May 24, 2015

Book Review || Heraclix & Pomp

Heraclix & Pomp
A Novel of the Fabricated and the Fey
Forrest Aguirre

Published: October 2014

Underland Press, hardcover, 285p.
ISBN: 978-1-63023-001-2

Heraclix and Pomp, Aguirre's first full-length novel, explores the ideas of identity and immortality through the eyes of a man-like golem and a time-bending fairy who can barely grasp the idea of now, much less the dangers of what's to come.

Before being sewn-together, Heraclix was dead—merely a pile of mismatched pieces, collected from the corpses of many troubled men. And Pomp was immortal—at least, so she thought. That was before her impossible near-murder at the hands of the necromancer, Heraclix's creator. But when playing God, even the smallest error is a gargantuan weakness. When the necromancer makes his, Heraclix and Pomp begin their epic flight.

As they travel from Vienna to Prague to Istanbul and, even, to Hell itself, they struggle to understand who and what they are: who was Heraclix before his death and rebirth? What is mortality, and why does it suddenly concern Pomp? As they journey through an unruly eighteenth century, they discover that the necromancer they thought dead might not be quite so after all. In fact, he may have sealed his immortality at the expense of everyone alive . . .

Heraclix and Pomp is a richly textured and decadent read, filled with Baroque ideology and Byzantine political intrigue. Fans of fantasy and historical fiction alike will revel in Aguirre's layered prose and vivid characterizations. Heraclix and Pomp brings the surreal and the macabre to one of history's most violent eras, and it does so in a voice sure to resonate among this season's best new releases.

NOTE: Minor spoilers mentioned in the review.

I bought this book for myself as a birthday present.  The cover is gorgeous, and once I'd read the synopsis on Book Depository I had to have it.   However, once it arrived I found myself putting it on my TBR shelves.  I kept picking it up, admiring the beautiful and detailed artwork on the cover, yet for some strange reason I just didn't want to read it.

Then yesterday I decided 'enough is enough!', and I pulled it out of my TBR stockpile.  Even then, it took me a little while to start reading it.  I don't know why I had such a hesitance about reading this book.  It's not long, it's in a genre I love, and since I hadn't spoiled myself by readin any reviews, what was I worried about?  

Famous last words.

I started reading.  The first dozen or so pages were great.  Then it went downhill from there.

The altercation between the sorcerer, the golem, and the fairy, the one that's hinted at on the front flap - and the one that I thought was going to be the climax of the book - was actually the beginning.  Really... REALLY!  There is also one HUGE mistake that I'd just like to mention right off the bat.  Heralix, one of the main protagonists, is not actually a golem.  He is NOT made from clay but is rather a Frankenstein monster who has been assembled from pieces of numerous corpses and reanimated.  

Having said that, he was however the one character who's story I found interesting.  As a by-product of the reanimation process, his memory is wiped, and instead of just getting on with his 'life', he is obsessed with his past and nothing can deter him from seeking out the truth about his former life (lives?).  If we could have stuck with Heraclix as our narrator, the one POV, I might have found this book more interesting, instead we have numerous perspectives which jump around and just add to the confusion.

Our other protagonist is Pomp.  She is an interesting stereotypical fey character.  She seems to have all the tropes.  She is very small, with major powers, has wings, and is very skittish and literal.  Pomp, as well as her fellow fairies, have no concept of the most basic of things.  In one scene two of her friends are playing with a small bat.  They do not realise - or care for that matter - that they end up killing it.  When it won't play anymore, they move on to something else amusing and forget about it.  But this is also the scene where you see the change in Pomp as a character.  She feels for the creature.  She feels bad.  It is her character's growth that was the most surprising in this story.

But, even though Pomp is maturing as a character I found her endless questioning of things so annoying.  What is slept?  What is dream?  What is remember?  All through the book she is questioning everything.  Yet while very annoying, in all fairness this did differentiate her voice from Heraclix's.  So it evens things out.

So while the characters of the book had almost equal points on the pros and con list, it is the world building that I find of nearly equal importance to having great characters.  This world was gritty, a very real and oft times violent world.  However we didn't see much of it at all.  Just the sorcerers house, parts of the forest they escape through, an urban area or two, and other vignettes during interactions with characters along the way.  Perhaps if this had been a 500+ page book we might have seen more of this world, but as it was we only received a very limited overview.  Instead of a rich world to put these character into some context, I found myself with a very sepia toned palette instead of rich Technicolor hues.  This was another tick on the con side of my checklist.

Would I really like to continue this as a series?  No.  I think since I'm not enamored with this book I'll leave well enough alone.  I should have waited for the paperback as this book was definitely not worth the nearly $24 I paid for it on Book Depository (and that is with it already discounted and then using my 10% off voucher!).   So while this is by no means a rave review, I can see hints of why a lot of people liked this book.  I wouldn't say don't buy it or read it, it's just not my cup of tea.

I gave Heraclix & Pomp

Let me know in the comments if you've read Heraclix & Pomp.  Did you love it?  Why, and if so, should I give it another chance?

Until next time,

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