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VINE VOICEon October 27, 2012
This wonderful book by Christopher Buehlman is part fairy tale, part fantasy, part horror and part historical fiction. These individual parts blend to create a fulfilling whole in his Cantebury-an story of a fallen knight and spiritually lost priest who journey across France during the plague-ridden middle ages with an orphaned girl who's either an exceptionally special individual, a weird witch, or a gift (literally) from the heavens.

The emotional plot and backdrop is a beautifully diverse french countryside, absolutely decimated, both mentally and physically, by the Black Death. Humanity has been abused and tortured so completely and without relief that the very reasonable question of "is there a god, and if so, why is this allowed to happen?" rests on the lips of all but a few of the most hearty of souls.

The three travel across France to follow the girl's very singular vision that she must get to Avignon, seat of the Pope during the years the papacy was moved from Rome. Their travels provide Buehleman the momentum and opportunity to build his narrative through flashback-propelled backstory. They also face trials that range from the supernatural and celestial to the physical and emotional, which build the plot, relationships, and put flesh on the bone of each character.

Redemption and renewal, faith and love are all key themes throughout "Two Fires". The struggles that orbit these themes are not always obvious, and while sometimes dealt with metaphysically, they're often enlarged, and as real as any armored first to the jaw.

A beautiful, horrible and significant battle scene brings their journey to Avignon to an end: good v. evil, demon v. angel, dark v. light. Buehlman paints this scene with audacious characterizations of demons, and brightly colorful descriptions of angels. Within the context of the larger journey of discovery, the scene is realistic, and affecting. Imagine a demon transformer made from the remains of the dead; imagine something more than your typical Hollywood ending.

I intensely enjoyed "Between Two Fires". The story is built uniquely, and falls just outside of any easily characterized genre. It crosses categories and does so successfully. The historical details are rich and authentic, the plot is thouroughly developed and tautly paced, and the characters evoke understanding and empathy.

Epic, emotional, and exciting - I strongly recommend "Between Two Fires".
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on October 19, 2012
Those Across the River was excellent so I thought I'd try this new book of Mr. Buehlman's and I've got to agree with the other reviewers who said Between Two Fires is even better.

It's a great,fresh,look at the battle between God and Lucifer,Good and Evil, The Sacred and The Profane and you're not so sure exactly which side the main character, (a young French girl)is on.

This is a gifted young man and both his books are extremely well done but, like good wine, Mr. Buehlman is just getting better and better.

If you are thinking about buying this book...do it!
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on October 11, 2012
OK, I'm a fan of Chris Beuhlman for many reasons, but honestly, this book is amazing. As a medieval history buff, I can say that the research and details he put in it were remarkable. The elements of the angels and demons grappling for control of the world were so enthralling that I couldn't wait to learn more about them... Heck, I wanted to go read up on my history and religion afterwards, just because he'd piqued my interest. The book feels effortlessly written, and you learn the characters' backstories in such a smooth, seamless fashion that you transition back into the main storyline with nary a bump. And the storytelling! Oh! I fell in love with the tragically flawed Thomas, the delicately rendered Delphine, and this beautiful, frightening, totally original rendering of the Black Plague and the fight for humanity's soul. I wish I could say anything about the ending without giving it away, but unpredicted and brilliant are the only words I can use. Enjoy this book - it will terrify and entertain you, make you think, and touch something unexpected inside.
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on July 9, 2013
Buehlman's first novel, _Those Across the River_, was very much the story of one man's loss of faith in the world that shocks him into awful submission. Buehlman seems to have taken the other road in _Between Two Fires_ -- the theme revolves much more around the value of faith and its relationship with luck.

The narrative leaps into the supernatural much more quickly than I expected -- and we're left little room to doubt that these things are *really* happening. The fictional assertion that the Black Death is actually caused by demons opens a fascinating alternate history, but it also forces the novel to labor under the audience's expectation of some "ineffable plan." As with any story concerning angels both obedient and fallen, the concept of free will is starkly called into question.

Buehlman does an excellent (and so far under-sung) job of addressing this within the main character -- Thomas (the doubter?). Thomas' internal monologue is saturated in choices, regrets, and some very little pride. The novel is also remarkably true to the thought-fashion of the time: even if you get tricked by the Devil, you're still liable. In a market driven world hell-bent on manipulating masses of people, what could be more timely?

Some other reviewers have commented on the "deus ex machina" nature of the plot devices. Certainly that couldn't have been unintentional. We are, after all, reading a novel which concerns God's apparent lack of action in a devastated world. The novel seems to me to be a meditation on the very principle of deus ex machina, and I think it was handled well.

