even the threat with the greatest possibility for humour, electrified frogs, gives a feeling of incomprehensible otherness rather than slapstick.

I have been awaiting the release of this book for several months, and was not disappointed. I would strongly recommend the series to readers who like either speculative fiction or thrillers.

Details of how to obtain a signed copy of this book can be found here.

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