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Firelands    by Michael Jensen order for
by Michael Jensen
Order:  USA  Can
Consortium, 2004 (2004)
*   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Michael Jensen's Firelands is a gay-historical-horror novel. When combining that many genres, it is not surprising that at least one gets lost in the story. In this case, it's the horror.

As the book opens, we meet the hero, Cole Seavey running from some unspeakable beast on the Ohio frontier. This should be a horrifying experience, but the terror the reader would expect to feel is lost in the author's attempt to duplicate the literary style of 1799. Even after the flavor of the period is thoroughly set, the horror never grips the reader enough to make this a book that cannot be put down.

The historical aspect permeates every inch of the story. While it may not be accurate, Jensen's attempt at writing in the style of early-colonial/frontier American literature does create the same feel of pieces from that time period. However, said literature is rather dry and lacking, and usually is spruced up in high school American Lit text books with Arthur Miller's modern drama, The Crucible. This would suggest that this is not a writing style to emulate in order to engage contemporary readers.

The parts of the novel that prove to be the most engaging are those that deal with the relationship between Cole and the Delaware brave who saves him, Pakim. Jensen does a fine job of capturing Cole's mixed emotions about his feelings towards Pakim. Cole struggles internally through the entire novel between his love for Pakim and his duty towards his widowed sister-in-law and niece. At many points it is not obvious which emotion will win out, but it is easy to root for Cole's love over his sense of duty.

Firelands will not find an audience among mainstream readers. Those who like gay historicals (with a tinge of horror) might enjoy the book, but it is one that will be rather hard to get into for most readers.

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