In sum, I had an excellent time reading this novel, and it provoked more than a few thoughts about the nature not only of an all to apparently broken universe, but also the lens through which we perceive it.
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on October 4, 2012
I do not believe a review for a book needs to include a synopsis; Professions write those, but I am full of opinions. I would like to say that I loved this book cover to cover. It was filled pure and beautiful moments that made me weep, and others that made me clutch my covers in delicious terror. This author is really capable of creating scenes that you have to think about and become more engrossed to pick up all the subtleties involved. And creepy! Christopher Buehlman is amazing at creepy.

A very fun ride through medieval France. I highly recommend adding it to your literary horror library. Go! Read it!
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on October 6, 2013
This is an incredibly well-written book, and the imagery and descriptions of the time are among the best I've ever read. From the historical standpoint, it really shines. I loved the "hero", Thomas, as well as the girl and the monk. He writes strong characters that are flawed enough to be interesting. And his evil creatures scared the beejeezus out of me! The jousting/tourney scene in the castle at night was amazing.
Here's the "but"(and it surprised me so much): I got seriously bored about two-thirds of the way through. They travel a bit, and fight some demons, travel a bit, fight some devils, travel a bit, fight some monsters. I found myself skipping ahead to see if something else would ever happen, or if the story would ever involve anything besides fighting demons and devils--- scary monsters, but still..
I'll still seek out any of his other books, though; writing at this level in this genre matters a lot, and his imagination is matchless.
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on October 15, 2012
Mr. Buehlman's second book is even better than the first. The characters are well written and likeable. The supernatural aspects of the story are incredibly vivid and imagined in a completely original way. This book is definitely a page turner, so be sure to set aside plenty of time to read it - you won't want to put it down!

Update, I have now read the author's third book as well (The Necromancer's House) but Between Two Fires is still my favorite.
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on February 7, 2013
This review was first published in the Historical Novel Review. It is 1348 and the Black Death has come to wreak its destruction. Thomas, a fallen knight, finds himself in the company of a young Norman girl. There is an innocence and purity about her that he finds unsettling. More than that, there is a holiness, one that allows her to see angels and to know what path they must take as they make their way through the cursed countryside.

The world of men has found itself caught between the fires of Hell and the war in Heaven. Demons and abominations walk the land, and the walls of Heaven are besieged. The very throne of God is at stake. And all the hopes of this world lie with this one girl, and her reluctant guardian. Thomas must account for his many sins and find the faith he needs to escort the girl to Avignon and aid her in her mission.

Between Two Fires is a dark novel, one full of horrors and a vileness that had me cringing at times. It is full of miracles, demonic beings, and bloody combat. And it is beautiful. The characters are captivating and the action riveting. The world is full, and the story inspiring. It is one of faith, of redemption, and one of loyalties. I recommend this only to stout hearts, but I do so vehemently. I intend to reread the novel and pick up Buehlman's debut novel.
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on July 11, 2013
Whats so unusual about this book is that it's so very good in every aspect. And an excellent and interesting story that reminded me somewhat of Bernard Cornwell's reluctant heroes and almost a counterpoint to Thomas of Hookton
How rare these days to pickup a book and like everything about it.
first - the story is engaging, characters are well developed, almost sculpted. Beautiful stylized to the times language, creepy mystical reality of the events. This is one of the books where you don't doubt whats going on, there is nothing of fantasy in this fantasy. I mean that you know that its fiction, but its real.
All in all, very happy with the author and the book, he well deserved his nomination for world fantasy award. My thanks to the author, looking forward to his next book
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on January 25, 2013
The first thing that grabbed me about this book is that the writing flows like poetry. I wish I were more eloquent so I could properly describe the style but here are some examples:

"The language of ravens rasped out as well, obscure in vocabulary but clear in intent."

"They allowed the rich to bury their dead in the churchyard as though the Devil were too simple to find a bad onion in good soil"

"He did not pretend to understand the caprices of celestial clockwork."

The story is grabs you from the start and makes you root for the main characters even though they are deeply flawed. The world they live in is brutal where kindness comes seldom and is repaid with cruelty and death.

The story is set in 1348 France. Demons and angels make appearances throughout the story so if you are looking for the fantasy angle you won't be disappointed. Oh! and there are zombies too. The religious doubts of Thomas the knight make for good arguments between him and the priest.

Just get the damn book and read it, you won't be disappointed...
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