Title: The Bandalore
Series: Pitch & Sickle: The Diabolus Chronicles: Book One
Author: DK Girl
Length: 236 Pages
Category: Gaslamp Fantasy
Rating: 3.5 Stars
At a Glance: Despite some slow pacing to allow for the world-building, I found The Bandalore to be a deliciously compelling intro to a world that’s far from mundane. By the end, I was hooked for book two.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: 1885 London, England
Silas Mercer died once. He’d rather not do it again.
Upon his unexpected return to the world of the living, Silas finds himself in the hands of the mysterious Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
The Order has London society clamouring for their services, with tarot readings, seances and exorcisms among their arcane specialities.
And they intend to make Silas their newest recruit.
But what do they want from him? All memory of his past life is gone. He can’t recall how to play a hand of whist, let alone tell a person’s fortune.
When Silas represents the Order at a grand societal ball, an encounter with a desperate and dashing Lieutenant will lead him ever closer to the truth behind his reanimation.
A truth both astonishing and terribly macabre.
Review: Edgar Allan Poe did his share of dipping into the horrors of being buried alive in his work. Taphophobia was at one time believed common enough to spawn the invention and manufacturing of the “safety casket” to alert gravediggers to the existence of those poor souls who awoke from whatever malady they suffered—and were pronounced dead from—only to discover themselves entombed and yet very much alive. From the moment this story’s protagonist, Silas Mercer, begins thrashing about in a dark and claustrophobic space and then hears the tinkling of a bell, readers know exactly where he is and why he’s terrified. I think I even gave an involuntary shudder myself. DK Girl wrote the scene in artful detail specifically so we could sense the panic and horror her character was feeling in that moment. Silas, the gentle giant of a man, may not recall the name he was given before he died, much less the slightest details of that life, but he recalls for us in vivid imagery the moment he was revived and the long, fraught, panic-stricken minutes before he was rescued from his grave.
The Bandalore is book one in the gaslamp fantasy series The Diabolus Chronicles, and is an account of Silas’s rebirth and the purpose it will ultimately serve, which offers a unique synergy between him and his audience. He and his readers learn about the world into which he was reborn, simultaneously. There is, quite literally, nothing he knows before we know it, which I thought was a great way to build empathy for how lost and confused he is by virtue of the simple fact he exists, let alone how caught off guard he is by those who surround him. When he is finally told the reason why he was brought back from the dead, what his function is within the Order of the Golden Dawn, and how long he is expected to fill the role, the confusion and resulting jolts to his system come as entirely understandable.
While there are more than a few characters introduced who are there to guide and even manipulate Silas along (he truly is the definitive cinnamon roll), the one man who seems to enjoy making his life as miserable as possible—a living hell is not entirely inaccurate—is the man . . . or daemon, rather . . . who has been assigned as Silas’s partner and guardian, Pitch. They go together about as well as a viper and a field mouse, and Pitch never allows an opportunity to pass to make Silas aware that he’s the mouse in their partnership. Pitch berates Silas—who Pitch nicknames Sickle (derogatorily, natch)—at every turn, goads him, propositions him, and is the general thorn under Silas’s skin. And the hypersexed daemon relishes every minute of it. He is an unapologetic libertine who lives for wine and sweets and sex with any willing partner, and his backstory is yet to be revealed, but from certain tidbits Pitch reveals along the way, it’s traumatic and ended with him being indentured to the powerful Lady Satine, which is why he’s so incredibly petulant.
Capitalizing on the obsession with spiritualism in the Victorian era, the bandalore in the title is the tool that chooses Silas—he doesn’t choose it—to fulfill his role as the dispatcher of lost souls. Yes, it’s a yo-yo, and while I definitely had an “I’m sorry, it’s a what now?” moment, the author makes it work by underplaying it rather than trying overmuch to convince readers it’s not absurd. It merely is what it is, and it works. It works in some frighteningly suspenseful situations, I might add.
From the frightening beginning, to a slow-paced (maybe a titch too slow at times) building of the world and Silas’s place in it, to a dramatic uptick in the action and suspense as Silas faces an incredibly dangerous foe, we and he learn ever more about what will be expected of him. He has now been named a Horseman of the Order (Death rides a pale horse, after all), and he and Pitch will carry on as reluctant partners who will (presumably) begin to grow closer as the danger to them increases. Overall, I found The Bandalore to be a deliciously compelling intro to a world that’s far from mundane. By the end, I was hooked for book two.
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