The Hawley Book Of The Dead by Chrysler Szarlan book review

Chrysler Szarlan’s The Hawley Book Of The Dead is a compelling start to a new series

What would you do with the power to turn invisible? Most of the possible answers to that question fall into two categories: you’d either use it to go to places you’re not allowed to be, or find a way to get rich off it.

And that’s pretty much exactly what Revelation Dyer does. As a teenager, she used her special abilities to dig into government secrets, an act of rebellion that comes back to haunt her as an adult when she’s working as a stage magician in Las Vegas. Now she’s going to have to find a new way to disappear if she wants to keep her family safe.

It’s a compelling premise for a book, even as the story inevitably comes down to a straightforward chase. Szarlan weaves in snippets of history and mythology, piling mystery on mystery in a way that’ll either delight or frustrate you – which it is depends on how willing you are to be fed information in big chunks of expository dialogue. The story unfolds at its own deliberate pace, but resist jumping ahead or trying to solve the mysteries yourself and there’s plenty to enjoy.

It’s refreshing, too, that the protagonist isn’t a teenager struggling to come to terms with newly acquired powers and responsibilities. Instead, she’s an adult with teenage kids of her own, trying to cope with overwhelming grief and the consequences of her own choices. That’s not a story we see a lot, and the various facets of Revelation’s personality are well-handled.

As this is the first in a planned series of books, the fact that it leaves plenty of questions unanswered and threads left untied is clearly deliberate. There’s a kind of magic to the storytelling, though, that makes it easy to imagine wanting to go back to that world again and again.