Review: Scar Night

Scar Night
Scar Night by Alan Campbell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This urban fantasy is founded on a fascinating premise. A city built to worship their fallen god hangs above an abyss and is supported only by chains. Dill is the last angel, a symbol of the dying faith of the people who is forbidden to use the abilities that define him. Rachel is an assassin who has not been tempered, so she still feels emotion which she finds to be a disadvantage for her position, and is expected to train Dill. These two characters, while technically the center of the plot, are flat. These two, and many of the other characters, fail to grow over the course of the novel. Rachel is the exact same stereotypical assassin that she was at the beginning of the novel. The only reason Dill changed was because he underwent a traumatic event and forgot how to be afraid. All the other characters are equally flat, whether they survive to the end of the novel or not. Some people said they kept reading it just to see if Dill and Rachel got together. The two of them together are so uninspiring that I much rather would have read about Rachel having pointless lesbian sex with Carnival.

There’s a reason I didn’t mention Carnival in my earlier assessments about the characters. She’s the only one who really changes during the course of the novel, not necessarily in her own actions, but how the reader is supposed to view her. Carnival is a several thousand year old angel who must kill every Scar Night to keep her immortality. At the beginning, she is portrayed as the villain of the story, a terror that the city is forced to endure even while she is merely necessitating her survival. If anything, she serves as a reminder of the cycle of prey and predator, keeping the human population in line the same way that wild wolves keep deer populations in check. At the end, however, Rachel and the readers start to see her for what she really is, a tortured soul who hides behind her scars.

As for the climax of the book, I found it to be absolutely ridiculous. I’m not entirely sure what it was, but somehow they way it played out made me want to laugh instead of making me sit on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. There was one point where I could actually hear Alan Campbell (long time designer of the Grand Theft Auto games) thinking “This would be totally kick-ass in a game.” It probably would have been, but in a book it turned out rather laughable.

The flat characters may have failed to hold my interest, but the mythology was interesting enough to keep me reading until the end. I still have yet to decide whether or not I’m going to pick up the sequel. For the record, I don’t like books that end with “Oh, hey, look, now you have to read another one” lines. My heart was broken once when an author played that card and started a new series instead of writing the promised sequel. Even though I know the sequel to this book is already out, that particular type of ending still leaves me with a bitter taste.

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