Title: The Orchard of Flesh (Arcadia Trust: Book Two)
Author: Christian Baines
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Length: 264 Pages
Category: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal
At a Glance: Never one to dismiss a good cliffie, I can say that this one did its job in cementing my commitment to read the next book in the series, no question. After reading this author’s Skin, and now this, I can say he not only has a strong voice but a fantastic imagination as well.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Reylan’s last assignment for The Arcadia Trust brought a rebellious human servant under his roof, and a volatile werewolf lover named Jorgas into his bed, leaving the self-reliant Blood Shade—known to the outside world as vampires—in no hurry to risk his immortality for them again.
But when a new terror starts disappearing humans from a bad part of town, Reylan must do everything in his power to keep Sydney’s supernatural factions from the brink of war. Having an ambitious, meddlesome human in the mix is only going to make things worse…especially when that human is Jorgas’s father.
Reylan will need all his determination and cunning to keep the peace under his roof, between the night’s power brokers, and in his lover’s troubled heart.
Review: Having read my fair share of Urban Fantasy, it’s always nice to come across an alt u that offers up some unique ideas and puts a fresh spin on not only some familiar spec fic tropes but on the paranormal species that populate the story as well. Author Christian Baines has done this in his Arcadia Trust series, and in this second book, The Orchard of Flesh, he propels readers into an alternate contemporary Sydney, Australia, where politics goes beyond mundane human issues and taps into the supernatural investigation of a string of disappearances from an urban ghetto that’s been slated for restoration, which is bound to make some wealthy men wealthier and the poor, poorer—if not dead.
Blood Shades, Flesh Masters, Shapers and Cloak Walkers populate this world that Baines has built, along with a former nun who, at times, made me question whether she was on the side of good or not. Blood Shades, which we know more traditionally as vampires, who are the keepers of Mannequins (there’s a sort of parasitic nature to this relationship, and yet it’s synergetic as well), and while there was a lot to digest in the inner-workings of the various groups and characters, I didn’t feel left with any knowledge gaps in spite of not having read book one in the series.
The story is told from the point of view of Reylan, a century and a half old vampire whose new Mannequin, Brett, is still adjusting to his life after near-death which has left him entirely dependent upon Reylan for his very existence. Without a steady diet of Reylan’s blood, Brett will die. As they are adjusting to their new bond and dealing with some emotional entanglements from Brett’s former life, there is also the complicated connection between Reylan and a Flesh Master—what we know more commonly as a werewolf—Jorgas. Though their relationship began in book one, the issues of their being together, not only as a vampire and a werewolf—which isn’t exactly sanctioned—but as two men with external issues that need to be resolved is a factor in the overall plot. And, based on what can only be deemed as one hell of a cliffhanger ending, there won’t be any quick fixes to their obstacles.
Jorgas’ backstory plays prominently into this installment of the series, and when Baines leads his readers into the thick of the twisted mystery surrounding the disappearance of both humans and Mannequins, this novel went full-tilt macabre. When man creates a monster, one can’t expect it not to behave in monstrous ways, and I loved the scene descriptions and the gruesomeness of it all. The entity responsible for all the turmoil is fearsome and yet acts according to its nature, also giving the novel its name.
There was a sort of ‘down the rabbit hole’ scene with Reylan and another much older and more powerful Blood Shade, Colin, that I also loved. Colin’s garden was a shade darker than Alice’s Wonderland, but no less freaky and I couldn’t help but imagine Colin in the role of a supremely dangerous Cheshire Cat, which is more my imagination than the author’s intent, I’m sure, but it was still a bit of fun and made the reading more personal to me.
Did I mention the cliffhanger? Yes, I did, and it’s a great one. Never one to dismiss a good cliffie, I can say that this one did its job in cementing my commitment to read the next book in the series, no question. There are still so many threads left to untangle and issues to resolve with the Trust, as well as between Reylan and Jorgas, and with Brett, who’s learning how to fit into this new life. After reading this author’s Skin, and now this, I can say he not only has a strong voice but a fantastic imagination as well.
You can buy The Orchard of Flesh here: