Friday, August 3, 2012

REVIEW: The Book of the Forsaken / Yannis Karatsioris

TITLE: The Book of the Forsaken (Book 1 of “The Game”)
AUTHOR: Yannis Karatsioris
PUBLISHER: Self-Published
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon US (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback)
APPROXIMATE LENGTH: 304 pages (Paperback)

Recommended for fans of contemporary fantasies such as the TV show Supernatural.

Fantasy—Contemporary/Dark Comedy

The Book of the Forsaken takes place in the winter of 2011/2012 and focuses on three men who each individually discovered that he has supernatural powers. The voice of the narrator is sarcastic and witty, in the style of dark comedies. This is the first book of a series, and it sets up an elaborate world for the sequels to take place in. It ends with an unexpected conclusion and a tantalizing cliffhanger.

Fast-paced. There are plenty of mysteries and cliffhangers that keep the pages turning. In addition, Karatsioris’ sparse and efficient writing style makes it easy to go from sentence to sentence without realizing how far you’ve gone. I ended up reading the majority of this book in one day.

In this book, that’s a trick question. The novel is set up as though a character wrote it. Thus, while many parts of it read like your typical third person narrative, every so often the storyteller will interject with his first person point of view.

The Book of the Forsaken is written on the intriguing premise that the storyteller himself is a character. That is, the words on the page, the words that you and I, the readers, are seeing, were put there by a narrator who mischievously refuses to identify himself. The brief prologue hints that this narrator is a demi-god of some kind, one with the power to manipulate the destinies of the people he calls his “puppets.”

The first three chapters of the book introduce us to these puppets: Robert Cassidy, Daniel Maladie, and Igor Rubinstein. These three men live vastly different lives, and, were it not for the narrator’s machinations, probably would never have crossed paths. Each has individually discovered that he has a supernatural ability, a fact that binds their destinies.

Cassidy, the most entertaining of the three, is a trash-talking Irishman with a penchant for nicknaming people whose names he doesn’t know. He is your typical drunken lout—a bully, a cheater, and a jailbird from having gotten into one too many bar fights. The more sympathetic Daniel, who at the beginning of the story is a bookstore assistant in Paris, is mocked by the narrator as being a coward and an idiot. But although he is meek and insecure, he nevertheless accepts an assignment to steal an ancient book. And then there’s Igor, a somewhat psychopathic Russian magician who moonlights as an assassin.

The book that Daniel was instructed to steal turns out to be the Book of the Forsaken, a magical tome with great and unknown powers. It is the pursuit of this book that brings him together with Cassidy and Igor. Driven together by extraordinary coincidences and paranormal circumstances, the three are forced to work together as they encounter enigmatic figures who are after the Book, tangling with supernatural beings, ancient truths, and even time travel.

What makes The Book of the Forsaken unique is the narrator’s role in the story. The bulk of the book appears to be written in third person omniscient, peering into the minds of all three men, but it is actually, on a higher level, a first person narrative. The narrator routinely interrupts the action to insert his own brand of humor through sarcastic commentary, sometimes in the form of footnotes. He taunts the audience with glimpses of his psyche through brief first person passages before reverting to the expected third person narrative. At one point, he shifts to the first person narrative of another character, Scott. Although the narrator claims that he’s allowing Scott to tell his own side of the story, he is also demonstrating his omniscience—“I know everything this guy’s thinking.” It’s as though he’s not taking the story too seriously even as he tells it, mocking the characters—his puppets—and treating their circumstances almost like a joke: “An Irishman, a Frenchman, and a Russian trickster walk into a party with hidden agendas…”

Through this unnamed narrator, Karatsioris illustrates the godlike power authors have over their characters. While Cassidy, Daniel, and Igor each have their own goals and motivations, they are given little choice as to where they end up and what they do. They harbor the delusion that they are in charge of their own fates, but it is the almighty Plot that dictates what happens to them, sometimes causing them to act unexpectedly or even out of character. In a book where the narrator is purposefully toying with the audience, one has to assume that even what appear to be errors must be intentional.

Karatsioris’ experimental style can be confusing in some places and brilliant in others. I must give him kudos for thinking outside the box and daring to try something that challenges conventional ideas about storytelling. He keeps his writing crisp and to the point, wasting no words on flowery descriptions or lengthy monologues. The sparseness of the sentences coupled with the vividly imagined fantastical elements makes The Book of the Forsaken an exciting and fast-paced read.

In terms of spelling and grammar, this book is well-edited and contains no errors. A few of the characters (such as the Irish Cassidy) have their dialects written out, but most do not. There are a teeny, tiny, barely perceptible handful of typos.

Some of the characters use adult language, and there is one dream sequence involving a sexual fantasy. There is no gory or gruesome violence.

Yannis Karatsioris is a Greek writer residing in Athens. He has previously staged a play and published a fantasy novel in Greek. His favorite authors include Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams, Jonathon Stroud and Mikhail Bulghakoff.

1 comment:

  1. I've never heard of this book, but it looks interesting:) I am new GFC follower, please check out my blog