The Part That Doesn’t Burn
by Sam Poling
Date of Publication: March 23rd 2016
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Cover Artist: Cora Graphics
Genre: Dark Fantasy
From The Book Junkie Reads . . . The Part That Doesn’t Burn (Goetia, #1) . . .
Do you like Dark Fantasy? Do you like that world on the cusp of distruction? Do you like knowing there is one that could make a difference and save it all? Then you may have just found a read that will keep you captivated and checked in to the world that has been created for your dark pleasures. I call this dark urban fantasy with a blooming romance mixed in there.
We have reached a time where tech and magic have been deemed forbidden. All this not by the government but the church. A church that has taken on the role of corrupt government in this world. We have Mirabel and Felix there to make a difference. Follow there ins and outs of making what they feel will be a solution to some of what is going on in their world.
There was action, a chase or two, spell casting, potion (proverbial) making, an ah-ha moment or two. This no tech and magic world give me fond memories of books from the past but this with more of a darker fantasy rich edge. To judge what is or is not dark is up to the reader but this has that edge of darkness that takes this fantasy to that line.
Sam Poling what else do you have for me?
**This ARC was provided via Bewitching Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.**
In an overpopulated city-state where technology and magic are forbidden by the corrupt church, young witch, Mirabel Fairfax, plots the creation of a deadly plague to cull the burdensome rabble.
That is, until she falls in love with the very alchemist she has been deceiving.
Now, with soul-hungry geists flooding the city, the church scrambling for their prey, and her own mind at war with itself, Mirabel must decide what she's fighting for before she loses everything to the evils of Autumnfall.
Mirabel waited in the darkness. Each passing second made it exponentially less likely the power would return.
“Mirabel? Did we lose power?” Felix’s voice quivered in the darkness.
“It should return momentarily.”
They waited. Mirabel could practically feel Felix’s demeanor evaporating.
“Unbelievable, the singular time I am protecting company on the geistlines, a train dies. We are not coal powered. We are coming to a stop. Perhaps your pessimism rang true. Sour fortune must have followed you from Haugen. We need to leave.”
“L-leave? As in, leave the train, and go out there?”
“Felix, without power the only thing stopping a geist from swooping in here and taking your face off is nothing. One hundred percent nothing. Essentially, we already have the cons of being outside, along with the narrow space of being inside. Not a survivable combination.”
Without hesitation Felix took to gathering his tools, and corralling them into his bags.
“No time for that.”
She tugged him out of their room and through the train car. One side of the car featured the cabins. Asleep and unaware, no one else left their rooms. Windows with their blinds drawn and a faint cyan shimmering through adorned the other side.
“They’re lining both sides of the tracks. How long do we have?” said Felix.
“Geist behavior is a constant mystery, even to me, but eventually some will strike. Even those with eternity run out of patience.”
They reached the door to the next car and Mirabel mashed on the panel. Nothing. No power, no doors. She tried the manual handle, but it wouldn’t budge. If only Miss Perfect-Priestess were here, then the door wouldn’t be able to fly open fast enough.
“Oh bother,” she said.
“Door haunted too?”
“Handle denies me. Seems rusted, and I wonder if they automatically power lock.”
She could barely make out Felix’s nervous wince. “I wouldn’t expect that, Mirabel. Emergency situations would turn fatalities.”
“That is not happening with us.” She put her weight on the lever. It didn’t amount to much, and the lever knew it.
“Let me try.”
Felix consisted of average build and height, if not a tad lanky. Certainly not the strong type. Petite Mirabel stood quite small, a whole head shorter, also not the strong type, but she expected she could generate more strength. The alchemist didn’t have the mind for it.
“Felix, darling, put your hands here.” She directed his hands next to hers. “Press down on three, yes?”
Violet light washed over the handle they gripped before she got to “one.” She didn’t have to turn around to know its source. It traveled up her arms and across the door. If another passenger had opened a blind, the light source wouldn’t be nearing them.
“Three-three-three,” she shouted.
Felix threw down on the handle alongside her. Perhaps he did have the mind for it when terrified. With a shriek the lever punched into the open position, and the partners threw their hands into the crevice at the door’s left.
“Get the blasted thing open. Pull, Felix, do not look back.”
She made a mistake. Everyone looks back when instructed not to. He turned his neck and got an eyeful of something that forced a spate foul language. Such words didn’t suit him. Pulling with whatever force her slender arms could muster, she joined his blunder and looked over her shoulder.
