Review: Angel Martinez – Beside a Black Tarn

Author: Angel Martinez
Reviewer: Diane
Publisher: Mischief Corner Books LLC
Genre:M/M Fantasy

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Summary: When Shax stumbles across rumors of an experimental house that responds to the occupant’s brain functions, creating scenarios to please and delight, naturally he wants to steal it. But with the return of a troubled and hunted Julian Parallax and an overabundance of Poe references, even Shax’s scheming may not be enough to get the Brimstone crew out alive this time.

If you have read any of the Brimstone books, you know the cast of characters to be encountered on this fourth adventure, although it is the fifth if you read the prequel from 2015, Potato Surprise, which could be important since a main character there, Julian Parallax, is a key figure in this story! With the additional crew members of Heckle the imp and Mac the Nephilim (but more importantly to Shax and Verin, an engineer), they are looking for their next job. In the aftermath of misunderstandings with Ness, Shax hears about an experimental house that can create scenarios of your wildest dreams, responding to the occupant’s brain functions. Naturally, he decides they must steal it! However, as with most Brimstone adventures, things do not go all according to plan and this time, throw in a troubled and hunted Julian, an overabundance of Poe references, a singing pink millipede and the whole crew is at risk this time around!
The story is told from the multiple points of view of Shax, Ness, Heckle, Mac, Verin, Leopold and Corny.

I happen to love this series, and this addition to the series is no exception because you are never entirely sure what kind of ride you are going on! For example, with Shax’s War, the war is that someone took Ness, and Shax will do everything he possibly can to find him and bring him back, no matter what shape he’s in. You would think, that since he got him back, mostly intact, that he would appreciate that and not take it for granted but then, Shax is not quite wired that way! Case in point, early into this book, he decides to take the whole crew to see a ballet, mostly as a gift to Ness, but he sees Julian, a friend of a sort and former lover and rather than explain that to Ness, Shax runs into an embrace with Julian after the ballet, then introduces Ness simply as crew. Then goes to meet Julian alone after the ballet – and stays overnight…..oh, Shax!

If that isn’t enough, Heckle, their new quartermaster, is trying to find his footing in this new world – literally and figuratively since he has a hard time making his way around the ship with his hooves and feels like he is a constant accident waiting to happen! Not to mention he really likes Mac, who likes him in return, but they are both hesitant after all they’ve been through. For me, these were the characters I was rooting for – and as the book progressed, I have a new favorite character in Heckle!

Then Shax hears about this house, gets everyone ramped up with the idea, and they do find the house, it just was not what they thought it would be. As I don’t wish to spoil it, all I will say, is that something that responds to your wildest dreams, well, are all your wild dreams fun things? And two unlikely heroes come out of the whole adventure!

I know a few people were disappointed with this book in the series, expecting more of Shax, but I thought he realized mistakes he made when it came to Ness pretty soon , and attempted to make amends and admit them. And I’d say for Shax, being a demon in a relationship, that is progress! If there are more books to come in this series, only time will tell how he grows, but I know I’ll be more than willing to read them as not only is Shax great, but really, this whole cast of characters just gets better and better! Each book I seem to have a new favorite! Although Shax and Ness will always be right up there, Ivana, Leopold and Heckle are close behind! I almost think this series could be its own subgenre of fantasy and science fiction of humor/action/science fiction/fantasy! There is a great pace to the story, the return of Julian, the chemistry of the various partners, as well as the whole crew and of course, Ivana!

I highly recommend this series for those who enjoy the writing of Angel Martinez, science fiction with some humor and of course, all Brimstone fans! And if, by chance, you have not yet read the series, here they are:
Potato Surprise: A Brimstone Prequel
Hell for the Company
Fear of Frogs
Shax’s War
Beside a Black Tarn



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