Relight My Fire by C.K. McDonnell
Bantum, hb, £17.47
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
All over Manchester, people are displaying curious magical traits, flying, and spontaneous combustion without death, but when they are questioned about it, these victims remember nothing except going home early and watching a film. At the same time, bodies are going missing from their graves, and if Banecroft can’t work out who’s responsible in five days, then he will be dragged to the underworld and tortured forever. Are the two linked, or are they two weird cases for the journalists of the Stranger Times to investigate? But nothing in these cases is what it appears, and pretty soon, the newspaper’s staff are up to their ears in weird drugs, missing Fey, and a ghoul called Brian.
Relight My Fire is the fourth instalment in the Stranger Times series, which follows the exploits of a group of journalists investigating unusual occurrences in and around Manchester, things that other media outlets would scoff at. All the stories are connected by an overarching backstory about the Founders, immortal beings who want to rule the world. In this book, someone is outing people with latent Fey powers, drawing attention to them, which is something the Founders want to avoid at all costs. I enjoyed this part of the story as we are moving forward with the overarching narrative, bringing structure to the series.
We also had some significant character development for Banecroft, my favourite character. He is a driving force in the series narratives and has faced some heartbreaking revelations that have plunged his character further into drinking and self-neglect than when we first met him. At the end of Relight My Fire, he has some insights that might pull him out of the drunk stupor he’s been wallowing in. Banecroft is formidable as he is; imagine what he could do sober.
Overall, I enjoyed Relight My Fire more than the third book, Til Death Do Us Part, which, I felt, relied on witty banter a little too much. There was still a significant amount of back and forth, which did not move the story on; however, for a number of reasons, it didn’t feel as laborious as previously. The first is that the gang are all together, investigating their individual parts but returning to the team to discuss. This meant there were fewer new characters, and those new characters had a speech pattern of their own. For example, when the antagonists (no spoilers) got together, they didn’t make jokes to each other about things that did not impact the plot. The story was also centralised around Manchester rather than spread across several locations. All in all, it was a tighter story, bringing closure to some story strands and progressing others.
If you haven’t read the first three books in the story, then this is not the place to start. Go back to the beginning and read Stranger Times; it’s worth it. And if you have followed the series, this is a fantastic continuation and worthy of a place on your bookshelf.