Today I am delighted to be reviewing The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King, the winner of the 2020 BBNYA Award. You can also find out more about the award, and being involved in the 2021 BBYNA at the bottom of the post.
*Disclaimer: ‘I was given a copy this book in exchange for an honest review, all views are my own.’*
John Carver has three rules: Don’t drink in the daytime, don’t gamble when the luck has gone, and don’t talk to the dead people who come to visit.
It has been almost five years since the incident in Kabul. Since the magic stirred within him and the stories began. Fleeing the army, running from the whispers, the guilt, and the fear he was losing his mind, Carver fell into addiction, dragging himself through life one day at a time.
Desperation has pulled him back to Afghanistan, back to the heat, the dust, and the truth he worked so hard to avoid. But there are others, obsessed with power and forbidden magics, who will stop at nothing to learn the truth of his gifts. Abducted and chained, Carver must break more than his own rules if he is to harness this power and survive
The Lore of Prometheus is an interesting blend of urban and military fantasy, and the tension and action of a thriller (probably the genre that I read most outside of SFF) and it does an excellent job of balancing the different aspects to create a book that was both nothing like I’d expected and more than I had anticipated and turned out to be one of those that I couldn’t stop reading.
It’s always astounding and devastating to realise how far some humans are willing to push others in the names of their own interests, whether self-serving or in the name of some cause. This is fantasy, and the goal of the ‘villains’ here is to activate hidden abilities – superpowers/magic – abilities unlocked through the emotions triggered by trauma including rage and despair, by pushing their captives into that situation through various forms of torture. It isn’t too difficult to replace that goal with another more mundane ‘reason’ and find the situation a little too realistic. Although it must be said that Austin-King does an excellent job of keeping the plot grounded in what it is, and of exploring both sides of what is being done, as well as diving into the emotional and personal impact with skill and sensitivity.
Also, perhaps because I spent so much time watching the cartoons and films while growing up, I couldn’t help but get some X-men vibes throughout this book – albeit a more grounded and realistic version, with characters that didn’t feel quite so ‘larger than life’ and I think that is why this book strikes home as much as it does because Austin-King has created living, breathing characters who are as believable and relatable as those that you meet in everyday life. Yes, this is a story about superpowers, but at its heart, it is a story about humans, humanity, and the human mind.
The protagonists – John and Mackenzie – truly bear the weight of the plot, both in terms of what is done to them (and there are moments when you want to curse at what is being done to them because the author has done such a good job of creating characters that you become invested in) but also because of that believability and relatability I mentioned before. We follow John in first-person, experiencing everything alongside him, and he had such a strong character voice that it was impossible not to be drawn to him. I enjoyed his humour even in the worst situations and his pragmatic nature, and he added necessary humour to a grim plot, without hiding or glossing over his struggles with PTSD, and what has happened and is happening to him. A complicated character with a lot of heart. Mackenzie on the other hand we experience through third person, but that distance by no means lessens the impact of her POV or storyline, and the horrors that she has to endure and as much as I enjoyed John as a character, I think it was Mackenzie who truly gripped me as she was pushed and pulled, until breaking point, and I was certainly rooting for her when she got to make her move.
The characterisation was brilliant throughout, and although there were a few people whose motives I might have liked explored in a little more depth, this was true for both sides of the divide. This combined with fluid prose, excellent pacing and adept use of tension and humour to stop said tension from becoming too much, has created a beautifully written book.
The Lore of Prometheus is a book that consumes, both its own characters and the reader as it was incredibly hard to put down once I’d picked it up. It also leans heavily into the darker side, both of fantasy, but human nature in general, and while it does have lighter moments and humour it doesn’t shy away from that aspect and delves deep into trauma and torture, and so it may not be for everyone. It must be said though that Austin-King keeps a firm hand on the tiller, and as dark as things get, it never feels unnecessary or overdone, and as I tend to lean more into the darker aspect of fantasy it was right up my street. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book, and I would advise you to set the day aside because once you start, you won’t want to stop.
About the Author:
Graham Austin-King was born in the south of England and weaned on broken swords and half-forgotten spells.
A shortage of these forced him to consume fantasy novels at an ever-increasing rate, turning to computers and tabletop gaming between meals.
He experimented with writing at the beginning of an education that meandered through journalism, international relations, and law. To this day he is committed to never allowing those first efforts to reach public eyes.
After spending a decade in Canada learning what ‘cold’ really means, and being horrified by poutine, he settled once again in the UK with a seemingly endless horde of children.
To date he is the author of five novels, drawing on a foundation of literary influences ranging from David Eddings to Clive Barker.
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.
I received this book to read and review as part of the BBNYA tours organised by the @The_WriteReads tours team. All opinions are my own, unbiased and honest (or insert your own standard version of the same).
BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors.
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