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The Burning Man: Kingdom of the Serpent: Book 2: Burning Man Bk. 2 (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
The Burning Man: Kingdom of the Serpent: Book 2: Burning Man Bk. 2 (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
by Mark Chadbourn
Edition: Paperback

1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars All tip, no iceburg, 14 July 2008
As a standalone this is very near indecipherable; even having read its prequel, Jack of Ravens, there are still gaps in my understanding of the grand overarching plot, a battle between the Void and Existence.

No one can fault Chadbourn for lacking ambition - my problems with the novel, and its predecessor, are not with plot or artistic vision but for the way it's all presented. Some of Chadbourn's characters sparkle to life with voices so strong you can almost literally hear them - take for instance the Green Man and his urgent warning to Laura, just as she begins to awaken from the Mundane spell. Then, a page or two later, we're introduced to The Libertarian, a ridiculously cliche villain too weak for an early batman comic, who may as well have twirled a pointed mustache and cackled, gold tooth gleaming.

Some have praised the series as 'fast paced' but Chadbourn overdoes it. Jack of Ravens had effective lulls in action (such as the opening scenes when Church is stuck in the village), where Chadbourn's well researched mythology could strike more haunting, eerie notes. Here, the book feels like one of those action movies bounding from one special effects spree to another. It's Gene Wolfe meets Matthew Reilly, and that is NOT a good combination.

Though I'm hardly the final arbiter of what is or isn't good reading, I want substance amongst the fireworks. Here, character development is, in my view, paid lip service; in passing, characters display this or that emotion, then it's onto the next battle scene. That isn't depth - if you've read real literature, this stands out like a sore thumb. Chadbourn spends too much time on the bells and whistles, not enough on the hard stuff, the meat and bones of what makes a novel a good novel, regardless of its genre.

Forget the grand themes, forget the symbolism - that's all polish. Where's the substance? Is the author capable of it?

I'm left wondering.


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