Review: Damnation by Peter McLean

June 7, 2017
Review: Damnation by Peter McLeanDamnation by Peter McLean
Series: The Burned Man #3
Published by Angry Robot Genres: Dark Fantasy, Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
Our reviews of this author: Drake, Dominion
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher

Thanks to Angry Robot for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Damnation is the third instalment in the Burned Man series and picks up about six months after the conclusion of events in Dominion where the main protagonist found himself employed by a Goddess with vengeance on her mind.  For the record this being the third in series the review below will undoubtedly contain spoilers so please bear this in mind before reading further.

I will start out by saying that Damnation is not my favourite of the series so far, but, that being said I am invested in the story and will definitely continue.  For me, this book had two main issues that prevented me from loving it – firstly, it did nothing to endear me further to the main character, Drake, and secondly, it felt very much like a ‘filler’ or set up book for the next in series.

As mentioned, we start 6 months after Dominion where we learn of Don’s rapid decline since he departed London to try and track his former girlfriend Debbie.
Unfortunately the search goes very poorly and nobody is inclined to help Don.  Why would they after all?  Debbie is a very talented alchemist who doesn’t want to be found by her cheating former boyfriend s0 there’s no reason for her new clients to give up her new location and earn her displeasure.  Don finds himself quickly spiralling out of control, he has little money and this results in him taking unpalatable jobs which eventually leads him down the route of drugs (which coincidentally help him to block out the voice of the demon now residing inside his head).  I keep thinking with each book that Don has reached an all time low but in this instalment he really does surpass himself by hitting rock bottom.  I actually thought this part of the story flowed well.  It’s full of darkness and despair which is natural given the situation.  Don is not only desperate in his search, and without means to continue, but is also trying to remain beneath the radar of his former companions and remain hidden.  Thankfully, his whereabouts are eventually discovered but not before he’s made the acquaintance of a very seedy character named Davey.  Davey is no ordinary mundane – he has an aura of something different and he positively reeks of power, he certainly doesn’t feel like somebody that you should mess with.  But bluntly, Don gets himself into a whole heap of trouble and without the cavalry rushing in to save him things were basically and literally going to hell in a handcart.

What  I liked about this instalment is we find out some more about Don and maybe his true beginnings.  We get to spend more time with the characters that we’re already familiar with such as Trixie – who I really do like – and we make the discovery of a number of revelations.  Don may be employed by a Goddess which gives him some sort of power but it all feels like little more than a front, if he wants to go out he’s escorted there and back and has little actual access to cash.  Of course Trixie, almost fallen completely from virtue herself, is readily on hand to assist Don – even when he’s making some pretty bad decisions.  And this leads to one of my main gripes.

Why did Don go to find Debbie?  For me his reasoning came across as a bit flimsy and little more than a way to further the plot.  Even if I bought into the reasoning it would do little to make me like him more.  I’ve said throughout the series that Don is something of a cowardly character.  He’s not really entirely likable but I was hoping that he would turn into something of a lovable rogue, because I also believe that he’s not totally bad.  As it is I’m finding my patience running a little bit thin.  He makes one bad decision after another and his choices in this instalment have an impact on others.  It just leaves me feeling very frustrated with him.

In terms of pace, this felt a little slow in terms of plot.  I’m not primarily concerned with a fast paced story but apart from a very good gritty and bleak start I thought this felt a little too much like it was progressing to something much bigger – something that will be continued in the next book.

I like the writing, I think McLean sets the scene well, it has a nasty dark realism feel that may be too near to the knuckle for some and certainly isn’t shy in terms of profanity.  I didn’t really mind that, I thought it fit the circumstances and in fact would have been less convincing if it was cleaned up.

Overall, I am committed to continuing this series.  I need to find out how the next part of the story progresses but I can’t deny that at the moment I’m at a bit of a low ebb in terms of Don Drake.  I hope that the next books helps to redeem him somewhat.

Lynn Williams
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