“Eight,” the blackjack dealer announced as he laid out the card on the baize next to the eight of hearts I already had.The Lore of Prometheus, Chapter 1 opening
Many thanks to the author, Graham Austin-King, publisher, Fallen Leaf Press, and tour organizer, The Write Reads, for providing a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
John Carver has three rules: Don’t drink in the daytime, don’t gamble when the luck has gone, and don’t talk to the dead people who come to visit.From Tour Host
It has been almost five years since the incident in Kabul. Since the magic stirred within him and the stories began. Fleeing the army, running from the whispers, the guilt, and the fear he was losing his mind, Carver fell into addiction, dragging himself through life one day at a time.
Desperation has pulled him back to Afghanistan, back to the heat, the dust, and the truth he worked so hard to avoid. But there are others, obsessed with power and forbidden magics, who will stop at nothing to learn the truth of his gifts. Abducted and chained, Carver must break more than his own rules if he is to harness this power and survive
The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King is a delightfully dark blend of urban fantasy and military fiction, taking grave issues from the real world like PTSD, war, and torture, and transforming them into unexpected catalysts for parapsychological powers. Although I’m not normally an urban fantasy fan this was a very enjoyable read, upheaving all my expectations and assumptions about the genre.
Readers begin by following male lead John Carver, a 38 year old ex-military elite specialist. His past experience in Kabul is a brutal story of brave lives sacrificed and stolen, trauma-induced hallucinations and a mysterious legacy – “John Carver, the Miracle of Kabul.” A title laden with guilt. He’s now back in the civilian world trying to cope with this trauma, re-adjust to society, and recover from the terrible debt he’s found himself in. With few options, a return trip to Afghanistan on a private security training job seems like the most immediately available solution. John braces himself for the flare up in PTSD he anticipates from being back in the sandy environment, but he has no way to foresee the suffering he’ll endure in the hands of an unexpected enemy, or the lengths man will go to in the name of scientific discovery and power.
I’m not really designed for the real world – for the civilian world. Fifteen years in the army changes a man in more ways than one.The Lore of Prometheus, Chapter 3
John is an inspiring character. He’s imperfect and suffers from trauma, but still strives to function productively and resolve his debts. Following John’s security training duties was far from the boring read I thought it’d be (this is more a feather in the author’s cap than it sounds :P), and his growth as he discovered his powers was cool to watch. Most of all, however, I think the real draw in John’s character was the artful way his PTSD hallucinations play into his character progression. This unexpected blend of real world trauma with fictional powers was, for me, the highlight of this book. Graham Austin-King’s inclusion of John’s former squad begins on a depressing note but lightens into a humorous element as they feature more in the story. Their crew of diverse personalities were precious and entertaining.
The second main character we follow is the female lead, Mackenzie Cartwright, an Aussie medical personnel stationed in Afghanistan. She cropped up a bit unexpectedly. From a reading experience you’re fully absorbed in John’s progression from struggling civilian to security consultant to prisoner, and then suddenly we’re jumping to Mackenzie’s capture, imprisonment and torture. Although it was a little difficult to re-orient around this new element, her story was interesting to follow. I would normally say ‘fun’ or ‘exciting’ but that’d feel distasteful given most of her story was comprised of explicit torture. Her suffering is a strong initial driver for the story’s ‘magic’/parapsychological elements and I’d probably consider her the lead for the second half of the book in that regard. Mackenzie’s powers are shockingly impressive by the end of the book, but her journey to get there is unimaginably torturous. As a character she’s admirable for her inner strength.
…I finally understood it all. We are each of us insane. Maybe there is no true sanity. All any of us have is the control we cling to, and any one of us can be swept away.The Lore of Prometheus, Chapter 35
John and Mackenzie’s interactions towards the end of the book weren’t my favorite. There’s one scene in a car at the end I just didn’t emotionally or mentally buy in to, and their quips as hostages together were uninspiring. In general I loved each character individually, but didn’t love how the two came together. I would have been very happy with a platonic heroic alliance situation instead 😛
Overall The Lore of Prometheus was dark (as advertised) but creative – something new in the urban fantasy genre I haven’t seen before. Graham Austin-King takes familiar super hero origin story tropes and throws some modern military backstory in to make it feel real to our times. Gritty, kickass characters shine through the sandy terrain and contrast the grimy motivations of their captors. The powers portrayed in the story are exciting to read in action. I only wish we got to see more of them. Maybe in a new modern ‘super-hero’ squad should we be gifted with a sequel in the future. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys average human -> ‘super’ power stories or military fiction with a twist.
TW: PTSD, explicit torture
About Graham Austin-King
Graham Austin-King was born in the south of England and weaned on broken swords and half-forgotten spells.
A shortage of these forced him to consume fantasy novels at an ever-increasing rate, turning to computers and tabletop gaming between meals.
He experimented with writing at the beginning of an education that meandered through journalism, international relations, and law. To this day he is committed to never allowing those first efforts to reach public eyes.
After spending a decade in Canada learning what ‘cold’ really means, and being horrified by poutine, he settled once again in the UK with a seemingly endless horde of children.
To date he is the author of five novels, drawing on a foundation of literary influences ranging from David Eddings to Clive Barker.
I received this book to read and review as part of the BBNYA 2020 competition and/or the BBNYA tours organised by the @The_WriteReads tours team. All opinions are my own, unbiased and honest.
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