Welcome to a Read-it-if for grown ups who like swords, sorcery, fairies, monsters and general villainy and mystery. I received a copy of Heraclix and Pomp by Forrest Aguirre from the publisher via Edelweiss after being intrigued by a tantalising blurb which promised monsters and fairies acting in cahoots.
Heraclix is a reincarnated creature patched together from random body parts. Pomp is a fairy who is facing certain disembowelment at the hands of villainous sorcerer. From this happy beginning springs a friendship that is destined to cross the borders of life itself. After escaping with only their lives from the aforementioned villainous sorcerer, Heraclix and Pomp set out across a land rife with conflict to discover who and what they are. Pursued by various groups and individuals that seem to want them dead (or at least imprisoned), Heraclix and Pomp befriend a warlord-turned-healer, inveigle themselves into a secret society and even make a depressing jaunt into Hell before getting to the crux of the matter and facing off against the sorcerer at whose ill-advised dabbling this story began.
Read it if:
* you believe monsterism is as monsterism does
* you are firmly convinced that spending too much time hanging around in front of the mirror can be hazardous to one’s health (and soul)
* you are of the unwavering belief that tattoos can be redemptive
* you have learned, by experience or otherwise, when being pursued by a mob with torches and pitchforks, it is best to run first and gauge the general mood later
When deciding to pick this book up, I was drawn to the heady atmosphere of oddity that seemed to emanate from the descriptions of the main characters. A patchwork man of monstrous countenance and open heart? Wonderful. A cheeky fairy learning to exist in the mortal world? Sure, bring it on. All the other stuff would sort itself out, I thought, if I could just read a story with these interesting characters leading the way. And for the most part, thoughtful, purpose-driven Heraclix and well-meaning, curious Pomp were enough to keep me engaged in this complex world.
I must admit that I was utterly astounded when I saw that the print version of this book has only 280 pages, because reading it on the Kindle had me thinking I was wading through a 500 page epic. Aguirre has packed a lot of action into this tale and it certainly felt to me to be a hefty read, and not one that I would pick up for a bit of light diversion. It’s more a tale that needs a committed reader, because the magical elements dip in and out and interweave themselves with real places, and if you’re not paying attention, it would be easy to lose the thread of the whos and whats and wheres of our intrepid pair. I found that after the eventful and enlightening trip to Hell that the pair undertake (about two thirds of the way through) I began to lose the thread of the story just a little, and never quite regained it to my satisfaction. I could fully grasp the events of the final third of the plot, but I suspected I was missing some important nuances.
Overall, this is a story that features a very strong sense of place and culture: as Heraclix and Pomp traverse Europe, the places that they visit seem to have their own life and exert an influence over the pairs’ decisions. If you are very familiar with the lore of various old cities in Europe, you’ll probably appreciate this far more than I did, as my vague knowledge about the magical history of Prague (for instance) didn’t really cut it in terms of understanding the nuance of the story. As it was, I simply appreciated the changes in atmosphere as Heraclix and Pomp moved about the place.
What I did find refreshing and fun and brain-building was the need to use the Kindle’s dictionary feature reasonably often during my reading, thanks to Aguirre’s vocabulary-expanding text. I quite enjoyed hovering over a certain word or phrase (just to double-check its meaning, you understand!) as I don’t often run across a book containing hitherto unforeseen (or rarely seen) words. Some of the crackers I picked up included fumarole, janissary, senescence, celerity and concrescence. Go on, look them up. Of course, on having embraced the use of this feature on the Kindle, I am now continually frustrated that I can’t do the same in printed books. Ah well.
If you like a bit of magic, philosophy and sword-thwackery presented in a well-executed package, Heraclix and Pomp could be the book for you. While it’s not for the fainthearted, it will definitely draw you in and have you pondering what it means to be human, and how redemption can be earned.
Until next time,