Chasing Embers by James Bennett book review

The Ben Garston saga begins in Chasing Embers

The first half of Chasing Embers is one of the better books we’ve read all year. Taking place on a modern-day Earth in which the legends are true, and their remnants live in the background of civilisation, it concerns Ben Garston, a down-on-his-luck immortal who gets drawn back into a world he’d rather be apart from.

As we mentioned, it’s absolutely thrilling to begin with. Kicking off with a supernatural bar-room brawl before following Ben as he attempts to stave off the threat that he knows is impending, initially it’s comfortably up there with all the best of modern-day fantasy.

Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher are both cited as touchstones, and they’re fair comparisons to Bennett’s attempts to fuse fantasy with a modern-day setting.

Unfortunately, it can’t quite seem to last the pace. This isn’t helped by a series of narrative interludes that have more of a jarring effect than anything else, removing you as they do from a situation you have become engrossed in. At times you’ll find yourself flicking pages back and forth in an attempt to remember if you’ve met certain characters before, which isn’t always a fun situation to be in.

As it progresses, things only get even more complex, and by the end the action sequences devolve into near-incomprehensibility. Ironically for a book that draws heavily on mythology, these are usually the least interesting parts, and there’s not always enough of a human story to anchor them in something relatable.

As per norm now, this appears geared towards kicking off a series. There’s enough to Ben Garston’s personality to suggest that he could front one, but whether there’s an intriguing enough story to sustain it all is another matter.