Christopher Buehlman’s BETWEEN TWO FIRES is a strikingly original portrait of spiritual warfare in medieval France. I quite liked this one.
God has turned away from his creation, inspiring Lucifer and the fallen angels to rise up against Heaven again. While angels and demons war in the heavens, devils roam the earth, producing war and the Black Death. In the midst of these horrors, a rogue knight and a young girl strike up an odd friendship, which leads them on a trek to Avignon, the home of the French pope, where they will make a stand against the demons. Part grisly take on the Canterbury Tales, part redemption story, and part religious story, the novel is dark, gritty, and is heavily immersive in its bleak medieval world.
I particularly liked the religious take, which is decidedly medieval in its outlook, and how the demons and angels are portrayed as both beautiful and monstrous. It’s the kind of thing where you probably shouldn’t think too hard about the theology of it all–it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense–and just run with it. Most striking for me was the perfect pairing between a dirty, plague-ridden, lived-in world with the heavily stylized devils and angels of medieval religion.
Thomas the knight is a highly sympathetic character, and his companion, Delphine, is witty and grows in mysterious spiritual power without being lecturing or grating. Their friendship is the kind of thing we’ve seen before–hulking protector with a precocious female child–but it’s done very well, and what’s more, it comes across as believable. The story is highly episodic, which makes the parts feel a bit overlong, but the sum was quite enjoyable for me.