Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Threads of Malice

Threads of Malice by Tamara Siler Jones
Bantam Book, due out October 25, 2005, 498 pages, $6.99.

Dubric Byerly sees dead people. More specifically, he sees the ghosts of those who have been murdered in Faldorrah. As Castellan, Dubric is responsible for bringing their killers to justice so their spirits can peacefully depart. The sight of murdered people and the headaches they bring are prime motivation for Dubric to solve their murders and quickly. Unfortunately, in a world with barely medieval technology, forensic investigations are difficult at best. Dubric, his squire Dien, and his two pages, Lars and Otlee, are learning the art of forensic investigation as best they can, but sometimes, that is just not enough. When Dubric learns that young boys have been disappearing in the Reach, a remote area of the kingdom, he leakds his team squarely into a mob of ghosts and an evil so profound that Dubric doubts his ability to defeat it.

Threads of Malice is Tamara Siler Jones's second published novel and a semi-sequel to her first, Ghosts in the Snow. It is a sequel in that it is set in the same world with many of the same characters, it is only semi- in that it does not continue the story in Ghosts. Threads is a stand-alone story, complete unto itself, though reading Ghosts first will give you some deeper insight into the characters and the world they inhabit.

Those who enjoyed Ghosts as much as I did should be warned that Threads of Malice is a much darker and more dangerous story. While Ghosts often showed a delight in its wickedness and even turned whimsical at times, Threads is a serious look at some deeply-rooted soul-rot. It looks at some subjects that are extremely distasteful and does it unflinchlingly. Readers will encounter pedophilia, torture, murder, and putrid corpses, among other things. Threads of Malice is a book of mud and blood, a book of storms, where the sun seldom shines for long, a book of unending pain and cruel death. Be warned.

Tambo Jones is one of a rare breed of writers who are willing to put their characters in real danger. With most novels, you can erad with the assumption that everything will turn out all right in the end. The hero or heroine will save the day in the nick of time through heroic efforts and purity of heart. At some point in Threads, and it may be a different point for you than for me, you will come to a horrible realization: the danger is real. People are grievously hurt, both physically and psychically, people suffer, people die. People you have to care for suffer. Some of them die. Bring no assumptions to this book.

Among the many themes that weave their way throughout Threads of Malice is the theme of good versus evil. I guess it's safe to say that most novels explore this theme to some extent, but maybe not as closely as tambo does. In her world, evil is absolute, black, utterly ruthless, uncaring, pure. Good, on the other hand, is murky, flawed, and faltering. Human. Her heroes have feet of clay and are standing in a torrent that is quickly eroding them. Each of the characters carries his or her own burden of fear and guilt. Sometimes the burden becomes too heavy. Heroic acts are hard to come by, and safety does not exist.

With Ghosts in the Snow, tambo Jones staked out her place in dark fantasy, inventing the subgenre of forensic fantasy, and unveiled herself as a rising star in the field. With Threads of Malice, tambo secures her place as a serious writer with a voice that will be heard. The depth and intensity of Threads of Malice make this a must=read. The questions raised, the answers given or not given, are rich food for thinking readers. Though the price of reading this book may be high, the gains are worth it and more.

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