I am a big fan of John Dolan’s writing and enjoyed the first book in his new trilogy, Karma’s Children, so much that I started to read the second book straight away. Unfortunately I’ll have to wait a bit for the conclusion… Because yes, it’s another great book.
In contrast to Restless Earth (you can check my review here), this book is less complex in structure and reminded me more of the previous series, Time, Blood and Karma, although it would be wrong to state that any of the books by this author are “simple” or “straightforward”. He has built a universe of characters, locations, and events that interconnect in ways that bring to mind a spider web. It is beautiful, complex, and depending on your location you might, or might not, be able to see how the whole structure works. But, back to the structure. Here, the story is told mostly in chronological order (sometimes the characters might recall things from their past, but the actual events in the main story are told in what appears to be the logical order), by two main characters. We have the first-person present tense narration by our hero, David Braddock (well, hero/antihero), and here the narration is much more in tune with previous books, bringing back his wit, his observations, his quotes, but also, his anxiety and his lack of insight at times. (He seems to have taken a page out of my notebook, though, and he shows some evidence of trying to grow up at the beginning of the story). I was pleased to hear from him from his own mouth, as such, even if I must confess that the previous book made me keep my eyes more closely trained on him and question his reasoning and his motives even more than usual.
The other main character is Ross Gallagher, a newcomer to the story, and a professional baddie at that. His story is told in the third person but from his point of view, so we get to “understand”, if that is possible, how his mind works. He is matter of fact, and seems distanced from himself (yes, as the narration notes, he disassociates from his behaviour), but despite his professionalism, there is evidence that he is slowly unravelling. We learn about his past history, and it is not long before we discover that fate and karma are at work again, ready to prove that the world can turn up to be much smaller than we think. The author does not write one-dimensional characters, and this is not just an evil character you’ll love to hate. I wouldn’t say I liked him and yet…
It’s a bit difficult to talk about this book in detail without risking giving away any spoilers. This time, as the description hints at, things get pretty personal for Braddock, and despite the support by the many women in his life (I’ve become a huge fan of Da, and I’m pleased Braddock is giving her more of a free rein) and their mature attitude, he is in turmoil. And, unfortunately, things only get worse. There is a twist at the end (it didn’t surprise me, but I won’t say anything else), and I wonder if some readers might class the ending as a cliff-hanger. In my opinion, we get answers to most of the questions posed in the book, thanks to the two points of view employed and to the ending. Having said that, this is a trilogy, and we are left desperate to know how it will all conclude. And that is as should be.
Fans of Dolan’s novels will enjoy the quality of his writing, the philosophical insights (that we might share in or not), the many quotes (Macbeth plays a big part, although references to rivers and the sea brought to mind Garcilaso de la Vega for me), the varied and complex characters, the mystery/thriller parts of the story (I had an inkling that all was not well, but I didn’t quite work out all the details), the contrasting settings (from Thailand, to London, to Marbella, to Bali, beautifully described), and the ending, which opens up more questions and promises a final book where everything will come to an explosive end.
I would not recommend readers who’ve never read any of the author’s books to start here. At the very least, I’d advise anybody who wants to get a full sense of the story to read the previous book in the trilogy. And, if you have time, start right at the beginning, reading book one in the Time, Blood and Karma series, Everyone Burns. You’ll thank me later.
A must-read for lovers of intrigue, complex characters, exotic settings, philosophical insights and reflections, excellent writing, and stories with red herrings and twists and turns. I can’t wait for the last book!