By Sullivan Lee
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Edgar and Mallory
Battle are on the run after a spectacularly violent escape. Now, with a
trail of bodies behind them, they need a hostage against the inevitable
standoff with the police. Their first doesn't last long, thanks to
sociopathic Mallory. Edgar has been hiding his brother's crimes since
they were kids. Now he's torn between family loyalty and
self-preservation.They carjack Lucy Brightwing, a criminal fresh
from her own heist, with a fortune of uncut gems hidden in her vehicle.
She could escape - but she won't abandon her millions. She could kill
the Battle brothers, but she has to be careful. For one thing, if the
law investigates, they'll find her ill-gotten loot. For another, her own
life is sacred. She's the last member of a Florida paleoindian tribe
thought to be extinct - the Tequesta. With her share of the money she
plans to buy, bribe and blackmail her way into her own ancestral tribal
lands in the heart of the Everglades: a Tequesta nation. Lucy
leads the brothers into her beloved swamp, determined to kill them. But
when she falls for Edgar she must decide whether to risk her heritage
and the future of her tribe to save the doomed brothers.
Before I begin I just want to state out in the open that I received this book from the author and in return I am providing her with an honest review. Hee hee, I've been waiting for an age and a half to be given the opportunity to say that! Brightwing marks my very first author requested review and my very first self-published book and luckily for me I was offered a pretty good book to kick start both off with!
As the synopsis describes this book is part love story, part crime story, part Native American history lesson and part moral minefield. That's a lot of parts I know, but this book has just the right mix and makes it work. Before I get started discussing the characters and the story I just want to explain a particular source of pleasure I came across with this book. When the author sent me the request email she told me a bit about her history. The name Sullivan Lee that this book is published under is actually a psyuedenym. Her actual name is Laura Sullivan and typically she writes children and YA novels published by MacMillan/Holt. Now I don't know about you but I get a bit of a perverse pleasure knowing that I'm reading the antithesis of what authors normally publish. When you know that this is an author whose writing is usually used to soothe children and calm them before bed it just makes it oh-so-much better when the novel begins "it was a shame about the hooker," and is followed a couple of pages later with the line "Two minutes later, before he could quite discover the ambivalent joys of
erotic asphyxiation, he was choked unconscious, then encouraged to remain that
way somewhat longer by a precise blow to the head". It's just so devilishly good!
Ok, so on to the actual content of the book! There is a lot that happens in this book but the real focus is on the Battle brothers, Edgar and Mallory and Lucy Brightwing, the girl who was in the wrong place at the wrong time but is more than capable to take care of herself. For me the real interest was watching the characters unravel and struggle and learn new things about themselves thanks to the new and unusual surroundings and people they were thrust amongst.
The Battle brothers are incredible different and incredibly (stupidly!) loyal to one another. Edgar is perhaps like a few people you know, well except for the professional crook aspect, but Mallory...well Mallory is a whole different kettle of fish. Basically he's batshit crazy. He's obviously not quite right and there is this strange separation between what he does and what he thinks. Because it's so obvious that he isn't ok mentally there is this innocence about him even though he's a gun-wielding rapist and murderer who acts first and thinks never. He's dangerous but not because he has a gun and isn't afraid to use it. He's dangerous because he doesn't recognise life. He sees himself and his brother in the world everyone else is a thing to be used, abused or disposed of. Edgar on the other hand is the older brother who promised his mother he'd look out for his crazy brother. Unfortunately that means his life is anything but easy and he finds himself holding a gun to someone's head more often than he'd probably like.
Interestingly we're introduced to the brothers at the start of the book not so much through their physical appearance or dialogue but through descriptions of their outlook or reactions to their crimes. Not only did this tell you a lot about how well they work together (or perhaps work not so well together) but it gives a really interesting take into what makes the character who they are and also paves the way for the tension that is looming so very ominously from the start of the book. I found it really effective and a breath of fresh air.
Parallel to these brothers is the character of Lucy Brightwing. When we meet her she's just robbed a jewellery store of millions of dollars worth of uncut jewels and has done it with such ease and panache that she makes catwoman look bad. Immediately we're introduced to this intelligent, crafty, smoking hot Native American who is unlikely to take shit from anyone. As you read on though you learn more about her and see these different facets to her character. She's this incredibly natural and almost mystical woman in terms of her connection to her land, animals and history. She's self-sufficient and can look after herself better than Bear Gryls (and without drinking her own urine) but she's also got this vulnerability about her because she's the last of her tribe and she loves her heritage so, so much and is willing to do anything to maintain it.
When the Battle brothers and Lucy come crashing into each other's lives there is this interesting tension set up between them, and not just because Lucy is there hostage and Mallory is insane. On one side you have these two brothers who are inseparable but Edgar is constantly considering how he can deal with Mallory and release himself from his family ties. On the other side you have Lucy, last member of her tribe and desperate for a family. Even as imperfect as the Battle brothers are it's hard not to see Lucy longing for the relationship these two men have and I suppose that's part of the reason she takes care of them and puts herself at risk so often at the start of this book.
The story itself builds rather slowly, developing the relationship between these characters, putting them out of their comfort zones and seeing what they'll do. There are constant threats to all of their lives but it isn't until the final 70 or so pages that the action really starts to push home. After some initial tension things began to look like they were calming down and that this weird triangle of people hidden in the Floridian forest might actually manage to make things work. Then suddenly, with the slightest hint of foreshadowing their fragile semblance of normal life is dashed against the wall and all three are struggling to make it to the end of the book alive.
My only complaint would be of the ending. After struggling against the current for so long it comes together almost to neatly. However there is a sequel in the works and there is a suggestion of some added tension in the final pages that I think could redeem the ending for me once I read on in book two. Ultimately though it was an enjoyable and interesting read and a welcome break from my current rather intensive fantasy reading schedule!
My rating: 3.5/5