A geist, two-thirds down the corridor, drifted closer. Its face partially lifted from its head, hanging a few inches from where it belonged. The glowing wisp mimicked the body it used to have, but poorly. The translucent skin melted and slid ever downward. She knew the face would contort any moment: the precursor to assault. And it had the gut-wrenching violet hue. Of all the geists to enter first, it had to be a damned giftgeist. She had no hope of generating enough magic to destroy it before it reached them.
The broken door started to grind open. She fit her thin body part way into the opening. Her heels dug into the carpet and her back braced against the door’s narrow edge, with her hands pressing against the wall. “Felix, pull.”
The geist twisted into a monster far fiercer than before; its face warped into elongated grief and its jaw stretched to the side to give a dry, raspy howl. Passengers meandering into the hall heard it. They slung their own screams and ran the opposite way. The worst decision during a geistline incident: running toward the rear of the train. They wouldn’t live long.
She reached above her head and flicked her fingers. “You want electricity, you fromping door? H-have some.” More white flashes fluttered between her fingers with each flick. “Come on, I had this spell mastered yesterday.”
“Mirabel? Mirabel,” yelped Felix. “It’s-it’s coming.”
“Simmer. I am focusing.”
With a final flick, current rushed from the witch’s fingertips up into the door mechanisms. She had no idea what it accomplished, but the lights around the immediate vicinity flashed, including the door panel. Her left hand dropped and swatted it. The door grinded opened halfway before its lights died again. Halfway gave them more than enough space. The partners darted through into the next car. Glancing back, Mirabel saw the geist stop and turn to its side. Another passenger had peeked out of their cabin an arm’s length from the specter. It shot from Mirabel’s view before the rattled cries of a man and woman reached her ears.
Felix stopped as abruptly as the geist had. “It’s attacking someone.”
“Mirabel, you’ve got to do something, there are three cars full of people back there.”
“And we are the only valuable ones.”
Sam Poling has been writing fantasy and science fiction for the thrill of it his entire life, from short stories to screenplays. His love for each of the subgenres led to dedication to writing genre-skirting fiction with all the elements that make up the human condition. He holds a strong enthusiasm for medical studies and currently works as a medical assistant in a large clinic while taking classing for nursing. He also serves on a health and safety committee, including disaster preparedness and infection control. His interest in epidemiology and medical science tends to spill over into his writing endeavors.
It has often been said that non-fiction may be more accurate, but fiction is more truthful. Indeed, fiction liberates the writer, granting them infinite paint and canvas through which to illustrate a truth, whether subtle or extreme. Creative writers, myself included, are motivated by this need to express the human condition.
When writing my novel, THE PART THAT DOESN’T BURN, I was desperate not only to convey what I knew about the human heart, but to discover more. I knew, deep down, that eventually my characters would take over and show something that I couldn’t. But in order for that to happen, I had to set the stage for it. In the end, only a dark stage allowed me to explore true desperation, and that infamous gray line between good and evil.
Dark Fantasy is difficult to define, even amongst professionals who swim in the genre. But simply put, it takes the wondrous elements of Fantasy and twists them into nightmares. I choose the word nightmare carefully. It entails the physical, monstrous horrors along with the horrors of the mind. It includes man’s worst fears, and possibly even his or her own descent into the demon they never wanted to become. Only here, hanging on the ledge of the cliff to oblivion, are all the little things that make us human mortally challenged.
Monsters are fun in fiction, but they shouldn’t merely lurk in swamps and around corners; they should lurk within minds and hearts as well. They should become the characters, and the characters become them: a disease impacting the heroes and the villains alike until you don’t know which is which anymore. Then the physical, literal monsters come at us again.
In this, Dark Fantasy becomes the most extreme genre when it comes to testing the human condition. It makes you wonder: why is it so fun to read? Why do I care about characters who struggle with right and wrong? And why do I want to see these characters fighting through so much pain? At what point do we all just give up? Those questions answer themselves. Writers and readers alike are attracted to the genre to see how far humans are willing to go to not give up. Even our fiction counterparts must carry on when confused, dejected, tortured, and betrayed. And if they can find some sort of purpose, it gives us all some sort of purpose.
But a great Dark Fantasy doesn’t completely dissolve into heartless, mindless chaos only to leave its readers with a meaningless mess at the end. In a well-told story there remains a constant: a part of the human condition that even the fires of hell cannot burn. Whether the novel ends in tragedy or salvation, or somewhere in between, that constant must be there. It must tether the reader (and the writer, for that matter) to the souls of the characters, and bring meaning to the pain and darkness. In the end, for better or worse, we are humans, not aberrant fantasy monsters. And the genre is about us, not them.