Jul 20, 2017

[Books] Damnation (The Burned Man #3) Review

So Damnation is the latest chapter in an adventure that started with Drake and continued in Dominion. I had kind of expected this to be a trilogy, but it's not and there's still a lot of story to be had for our diabolist friend Don Drake.

While I can't say that I've become a solid fan of the series just yet, I have been enjoying this series as part of Angry Robot Books' review program. McLean has a quirky vision of what he wants to achieve in these books and it does get rather interesting to see where things might go. And he's been building up to something fairly big across the first two books and this one is where he cashes in a lot of those chips, so to speak.

I think this series could have tied things up a bit more as a trilogy. With tighter writing and a bit more narrative direction (and editing), a little less fluff and a bit more focus might have resulted in a firmer story. Then again, this is Drake's story and he does seem to be the sort of character to resist and true structure or form, even when a character in a book.

Synopsis: Damnation is the third book in Peter McLean's The Burned Man series of novels. Disclosure: I was provided a free advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion of the work.

The book starts with Don in a very sorry state. After the events of Damnation and Trixie finally finding out about the Burned Man being inside him, Don has fled London entirely in order to avoid her. But with the Burned Man constantly nagging him in his head as well, he's resorted to heroin abuse in order to shut him own. The book begins with Don a full-on junkie without a penny to his name, eager to use rates to power his magic in exchange for money drug money.

But of course in time his responsibilities as the new Keeper of the Veil catches up with him in the form of Trixie the not-quite-fallen angel finally finding him. They both serve the goddess Menhit now and she has need of her Keeper in order to advance her plans. But there's still so much for Don to deal with apart from the very real archdemon living inside him, slowly consuming his soul.

What I Liked: Once you get past the rather depressing Don in the dumps period of the book, there's a pretty important story. The fact that a Dominion could be involved in the plot in the last book is a pretty big deal and there are many implications to this in the grander scheme of things. Factor in the goddess Menhit once again walking the Earth and quickly using her power and influence to gather strength is a big deal indeed.

Don is a fully realized character in this book and his problems are a lot more complicated than just making ends meet or finding his next trip. He's often found himself to be but a pawn in the complex machinations of others and it doesn't look like he's quite in a position to push back just yet. Or maybe he is.

What Could Have Been Better: Don's initial fall into Heroin is certainly a key part of his character arc and I can understand how it might have needed to happen. But the way it was handled felt clumsy and a tad too long. It took us a long time before Don got out of that rut and even how that had been resolved wasn't all that satisfying. It went long enough for me to wonder if it was going to be the tone of first half of the book but it was eventually resolved in a way that made it feel like it didn't really matter all that much.

And the book continues to have pacing problems, especially in the last act and how things were resolved. I appreciate the value of a good cliffhanger to end a book with but this felt rather sloppy. It felt like less a cliffhanger and more not being sure how to end it so fade to black or something. And it could have been a pretty killer climax , too!

TL;DR: Damnation feels like a clunky third book and one that sort of drags its feet before getting to the end. But since it's not the end of the larger story, it's an unsatisfying ending that didn't really feel like things had properly built up to it. And thus this book gets 3 lazy twists thrown to solve narrative problems out of a possible 5.

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