Title: Crisped + Sere (Immemorial Year #2)
Author: TJ Klune
Publisher: TOR Publications
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Page Count: 340
Reviewed by: Renée
Heat Level: 2 flame out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
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.
My review will encompass both Withered + Sere and this book – the sequel and wrap up of the story begun in W+S.
This is a story unlike TJ has written before. It’s harsh, gritty, soul-crushing. There is no happiness in this world he’s built. But damn if it doesn’t pull you in because you want to see just one GOOD think come out of this fucked-up world.
This is a post-apocalyptic story in its simplest description. But it’s so much more. The setting brings us about 100 years after the world has burned. 100 years after a mass, nuclear destruction of almost all of the citizens on Earth. The remaining, and who knows who is left other than those you see around you, are living a life of no contact, no order, no laws, no structure. Cavalo, our MC, is a loner who only remembers hearing stories of things like “motor cars.” The world is in ruins with a blanket of gray in the sky that still hasn’t lifted after all this time.
And what is a world without laws, without structure? Chaos. The worst of humanity has come out because there is only the fight for your life, for the lives of any family or friends you have left. Rape and murder are commonplace. Cavalo lost his wife and son in a tragic manner years ago, and he has no will to find any new attachments to people. He stumbled upon an old correctional facility from Before (the time before the world’s destruction), and has 2 “friends”: Bad Dog, his trusty companion, and SIRS, Sentient Integrated Response System, a robot from Before who “manned” the prison with his technology.
Cavalo can hear and communicate with Bad Dog. He hears voices (the bees) all the time. He hears Her, his wife and his son, Jamie. He hears and sees those that he has killed along the way. We infer, because we learn the type of man that Cavalo is, that these murders were justified. The type of justified that would exist in this world.
And then there are the Dead Rabbits, led by a man known only as Patrick. They are the most evil group known by Cavalo and the people he’s around. They rape and cannibalize people while they’re still alive before killing them. Everyone is afraid of them, but without “modern” technology, how can you stop such a brutal force when you don’t even know where they are? They can lurk in the small communities of people hiding from them.
This story is about (in)humanity. And (in)sanity. Because what happens to humans with no laws and only chaos when they are forced to endure the harshest and most brutal life you can imagine?
Cavalo comes across a Dead Rabbit one day in the forest. He bests him and takes him to the nearest community where he has acquaintances. But the UFSA is there, and they torture the Dead Rabbit. It is too much for Cavalo to bear, especially since he sees something in the eyes of this Dead Rabbit that looks too much like his own soul. So he kills the UFSA “agents” and brings Lucas to his penitentiary home.
Lucas has his own horrors that he’s lived, and they are evident to those around him. He has a large, horrid scar around the front of his neck leaving him mute. The dynamics between Cavalo, Lucas, Bad Dog, and SIRS are amazing to read about.
The second book, even more than the first, is straight out of a horror movie, minus the scare factor. The blood, gore, and utter devastation from evil aren’t for the faint of heart. Many have commented on the cover and how creepy it is. I didn’t think the cover could live up to the story. Let me tell you – the story far surpassed it.
I can’t say anymore without spoiling this story, but let me say that TJ has created a world here that I am in awe of his writing ability for. It captures a bleakness with a combination of hope that is stunning to experience. We do get an ending – no cliffhanger. And we do see the hope that we’ve been waiting for. I was smiling as I shut off my Kindle, which did NOT happen often, if at all, during my reading experience prior to that.
The writing, for its capture of (in)humanity and (in)sanity in this world he’s built, is 5+ stars. I will settle on 4 overall stars due to the fact that it’s not my normal subgenre. I was WAY outside my comfort zone on this one, though I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the ride. Klune has outdone himself – truly. I am literally in awe of his writing ability.
For those looking for the types of stories that you found in ANY of his other books, this will leave you scratching your head. If you read him for his humor, there is none of that here. If you read him for his relationship buildup, well……it’s on the back burner. It’s there, but like item #8 on Klune’s list of topics with this tale. But if you read him for the stories he tells and his writing ability, then you will want to be swept away in this story, as I was.