Friday, February 03, 2006

Sleeping in Flame by Jonathan Carroll

Sleeping in Flame by Jonathan Carroll is a bit difficult to classify. Urban fantasy, new weird (even though this book was published in the 1980s), a modern fairy tail, magical realism, and horror fantasy all apply but fail to complete the image. Call it what you will, the view Carroll gives us is into the true world.

Walter Easterling is a former actor turned screenwriter living in Vienna. A recent divorce and reaching the rather depressing age of 30 are taking their toll on him. His close friend introduces him to the thoroughly alluring Maris York, a part-time model and artist fleeing from a hellish relationship. Love blossoms in a well-written tale of two lovers coming together and completing each other.

However, darkness never leaves the narrative. Love this wonderful appears to have a price as things awaken within Walter. Unexplainable, magical things begin to happen in his life, leading him to explore his origins in greater detail. What he discovers is both shocking and frightening, and it threatens everything important to him.

One of the greatest assets of Sleeping in Flame is the seemingly lost art of being able to tell a complete story in less than 300 pages. It was a pleasure to read a full-length fantasy novel that doesn’t double as a weight training device. Sleeping in Flame is a different novel from main-stream fantasy or horror, but isn’t a unique story. Troubled guy meets troubled girl, they fall in love, odd and dangerous things happen…It’s an old story, but this story is told very well, with a twist for lovers of fairy tales. The end of the novel screams for further comment, but alas, I cannot.

On my 10-point rating scale where 5 is a take-it or leave-it novel and 10 is unsurpassed, Sleeping in Flame rates a 7. The book was easy to read and enjoy, though perhaps a bit too easily set aside. The darkness of the tale makes you question the ultimate outcome, and the ending…well the ending doesn’t disappoint in this respect.

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