Monday, December 23, 2019

The Bookwyrm's Review of Death's Mantle by Harmon Cooper


Author: Harmon Cooper

Length: 541 Pages/10 Hours, 25 Minutes

Publisher: Boycott Books/ Podium Publishing (Audio)

Release Date: September 25, 2019/ December 17, 2019

Narrator: Andrea Parsneau

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 Stars


When I read the premise for Deaths Mantle, I just knew I had to get a copy and review it at some point. When I saw Andrea Parsneau was narrating, I was definitely in need of a review copy. The author and Podium Publishing graciously provided me a review copy, and I have to say, I was blown away by the effort that went into the production. This combination of author and narrator works on so many levels, and creates a fantastic finished work.

PLOT SUMMARY  

Lucian North is a man waiting to die. Dying from heart condition that was supposed to kill him within a year, Lucian has beaten the odds for 2 1/2 years. Unfortunately, the condition makes him too weak to work, so Lucian spends his time hanging out in his small apartment in a sketchy area of Salem, Massachusetts, waiting for his inevitable death.  Sitting in his apartment one day playing a video game, a man in a black cloak comes into his apartment. Grabbing his gun, Lucian is about to shoot the man when something weird happens. A black mist pours into the apartment, and monstrous figures appear and try and attack the man. Lucian shoots them instead, and the man in the robes introduces himself. He's Death, or rather, a Death, as there are more than one, and their job is to kill parasites that feed on peoples life force, keeping them alive past their scheduled death. Seeing that Lucian is a fighter, and looking to lay down his mantle, Old Death, as Lucian calls him, offers Lucian the job as his replacement. Lucian accepts, and leaves his body behind, his soul taking on the mantle of death.

Going to Old Death's hidden home, Lucian gets the rundown on their duties as death. He comes up with some new ways to keep track of his powers, as killing parasites gives power that Deaths can use to create better weapons. He also learns that if he's captured by the parasites, they'll feed on him until he's so weak that he will be killed when Death's other enemies comes after sensing them. Upgrading his weapons and finding better ways to find parasites by using video game like displays he's familiar with, Lucian starts, for lack of a better word, leveling up. He also discovers his brother has become addicted to opioids, and he has a new kind of parasite that Lucian can't effect, since he's not powerful enough. He also sees his brothers death date is upcoming, and he will do anything to help his brother. 

While this is going on, Lucian discovers another powerful Death on a trip to Europe, who explains to him that there are various types of parasites, and that other types, like mental health parasites, create more power on their destruction. Realizing this is what he needs to get powerful enough to save his brother, its more leveling up. He also is confronted by angels, the enemies of death, since they are the forces of Life. When Old Death is captured by angels, Lucian hatches a plan to rescue him, even though this may mean storming the gates of heaven. He also discovers there are other forces at play that will have an effect on any plans he executes. The story rushes at full speed as Lucian faces off against an enemy he has no business facing off against, let alone succeeding against, ending in a spectacularly well thought out finish, tying off the story, but leaving plenty of story for future books.

CHARACTERS AND WORLD BUILDING

Characters are a particular strength of this story. Lucian especially stands out, as he starts the story as a weak man on the brink of death, but really takes off as he takes on the mantle of Death. He really innovates the office, and you can see his growth through both successes and failures, of which there are several. You get the feeling there is even more to Lucian that we are just discovering. The secondary characters are solid, especially Old Death and Denira, an angel who is slowly making a sort of truce with Lucian. They get their own personalities, and get quite a bit of attention. The villain isn't in the book long, but he does get to show off his power, if not much of his motivations.

World building is also strong and creative. The Death's cant affect the world around them, but the parasites and other supernaturals are on the same plane of existence as they are, so they can affect each other. The various locations are creative, as is the way the powers used by the various entities. Its almost like a Green Lantern's power, limited only by a person's imagination. It does leave a lot of potential for future story elements.

NARRATION

The narration is very ably handled by Andrea Parsneau in what I consider the best work of her career. She has to handle accents as diverse as Boston and Japanese, which are nothing alike, as well as handling a wide variety of men's and women's voices, and she does a fantastic job of differentiating the various characters, bringing them all to a life of their own. Her narrative pacing is spot on, really moving the story along, never falling into a monotone. I can't wait to hear what she does with the next book in the series.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The meshing of what amounts to an unusual urban fantasy with GameLit mechanics was an intriguing idea. It does make sense in the context of the story, and leaves lots of potential story options. I can see fans of GameLit and Urban Fantasy really enjoying this story. I know I give it my whole hearted recommendation,

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