I Fought the Lore – ‘Romeo Spikes’ by Joanne Reay

This review was written in October 2011, and appears on amazon.co.uk

I was unsure whether to chance reading ‘Romeo Spikes’ . The modern fantasy setting, and mention of life after death in the blurb, had me worried it might be an insipid emo ‘True Blood’ clone. The Tattoo on the front cover and the fact that this is the first book in the “Lo’ Life” trilogy did little to allay my fears. But for whatever reason, I decided it was worth a punt, and I am so glad I did. ‘Romeo Spikes’ is not only the finest modern fantasy novel I’ve read, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter. From start to finish Reay’s prose is filled with verve and crackles with wit. The plot is pulsating and every chapter is stuffed full of ideas. There is ancient lore, multi-lingual wordplay, not to mention some awesome fight scenes, and top class characterisation.

The basic premise, is that demons live amongst us. One set called the Tormenta, can only increase their life-span by drinking the unused span of people who have committed suicide. So, your average Tormenta can be found honey-trapping a gullible geek, or whipping up self-loathing at the front of an emo band. Reay has great fun in suggesting modern day roles for her tormenting creations. Set against them are the Sinestra – Angels, whose primary responsibility is to seek out the Tormenta and destroy them. Throughout history the two factions have tussled and every now and then a champion for each side is born. When the Mosca rises for the Tormenta, the Sinistra’s Moera will follow. We join the action just before the new champions are to be revealed.

The cast of ‘Romeo Spikes’ is large, which does sometimes get confusing, and there are many factions, and factions within factions to muddy the waters. It’s never quite clear who the good guys are , and even then, the good guys are often far from holy. ‘Romeo Spikes’ is the best book to feature Judas Iscariot you’ll read this year! If the novel has one fault, it’s that the wealth of ideas does threaten, at times, to overwhelm the reader. I’m not sure quite so much esoterica and asides were necessary, but nevertheless ‘Romeo Spikes’ always makes for riveting reading. The novel does stand alone, but the final chapters also add a huge ‘What happens next?’ to tantalise for book two.

It’s is quite hard to convey just how much I enjoyed reading this novel. If you have half an inclination to do so, then I can whole-heartedly suggest that you do. In trying to do some research on the book before writing this review, I discovered that the publisher, Beautiful Books, has gone into receivership. I do hope that Joanne Reay can find a publisher prepared to pick up volumes two and three.

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