Reviewed by: Amanda
Rating (out of 5): 4 stars
I owe Chuck Wendig an apology. I should have read The Blue Blazes when it was released. Instead it languished on my Kindle, growling at me whenever I passed it over for something else.
Well, consider me properly chastised.
Mookie Pearl’s been working for the Organization for years. It’s cost him his job with the 147 tunnel crews, his family, and most of his friends. But he’s loyal, almost to a fault, and he’s stuck with them for so long that leaving now, even when the Boss is dying of cancer, is as foreign as Tajikistan.
The Boss’s nephew Casimir is slated to take over as head of the Organization, and he’s not ready, so he sends Mookie on a hunt for Caput Mortem, the occulted pigment said to resurrect the dead. But since no one’s ever been able to prove any pigment other than Peacock Powder actually exists, Mookie thinks it’s a wild goose chase. He goes anyway, and stumbles into a much bigger problem—Casimir turns up dead, and the prime suspect is Mookie’s daughter, Nora.
I can sum up my reaction to The Blue Blazes with a single word: ew. Wendig’s New York and Underworld is a visceral, in-your-face place to be, and it’s often disgusting. I often found myself reading this book while I was trying to eat and I wouldn’t recommend it. Stuff drips and slips and pops and slimes, and there’s blood everywhere. The goblins in particular had me wrinkling my nose; just…ugh.
But, strangely, that’s why I liked this story so much. Mookie’s world is a violent one, and prettying up the dirty side of it wouldn’t have worked. There’s death and fights and more death and more fights, and fights with the undead. It’s a brilliantly imagined world, as ick-inducing as it is, and it’s easy to see Mookie’s place in it.
Mookie’s a likeable guy. He’s smarter than people give him credit for and knows he’s not going to win any beauty contests. He’s a simple guy with simple needs and tastes—his only extravagance is the meats he butchers and cures. Unlike a lot of people he comes into contact with, Mookie’s need for the Blue Blazes, the powder that opens the third eye and allows the average human to see the supernatural creatures crawling out of the Great Below, is firmly under control. He admits his mistakes and owns up to his faults. He’s not perfect, but he never claimed he was.
The supporting cast is colorful and entertaining. Burnsy grossed me out, Skelly’s verbal tics got on my nerves a little, and I thought Nora was a straight-up bitch, but they all slid seamlessly into the story, and taking one out or toning them down would have left a big hole.
Also? No cliffhanger! Yay! The ending was satisfying enough you’re not ready to throw your book at the wall, but it leaves you eager for the next chapter—and that’s largely due to Mookie. You want to know what trouble he’s going to get into next, and I can’t wait to find out.
Sexual content: none