As a fan of fantasy and crime/mystery fiction, and fantasy novels inspired by mythology, I was excited to start reading this omnibus of novellas when Jo Fletcher Boos invited me to take part in the blog blast around its release date in the UK (life, however, has been happening and work has been quite busy, so it’s taken me a while to finish). I have read two of Markus Heitz’s other books before, so I was also intrigued to find out what I would think of AERA: THE RETURN OF THE GODS.
I’m going to start with my criticism of the book, but before I do I would advise you to take it with a grain of salt. I am half-German myself, and although I’ve not read the original of this particular novel, I have read a number of translations, counting the works of other German authors. My views, of course, are my own and some native German speakers may disagree with some of my comments.
** The following review may contain mild spoilers, so if you have not read the collection I would advise you stop now! Turn back! **
The first thing I want to talk about, isn’t so much a criticism as an observation after reading the book, and that is the blurb of the book.The impression that I got from reading it, because it’s written from the perspective of the main character Malleus Bourreau, that I would be expreiencing the series of novellas directly though his eyes in the first person. Contrary to what I had been expecting, Malleus’ persective is actually written through a third person perspective, rather than first person, so I found the synopsis personally a little deceptive. Although we do get a first person perspective in the story, it would be have been nice to have it from Malleus instead of the character whose perspective it’s written from.
Although the translation was well done, in terms of the grammar and word order and such, there were a number of occassions where words were either missed out in translation, weren’t in the right order and, in some cases, the wrong word entirely had been used in a sentence. There were also a few punctuation errors that I noticed, however these didn’t occur as often. While I appreciate that translators work incredibly hard on translating work from one language to another, particularly when it is a large piece of the work, whether fiction or non-fiction, they would have worked alongside editors. I think that if they had gone over the text a few more times, the translation could have been near perfect with only minor errors.
I found Malleus Bourreau a really intriguing character, but I would have liked to learn more about him, because we learn fairly early on in the narrative that he fought during the events of the Great Change, and lost a great deal during this big occurrence noted as being in 2012, including his family. However, although we do see parts of his past and the effect of those events on his psyche through flashbacks later on, we never really get a proper insight into how he lost his family; only brief glimpses of them thoughout the novel when Malleus is remeniscing about things they enjoyed doing and things they didn’t do enough of.
On Malleus’ mysterious “guardian angel”, whose perspective the reader experiences through a first-person narrative, although they are an intriguing character, I felt like we didn’t really learn all that much about them, or the true reason why they are following Malleus. So, it would have been nice to have more of a back story for that character, since we spent so much time in their head.
On final, but quick, thing is that the ending fell a bit flat for me, as the “mastermind” so to speak, behind almost everything that Malleus has been investigating, seemed completely random to me – don’t get me wrong , I love myself a mystery and trying to figure stuff like this out, but…I feel like this person kind of came out nowhere. There were no discernable hints, at least from my perspective, pointing to this person. The character is never mentioned at all throughout the story and then suddenly, near the end they make their first appearance and turn out to be the villan of the story, and that just brought the novel down a bit for me.
Okay, now that we’ve got the awkward part of the view out of the way, we can get down to what I really enjoyed and loved, yay! I much prefer the part of my reviews where I move ontopraising authors for what I loved about their work, rather than my critique of it.
First off – the mythology! I love the incorporation of mythology and fantasy into this murder myster/ thriller novel, and that the gods of so many cultures were included – there were even a few gods that I hadn’t heard of before and I loved that!
I also found it interesting how religions were explored alongside the gods and their followers and worshippers, after the Great Change. I also thought introducing an atheist as the main character and investigator into the crimes committed either by the gods, or in their name by their followers; I thought that was a really original idea. I adored Malleus as a character, I just loved his humour, and his mannerisms and excentricities. I also found the fact that had personally made Culebras by the brothers who make his clothing, with the different coloured bands both amusing and cool.
I liked Marianna Legrande; I think she made a great partner to Malleus, and was awesome at cracking the codes surrounding the stolen items relating to the case the sparks Malleus’ big investigation, and was actually quite adept at the investigations she did on her own. She was also such a badas, and didn’t take crap from anyone – including Malleus!
I didn’t trust Marina from the start – or Malleus’ “guardian angel”, but they made interesting additions to the cast – and I found the latter an intersting morally grey character. The kind of multimedia start to the novel was I think a good intro to the story, providing background and context to the reader before being thrown into the action of Malleus’ investigations, too.
I don’t know if I would read the omnibus again – maybe one of the novellas every month or every other month, but I very much enjoyed reading his rather unique story, and would definitely recommend it to those who are fans of murder mystery thrillers, mythology and/or explorations of religion, despite its flaws.
You have wings. Believe in them and yourself, and you will fly.
See you next time!