I probably ought to think of a different name for this series, but eh. For now it’ll do, because it’s pretty accurate. I’ve got a busy week or so ahead with my rehearsal schedule starting on Halloween. The upside is that I’ll have some downtime during meal breaks to read without having any first graders interrupt me! I have a couple things in the queue all ready to go.
But, a few weeks back I finished Mark of Cain by Conner Kressley. As you can probably guess, the story is a bit biblical in its scope. At least some of the characters are. Cain— who insists that you not call him by his given name for everyone’s sake— has had millennia to understand the punishment laid upon him by the Big Guy. He is immortal and neither human nor inhuman, existing in an odd and unique place in a world he’s watched since quite literally the beginning of humanity.
It actually reads like a fairly normal urban fantasy, but the slant on the Cain character is fairly interesting. In this book, he’s a man who did something he regretted before it was even over, and who will pay for it for the rest of eternity. He calls it a curse, and he’s not wrong. Not only can’t he die, but much like the Highlander, he can suffer everything right up to that final moment of peace. Broken arm? Yep, he’ll heal and be good as new, but it’ll take just as long as anyone else. Stabbed or shot? Hurts like hell and he could very well bleed out and end up in the morgue, but it won’t stick and he’ll scare the ever-loving shite out of the poor medical examiner after a short while. Not fun, and he kind of hates it.
He does, however, use that, and the other part of his curse as offensive weapons, and reading about his creativity with that aspect of his life is somewhat thrilling. He is joined in his exciting adventures by a police detective he’s known since birth, but now looks like his father, and by a woman who starts their association by drugging and kidnapping him and trying to turn him over to a coven of very strangely overpowered witches bent on his death. Yes, you read that right. They want to kill the immortal main character.
He doesn’t really understand their compulsion about it either.
Ultimately he realizes that they want both him AND the woman, and that the danger isn’t merely to the pair of them, but that once again he’s been thrust into trouble of biblical proportions.
I know this is a pretty long-winded buildup, but I found the whole set up fascinating. I loved the character of Cain himself (or Callum as he has everyone call him. Really, it’s for everyone’s own good.) He’s tired but determined. He argues with his brother, whether it’s his ghost or a hallucination he’s never sure, but that doesn’t stop him. He’s protective of those few he cares about, and genuinely attached to this nutballs world we all live in. He’s fairly pragmatic, as well, using the various aspects of his curse as both weapon and shield. And he tries to save as many people as he can, knowing all too well how short human life is.
I do have a slight argument with the series name— Immortal Mercenary feels wildly inaccurate since he’s committed to not getting any more blood on his hands. Still, I’ll probably pick up more of the books he headlines, since the Big Bad in the first one was pretty good, even though I called it halfway through. I’m not sure everyone will catch the clues the same way I did though, and the logic behind the villain’s motivation was definitely cracked. Poor old crazy pants bad guys.
Anyway, to wrap up this ramble, I quite enjoyed this one and actually read it in one sitting. Cain himself is a great character, and the supporting cast is solid. His would-be kidnapper’s about-face to being his ally was neither too fast nor was it difficult to believe, which made me very happy, and the plot felt like it flowed solidly from a simple ‘solve the murder’ book to a ‘save the whole world, and possibly a few other planes of existence’ sort of thing.
So I recommend this one as well. It’s a solid four out of five rutabagas. Maybe even four and a half. If you like new takes on very old characters, you should pick it up.