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Book Review: Firetale by Dante E. Graves

Book Review: Firetale by Dante E. Graves

It's Book Review Wednesday, and today we're going to take it to a strange place. Our book for the day is an odd mixture of circus freaks, mysticism, lore, demons, and so much more…


Lazarus Bernardius is immortal, but he had to die twice to discover it. The Devil has made Lazarus the ringmaster of a traveling circus of demionis, creatures with supernatural powers that are descendants of demons from Hell. For 140 years, the troupe of mermaids and ogres, medusas and wyverns, satyrs and alrauns has been touring the U.S. tullies, masquerading as just another mud show. Firetale_cover Lazarus's task of giving shelter to unusual creatures requires that he not draw the attention of the Judges, modern inquisitors hunting down the supernatural. Lazarus manages this until Greg, a magician who can control fire, joins the circus. Greg seems like a decent sort, but over time, the magician’s behavior becomes suspicious. When Lazarus learns that Greg uses his magic to fight villains after performances, it is too late. Soon, the first of the Judges arrives. To save his fosterlings and get out of trouble, Lazarus must seek help from a long-abandoned lover who is still angry with him. What the ringmaster doesn’t know is that some of the inhabitants of the circus have secrets of their own.

My Review: 3.5 Stars

Let's start off with the bad: The author uses a lot of big, complex words that make it hard to stay with the flow of the story. The sentences tend to be a bit clunky and awkward, which again makes for slow reading. I had a real problem with the POV of the book. It kept switching back and forth from one character to the next, but it didn't quite nail the omniscient POV right. There are a number of times when it switches from past to present tense, and I found those very jarring. There was A LOT of use of the passive verbs, which made the book feel slow. The book is mostly "telling", with very little "showing"--something I know many authors struggle with. The ending was fairly anticlimactic. I was expecting a big confrontation, but in the end, the end was more of a whimper than a bang. There's no ending to the book--I understand that this is because there will be a Book 2, but still, it should have ended better. I have no reason to want to read Book 2 thanks to that lame ending. On to the good: I was amazed by the range of monsters that the author used! These monsters come from folk tales, legends, and lore from all around the world. The author's understanding of the occult/mystic is solid, so much so that I'd almost wonder if he dabbled a bit in it himself. There is a lot to love about this book. The characters can be fairly interesting, though they each have their moments when they change personalities. The description of the powers, the history of the circus, and the story overall was quite excellent. All in all, a solid book that needs a lot of work to make it great.

Here's a Taste:

When Lazarus Bernardius came to life, the first thing he saw was light. It was so bright and blinding that he had to squint. He tried to cover his eyes with his hands, but he could not move. Lazarus blinked, trying to clear the tears from his eyes. When his vision cleared, he saw that the light was not a supernatural phenomenon proclaiming that his earthly sorrows were finished and Heaven waited. The light came from a lamp on a white ceiling. The feeling of weightlessness that had filled his body when Lazarus woke up began to fade. He felt a sense of his own body weight. He also felt tingling in his fingers and toes and warmth in his chest. Suddenly, the feelings that had been coming on gradually, hit him like a wave, flooding into his consciousness. The heat in his chest turned into a fire, as if a torch was burning in the very heart of him. For a moment, Lazarus thought he heard a devilish laugh. He put his hand to his chest and heard a melodious clink. “Oh, you finally woke up, Mr. Bernardius,” a voice said. Lazarus turned his head to the right and saw a strange metal table on thin legs, on which lay something formless, covered with a white sheet. “I’m here, Mr. Bernardius,” the voice said. Bernardius turned his head to the left and saw the man who was talking to him. He was tall, had blond hair, and was dressed in a black coat over a white suit. Curly hair fell over the stranger’s quaint face, a face that could be described as beautiful, except for its sharp features, which were slightly longer than they should have been. Bernardius, who had not yet recovered himself, strained his eyes to have a better look at the stranger. The face of the man curved a bit to the left, like a half moon, and one eye was twice as big as the other. His mouth, splayed from ear to ear, was full of small triangular teeth. Lazarus shook his head and the face of a man again became normal. “Where am I?” asked Lazarus. “You are in a waiting mortuary,” said the stranger. The man was holding an apple, which he cut into pieces with a small knife and ate. The fruit seemed weird to Lazarus, but, because of his shock and poor health, he considered this a hallucination and did not look closely. “Waiting mortuary?” Lazarus looked around and saw tables on which lay bodies covered with sheets. For a moment he felt sick. His memories returned. “I was attacked. I was stabbed in the chest.” With his memories came renewed energy. He sat up abruptly on the table, pushing away the sheet, under which he was uncovered. The bell rang again. “What is it?” he asked the stranger. The man silently pointed to a knife on a string tied to Lazarus’s hand. It was strapped around the bell on a stand next to the table on which Bernardius lay. Lazarus looked at his chest. There was a just small scar right above his heart, a trace of the wound. “I’m alive! I am alive by the grace of the Lord,” Lazarus said. He was so excited by this fact that for a moment he forgot his manners, which normally were very important to him. “Pardon my look, sir.” Mr. Bernardius sat up and dangled his legs from the bed, covering his private parts with the sheet. “However, this might be habitual to you, because you work here.” Only when the words slipped out did Lazarus realize his stupidity. The strange gentleman was too well dressed for a man whose job was to watch and see if someone in the morgue rose from the dead. “No, Mr. Bernardius, I don’t think that God has something to do with the fact that you continue to breathe, and no, I don’t work here,” the stranger replied. A perpetual smirk seemed to be attached to the face of the stranger. “To be honest, I never heard of anyone in the waiting mortuary watching corpses. As far as I know, the bell has never rung in places like this.”

About the Author:

My name is Dante, or maybe it’s not. I was born far from the US, but that place was nothing exotic – bleak and sterile. That is why I started made up stories, for my cousins, other kids, and my teachers. But mainly for my own entertainment. Every little boy needs a basis for his stories. Mine was Bradbury, Poe, Star Wars, Jules Verne, Le Guin, and TMNT. And then I grew up. Found a job. Settled down. Moved to another place. Then one day I recalled I was good, I guess, at creating stories, so I started to write them down. And it was the beginning of The Devil’s Circus Tales. Find the book on Amazon: Tweet at Dante: