I received this book from the author as an advance copy for review. It will be available 30 September 2016. Therefore, no book icon to show you what the cover looks like since the book does not exist yet according to Amazon. I think that is a rather fitting note for a fantasy novel.
The Troubles Keeper by Susan May is literally a dark fantasy. There is sadness in the world. Everyone is occasionally sad about something: the loss of a loved one, the possibility of financial ruin, a lost love, or doubts about the current love-in-progress. Sadness is gray or black or, in its extreme form, violent. Rory knows a lot about sadness; he detects it in his passengers as he drives a municipal bus on his daily route. Rory has a gift that allows him to detect sadness in others and, with only the briefest skin-to-skin contact, Rory can take the troubles into himself, store them in a mentally constructed cage, and dispose of them later. It is a gift; one that he cannot reveal to others.
Rory has detected sadness in a malevolent, violent form. He is not sure of the source but knows he will have to battle it in the near future. A dark entity is about to eliminate the world as we know it. Where does it come from? Its source seems to be the mind of the Trepan Killer. Throughout the novel, the reader will be offered chances to decide whether the Trepan Killer is a source or an agent of a source.
The Police consider the Trepan Killer a garden variety serial killer. The methods are extremely brutal and sensational; the killings are preceded by graphically described torture. The Trepan Killer (TP) himself doesn’t see it that way. Before each killing, he tries to describe to the victim why she must die and why it is in her best interest to die. Mostly it’s because the death will benefit the killer in helping him find a portal to his dimension so he can return home. But TP cannot just kill any woman; in his mind, he has already named her as The One. In a quest to find The One, Trepan has made a few mistakes. His ideal candidate for The One will have some sort of an aura that he can see. He has made bad choices up to the time he chose Mariana. Once again he has chosen The One. Yes, the aura was there, but Trepan has another problem. It seems Rory’s gift is sort of a mirror of Trepan’s gift. And Rory wants Mariana, a regular passenger on his route, to be his girlfriend. Because Rory’s gift is a mirror of Trepan’s, Rory can detect the threat posed by Trepan to Mariana. And Trepan can detect the presence of Rory.
So, we have the classic battle between good and evil for the prize of the maiden. Mariana is shy, reclusive, and pretty. Rory is shy, reclusive, and gifted. The reader is probably rooting for Rory to win the girl. If he should happen to save humanity along the way; that is a good thing too.
This is a fantasy novel that has most of the action take place in the mind of the characters. But there is also a lot of fascinating speculation that is grounded in science. If you don’t recognize the science, May provides sources in some endnotes.
I was surprised by the ending. As I read through the novel I speculated about the origin of the Trepan Killer and the Malevolent Force that was hard to contain for long in virtual prison. I projected several possible endings; I got them all wrong. So, it was a fun and worthwhile read. I will look for more Susan may novels.