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Friday, November 30, 2018

The Lore Of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo & Lukasz Przywoski)

Official Author Website
Order The Lore Of Prometheus over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Faithless 

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Graham Austin-King was born in England. From a young age, his interests ran from fantasy novels to computers and tabletop gaming. Having previously worked in the fields of journalism, international relations, and law, he found himself returning to his love of fantasy and creating rich worlds. He has finished his debut fantasy trilogy focusing on the Fae and decided to do something different with his next work. He currently lives in the south of England with his family after living in the northern part of the country and Canada.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: John Carver has three rules: Don't drink in the daytime, don't gamble when the luck has gone, and don't talk to the dead people who come to visit.

It has been almost five years since the incident in Kabul. Since the magic stirred within him and the stories began. Fleeing the army, running from the whispers, the guilt, and the fear he was losing his mind, Carver fell into addiction, dragging himself through life one day at a time.

Desperation has pulled him back to Afghanistan, back to the heat, the dust, and the truth he worked so hard to avoid. But there are others, obsessed with power and forbidden magics, who will stop at nothing to learn the truth of his gifts. Abducted and chained, Carver must break more than his own rules if he is to harness this power and survive.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (MIHIR): When Graham Austin-King announced his newest a few weeks ago, I was intrigued. After reading Faithless, one thing was abundantly clear. Graham knew how to psychologically and physically torture his characters without making it exploitative. His writing and characterization were also top notch so that readers preferring a darker bent to their stories would find everything to like in his tales. The Lore Of Prometheus promised something similar and in the end turned to be much more than I thought it would be.

We being the story with John Carver, a survivor of the post 9-11 war in Iraq & Afghanistan who owes a pretty penny to a loan shark. He’s also facing issues such as the spectral presence of his battalion comrades who lost their lives back in Afghanistan. They haunt him literally and hence he has enacted three rules to keep himself mentally steady. Things however don’t quite work his way and he’s forced to take a job back in Afghanistan. Mackenzie Cartwright is the other POV character in this story and she’s facing a worse dilemma than Carver. She finds herself in a strange room and with no recollection of how she got there. Forced to survive, she will do all that she can to get out and find out who put her there. These are the two main plot threads of this book and both of them are plenty twisty and dark.

The story jumps off with a solid pace and we are taken along not knowing what will happen next. I really enjoyed this aspect of the storyline, the psychological horror that’s prevalent is very slowly and surely calibrated and amped up as well. The story is very much in line with some of the earlier psychological thrillers written by Blake Crouch and Mackenzie's POV sections are some of the darkest and most crucial ones as well. These sections though not gratuitous are very emotionally draining and might be too much for some. The tension is evenly strung out throughout the story and in the latter half, when things are turned up to an eleven is when the plot really becomes even more unpredictable.

The characterization is the best part about the book as both John Carver and Mackenzie Cartwright are normal people but circumstances in the past have changed them. Plus in the present, they are put through a psychological and physical wringer of sorts. The story focuses a lot on PTSD via war veterans and then through psychological abuse. It makes for some rough reading but the author doesn't flinch away from showcasing these hard moments. The way they react and what happens next is truly what makes this story such a standout one. Both these characters have something in their past that makes them special in the antagonist’s eyes. This also makes them that much more intriguing to read and the main twist is finding out exactly what that is. The antagonist has an idea but the readers and these characters don’t so when the reveal occurs, it is truly shocking.

The author also showcases Kabul and Afghanistan which I thought was really cool. He manages to give the reader an exact view into what life is like for soldiers over there. In this scenario, I really have to give kudos to the author’s military expert (hiya Michael) and the author for writing such a vivid landscape (dust, heat and all). The action is often kept to the personal level but it’s very explosive and still a lot of fun to read about. Overall this book ends in such a way that the readers will demand a sequel immediately.

The only negative for me about this story is that the antagonist’s background, deeper motivations and history are never made clear. This is perhaps the sole flaw in this darkly twisted thriller and because so much happens because of the antagonist’s actions and motivations. I felt that this solitary detraction perhaps undermines the story as the readers never truly get to know why things are happening the way they are shown to be. Maybe in the sequel, the author will explore more about the antagonist and his back history.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (LUKASZ): Actual rating: 4.5/5 but I'll round it up.

It’s a strange day when the guy who talks to dead people begins to think he’s the normal one.

The Lore of Prometheus protagonist, John Carver, is a broken ex-military with severe PTSD symptoms. During his last field mission in Kabul, terrorists killed his squad members. Saved by a miracle, he blames himself for the tragedy. His dead squad members share the sentiment and express it on a daily basis.

A desperate situation forces John to return to Afghanistan. Things go downhill almost instantly. A group of researchers obsessed with magic and superpowers abducts those who miraculously survived impossible situations in their past. They hope to activate hidden powers by subjecting captives to stress, hunger and torture.

In Austin-King’s story, superpowers stem from rage and despair and only deeply traumatized individuals can experience them. Such powers bring only pain and destruction. For some, it’s too much and they turn in feral animals.

Telling more about the plot would spoil it for you, so I’ll stop right here, right now.

Apart from the excellent and well-researched moments of introspection and trauma analysis, the story shines because of the believable and relatable characters. John’s dry sense of humour and no-nonsense approach to life made me instantly like his voice. Since he narrates the story, we see the world through his eyes and experience it with him.

There’s also a second protagonist, an Australian nurse named MacKenzie. Her story, told in the third person, pulled no punches and I was furious at the author for dragging her through hell. It served something though. The payoff was sweet.

As a side note, is mixing first and third-person point of view becoming a trend or it’s just Austin-King and Ben Galley writing in a sync?

Flaws? Well, I have one small(ish) issue concerning the antagonist’s ending but it would be a spoiler.

CONCLUSION (LUKASZ): The Lore of Prometheus is enormously fun, with vivid, visceral action scenes, disturbing realizations and engaging characters who are definitely on the darker end of the “moral shades of grey” spectrum. Graham Austin-King blended high-octane thriller, in-depth analysis of trauma and pure badass moments into a compelling and memorable story. The Lore Of Prometheus gets a comfy place in my top three superhero novels, in the company of Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook And Ayize Jama-Everett’s The Liminal People.



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