Graeme's Fantasy Book Review | 08 June 2010 | Graeme Flory

Sometimes it feels like life is one long procession of books and authors that I haven’t had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of. My daily commute gives me ample opportunity to steadily chip away at this list! Until a couple of days ago, Darren Shan was a firm fixture on this list. Not only do I tend to shy away from YA authors that I’ve never tried before (too many other authors that I want to work my way through first…) but a quick look at Amazon shows that Shan is incredibly prolific. Where would I start?
That question was answered for me a couple of days ago when ‘Procession of the Dead’ came through the door. Not only is it the first book in a trilogy but it’s also written for an adult audience; just what I was looking for!
Or was it? I liked the concept but what the book delivered didn’t sit quite as well for me…

Capac Raimi is new in the City and isn’t looking to waste any time getting started in his quest to work his way to the top of the City’s underworld. If only he could remember any of his life before he got off the train…
Raimi has the opportunity to realise all his dreams of power when the Cardinal takes him under his wing. The Cardinal is the City and the City is the Cardinal; nothing happens in the darkest City alleyway without the Cardinal knowing… and taking full advantage. It’s not just about the Cardinal though, Capac must find his feet in a city where a legendary assassin and blind Incan priests haunt the night. And why are his friends suddenly disappearing without a trace?
Capac is about to find out just how much influence the Cardinal has had on his life so far. Then he must work out what to do next, will his relentless ambition be enough?

I love a mystery and there’s nothing more mysterious than a man with no memory; I thought I was in for a bit of a treat when I realised that this was the premise for ‘Procession of the Dead’. It’s a shame then that things didn’t work out how I would have liked…

And things started out so well as well. Shan’s ‘City’ is a great backdrop for the mystery to play out against. The City used to be a nice place to live but now it’s a dark and brooding metropolis, a place where you know that no-one has a happy ending. Almost from the beginning you know that Capac has got some rough stuff headed his way and it’s going to get worse before it gets… even worse than that. This doesn’t spoil the ending though, I was left wanting to know what the payoff was even more and how much blood Capac was going to have to wade through to get to it.

The answer to that last question is… not a lot. Shan isn’t afraid to get down and dirty so fists and bullets fly in equal measure. What he’s more interested in is the mental journey that Capac Raimi goes through before he reaches its conclusion. This is all laid out very clearly as Raimi’s natural character forces him to confront these questions head on; if he wants to be the kingpin then he’s not going to leave any stone unturned behind him. Raimi is also very loyal to his friends so when they start disappearing he will not stop until he gets answers. Capac Raimi is the driving force behind the plot and he keeps it powering ahead in some style. Raimi wants to get to the bottom of the mystery so badly that you’ll end up wanting it too. I was racing ahead to find out how it all ended.

It’s a shame then that the final revelation fell flat, at least as far as I was concerned.

The only place for a long explanatory speech, from the villain, is in a James Bond film. You kind of expect it there and you never mind too much when you find it. I wasn’t keen on the Cardinal delivering his revelation in this manner, it brought the pace of the book right down to a crawl and I found it really difficult to get going again afterwards.

And then there was the revelation itself. Now, I can’t say too much for fear of spoilers and the revelation at the end may work a lot better for you than it did for me. What I will say though is that the book built things up to a real crescendo and then hit me with a payoff that I had seen before. A slight variation to be fair but still a payoff that was familiar to me. I had a feeling that this was coming but things were running so well that I wanted to see how Shan handled it. Like I said, it may work for you but I was left feeling very under whelmed by it all. The pace of the novel had already taken a battering and this served to really put the boot in. This was a real shame as some of the more mystical elements came to the fore at this point and I wasn’t interested in them by then…

The thing is that I would probably pick up the next book in the trilogy. The City has a superb atmosphere to it and I’d be interested to see what stories are thrown up next from its alleyways and casinos. If Shan can give his reader a payoff to match his atmospherics then it will be a great read. With ‘Procession of the Dead’ though, it was very much a case of what could have been…

Seven out of Ten

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