I had a week-long vacation coming and I was looking for something "light" to bring along with me. Cherie Priest's Brimstone appeared to be exactly what I needed, so I took the book with me to Rimouski.

And in the end, though it's nothing truly special, this quirky love story made for a satisfying vacation read.

Here's the blurb:

In the trenches of Europe during the Great War, Tomas Cordero operated a weapon more devastating than any gun: a flame projector that doused the enemy in liquid fire. Having left the battlefield a shattered man, he comes home to find yet more tragedy for in his absence, his wife has died of the flu. Haunted by memories of the woman he loved and the atrocities he perpetrated, Tomas dreams of fire and finds himself setting match to flame when awake....

Alice Dartle is a talented clairvoyant living among others who share her gifts in the community of Cassadaga, Florida. She too dreams of fire, knowing her nightmares are connected to the shell-shocked war veteran and widower. And she believes she can bring peace to him and his wife's spirit.

But the inferno that threatens to consume Tomas and Alice was set ablaze centuries ago by someone whose hatred transcended death itself...

This tale occurs during the winter of 1920, in the state of Florida. Most of the action takes place in the town of Cassadaga, where a community of clairvoyants and other individuals sharing paranormal gifts make their home. The Great War in Europe is now over and physically, psychologically, and emotionally scarred soldiers have returned to the USA and attempt as best they can to resume normal lives. There is very little worldbuilding to speak off in this novel. For the most part, it doesn't take anything away from the story. And yet, I would have loved to get more background information on Cassadaga and its residents. To provide more meat around the bone, so to speak. But I understand that this is a character-driven tale, which is probably why what worldbuilding there is doesn't intrude much on the plotlines.

Brimstone features the perspectives of two main protagonists. Alice Dartle shares her family's gift of clairvoyance and she leaves her home and life in Virginia behind to travel to Cassadaga in search of answers and training. Profoundly scarred by the war, Tomás Cordero returned home a broken man. Even more so due to the fact that his wife passed away during his absence. Tomás now dreams of fire and somehow sets fire to his own home. Soon, he becomes a danger to himself and everyone around him. Unexpectedly, Alice touches his dreams of fire, which will set him on the path toward Cassadaga, where he hopes to find his own answers with Alice's help. The gender role reversal was nice but ultimately a little overdone, what with Alice being the bourbon-quaffing old maid go-getter and Tomás being the weaker, more vulnerable shell of a man, with only the chihuahua Felipe as a friend. The dog breed was what overdid it, I'm afraid. As a matter of course, these two take center stage throughout the book. The supporting cast was a little lackluster, with the sole exception being Dr. Floyd, and would have benefited from more depth.

I enjoyed how Tomás' dreams were connected to his life-changing experiences during the Great War and other historical events related to witch hunts. The endgame was particularly well-done and touching, bringing the story to a compelling ending.

Brimstone is a relatively short novel, weighing in at 324 pages. One would think that the pace would never be an issue in such a slim work of fiction, yet there are a few rough spots here and there. Cherie Priest took her own sweet time getting this story off the ground and some portions can be a bit boring. Still, the author truly delivered the closer we get to the end and she closed the show with an emotional finale that is quite fitting.

All in all, Brimstone is a quirky love story featuring two endearing and disparate protagonists sharing a special bond. For anyone looking for a good, if light, vacation read, Priest's Brimstone perfectly fits the bill!

The final verdict: 7.25/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

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