The Blue Blazes is an urban fantasy novel by Chuck Wendig and is set in a version of New York that has a literal Hell below it. The eponymous Blue Blazes refers to a mineral compound, cerulean, found down below that allows users to see demons and half-breeds as they really are, it also makes the user stronger and more resilient. The protagonist is Mookie Pearl, a mob enforcer and user. He ensures his team of down and outs mine the cerulean. He cures his own charcuterie as a hobby.
The novel opens with Mookie encountering his wayward daughter Nora. She warns him that trouble is ahead and when he refuses to listen she poisons him and leaves him to it. Mookie is then summoned to a mob meeting by his business partner, Werth, where the news is as bad as Nora predicted.
From there things get complicated. I really don’t want to give any more of the plot away. The novel is a blistering dirty-bomb of a book. Wendig’s narrative voice is a bit like classic pulp noir ramped up to contain this alternative New York that is sitting on top of a hell. The pace of the novel is relentless, there are so many twists, turns and back-stabbing that it is hard to keep them all straight, but in a good way. There’s also a memorable cast of characters and gangs, including one of Roller Derby Girls who sound like they are out of the 50s.
Needless to say I loved The Blue Blazes. One of the central strands of the novel is the relationship between Mookie and Nora. Their warped father daughter dynamic was a big pull for me. I also loved the vibrancy with which Wendig brings to life a subterranean labyrinth with all of its creatures bad and worse.
It’s strange. Still could’ve been a trick of the eyes. Easy to lose your way down here, think you’re seeing something you’re not. Especially the deeper you go. You leave the shallows and wander around the Tangle for a few days, every shadow jumps out at you, every glint of light on wet stone is a pair of eyes, every underground river has shapes swimming beneath the milky waters.
The Blue Blazes is one hell of a read, with a complex cast of morally grey characters. It’s a heart-stopping ride from beginning to end. I think it is my stand out book of the year so far.
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