Crisped + Sere, by Tj Klune
Series: Immemorial Year, Book 2
Featuring Illustrations by Blake Dorner
Publisher: DSP Publications/Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
In a world ravaged by fire and descending into madness, Cavalo has been given an ultimatum by the dark man known as Patrick: return Lucas to him and the cannibalistic Dead Rabbits, or the town of Cottonwood and its inhabitants will be destroyed.
But Lucas has a secret embedded into his skin that promises to forever alter the shape of things to come—a secret that Cavalo must decide if it’s worth dying over, even as he wrestles with his own growing attraction to the muted psychopath.
Cavalo has twenty-one days to prepare for war. Twenty-one days to hold what is left of his shredded sanity together. Twenty-one days to convince the people of Cottonwood to rise up and fight back. Twenty-one days to unravel the meaning behind the marks that cover Lucas.
A meaning that leads to a single word and a place of unimaginable power: Dworshak.
Discussion about cannibalism
Reading Withered + Sere destroyed me a little bit, messed with my emotions and stole my breath with each glimpse into the fractured mind of Cavalo and the bleak, post-apocalyptic world he struggles to survive in. Crisped + Sere picks up right where the first book left off, and managed to shred what little of my soul remained, effectively leaving me a mess of feels and aching sobs on the floor.
This isn’t a romance. But it is a story about a man seeking family, companionship, and a bond with the only other person in the world who truly understands him. That’s what’s at the heart of Crisped + Sere for me: connections and the family you choose.
Given a purpose, a deadline, and a budding trust in the psychopathic, mysterious Lucas, Cavalo is able to focus more on the world around him than on the buzzing voices and hallucinations in his own head. That sets C+S to be a different story altogether from W+S; there’s a lot less introspection, fewer internal battles as Cavalo tries to suppress his growing insanity, and more action as he fights for survival.
And it’s Lucas who grounds him, I think. Lucas, who isn’t any more sane than Cavalo, but it able to offer him trust… and maybe the beginnings of love. The scenes with Cavalo and Lucas together were absolutely staggering, and the stunning illustrations by Blake Dorner make their relationship even more powerful and beautiful.
But with more action also came more confusion, and I did sometimes struggle to grasp exactly what was going on. Cavalo isn’t a reliable narrator, and as a reader his limited POV made it difficult sometimes to really picture what was going on. This was especially true at the end, a scene which (NO SPOILERS) blends action, technology, and a hint of haunting paranormal to create a brilliant climax… though I did have to re-read the action part a couple of times to sort out what was going on.
But if you’re looking for a complex post-apocalyptic scifi novel with a fantastic cast of characters (Bad Dog! SIRS!), you should absolutely pick up this novel. Start with Withered + Sere first, or you’ll likely be confused as hell, but Tj has once again left me gaping and desperate for more!
(PS, there will be two more books in this series, although this one does not end on a cliffhanger, so you can easily read Books 1 and 2 together and be satisfied while you wait for the others.)
Bonus: you can see Blake Dorner’s gorgeous and haunting artistic vision for Crisped + Sere, featuring one of his illustrations from conception to completion:
When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder, wondering why he has to go to work as a claims examiner for an insurance company during the day when he could just stay home and write.
He lives with a neurotic cat in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. It’s hot there, but he doesn’t mind. He dreams about one day standing at Stonehenge, just so he can say he did.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.