3 out of 4 stars
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Who is Joshua Hill? Is he a pragmatic American detective who works in Paris? Or is he Connor Shaw – the passionate American adventurer and archeologist who disappeared in South America? Is he a brave hero with supernatural abilities or a mentally disturbed murderer with suppressed memories? These questions lure readers into the plot of The First of the Boardwalk Parades, a science-fiction/fantasy novel written by B.C. Battle.
The book begins with Joshua having to flee Paris because he was framed for murder by a mysterious man wearing “a high-end plastic yellow rain poncho.” He finds solace in the idyllic and magical village of Val-ashoth, under the protection of a witch named Elizabeth. But he wants “revenge for his diaspora,” and goes back to the real world in search of answers and justice.
The strength of this novel is its myriad of layered characters, fuzzy identities, and enigmatic worlds. In the book’s alternate timeline, George Washington got murdered during the American Revolution, and the US remained a British colony. Napoleon conquered most of Europe, and his generals – called barons – were put in charge of most of the European dominions. Also, the British Isles disappeared after massive storms, and a deadly virus decimated most of Africa, China, and India, which are referred to as wastelands. France and Russia are the world’s political and technological superpowers; they are rivals who observe each other’s every move.
The author’s writing style is vibrant and gripping, and he skillfully constructs settings that are imaginative and unique, using elements from history, mythology, and science. He creatively mixes swords, humanoids, beasts, avatars, demons, airships, and titans. I particularly liked the part where Joshua travels to Russia with the Marquis de Lafayette (yes, akin to the historical figure), as well as the depiction of LeCeleste – the floating city.
I enjoyed the book’s language; it is elegant, poetic, and full of symbolism and metaphors. Each chapter has a one-word title beginning with the letter r, such as rescue, ramshackle, ravage, reverie, and requital. Above all, in this tightly spun yarn full of engaging twists and turns, Joshua undergoes an almost Kafkian metamorphosis, and the ending is pleasantly surprising. But no spoilers are allowed!
Lastly, I rate The First of the Boardwalk Parades 3 out of 4 stars. The book is not in its most polished form; another round of editing is necessary. If it weren’t for this, I would surely give it the maximum score. It will certainly appeal to readers who enjoy fantasy sagas with a touch of science fiction. In my opinion, only those who are not fond of the genre might not like this book.
The First of The Boardwalk Parades
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