Rating: 5 stars
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The hunt for a weather tech that vanished leads Directorate Tracker Bas Eisen to an edge of civilization shantytown called Stanslo’s Bridge. Undercover and far from help, Bas must blend in with the criminals and hard cases who call the place home and hope he can find his missing person without getting killed. What he doesn’t expect to find is a dead man.
Kimolijah Adani was a young and brilliant genius when he and his father were supposedly killed three years prior. But Bas finds him working, against his will, for the corrupt and vicious Baron Stanslo and creating mechanical engineering designs that are centuries ahead of their time. Bas realizes quickly that Stanslo rules the town with an iron fist, but before he can rescue Kimo and the other innocent victims of the Baron’s violence, he must figure out exactly what is happening in Stanslo’s Bridge. Kimo isn’t saying much and no one else is either, so between the silence and the flying bat monsters, Bas isn’t sure he can save himself, much less anyone else.
What a ride! Blue on Black is another fantastic novel by Carole Cummings and one that keeps the reader desperately trying to keep up as it twists and turns to a blinding conclusion. The author has an excellent, natural voice that translates to an easy, comfortable writing style that is especially suited to this novel. The world building is intensely designed and it forces the reader to develop a new way of understanding the ordinary. This isn’t always easy and more than once I had to go back re-read passages to fully understand what was going on, but it was worth the extra time and patience on my part. Blue on Black is one of those unique novels that is simple and complex all at once. The plot is fairy straightforward, but interwoven at every turn is a mythos that is absolutely unique and unusual.
Both Bas and Kimo captivate from the start. They are complete opposites, but they have a natural chemistry that works and never overpowers the story. The evolution of their relationship is strained, which under the circumstances, makes sense and seems normal. Kimo’s brilliant mind is both tortured and tangled and given that he lives with the constant threat of an excruciatingly painful death, he is surprisingly sane. But he sees no end to his torment and while he’s not exactly hopeless, his resistance to Bas and everything he wants to accomplish feels very real. Kimo forever wavers between desperation and self-destruction and as a reader you can’t help but sympathize with him. Bas is more practical and though he appreciates Kimo’s wondrously amazing mind, he doesn’t think in terms of what can be done, but rather what must be done. This pragmatism is out of place in the bizarre and dangerous world of Stanslo’s Bridge but it gives the reader an unshakeable connection to Bas. I think one of the biggest reasons these two characters work so well together is that they serve as a balance to one another. Kimo routinely creates the impossible while Bas grounds him to the reality of their world.
The cast of secondary characters is somewhat vast and it’s always hard to tell who is an enemy and who may be friendly, but this is part of the suspense and ultimately the only ones we really trust are Kimo and Bas. Stanslo is suitably creepy and perverse without being an over the top villain. He’s never too cartoonish and though we never get to know as much as I would have liked, it’s enough that his character is fleshed out and given real purpose. My only frustration with the book came with the last couple of chapters. From an author who works so hard to explain and develop each aspect of her created world, the wrap up was too quick and rushed. I just wanted more for both Kimo and Bas and felt that after all we’d been through the reader deserved something more substantial as well. But this is a minor gripe and really doesn’t detract from the story as a whole.
I really can’t recommend Blue on Black more highly. It’s a long one to be sure but every page draws you in deeper. Kimo and Bas make a fantastic couple and when combined with the epic world building, the book left me wanting so much more. Carole Cummings is an auto-buy for me and I suspect she may become one of yours once you give Blue on Black a try.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.