From the Bookshelves: Crypt of Bone (Book 2 in the ARKANE series)
I read Stone of Fire, Book 1 in the ARKANE series some time ago and enjoyed it as a quick action thriller. The premise of the series by thriller and dark fantasy author J. F. Penn intrigued me as I've always loved psychology (which I studied as an undergrad) and religious mythology (thank you, Catholic upbringing and education).
The ARKANE series delivers on both fronts with Dr. Morgan Sierra, an intellectual academic and religious psychologist with extensive field training in the Israeli military and a broken past who joins forces with Jake Timber, an agent with ARKANE, an agency that collects and protects religious artifacts.
What is Crypt of Bone about?
While Book 1 was fun, Crypt of Bone* takes this series to the next level. The book starts with a prophecy from Revelation, and the story mixes religion with science as a dark organization works to eradicate 25% of the world's population. Sierra and Timber jump from location to location (and back again) trying to find the key (hint: it's an item of religious importance) to ending the curse and stopping the impending eugenics-based holocaust — in only seven days.
What do I like about Crypt of Bone?
It's hard to believe author J.F. Penn fits so much detail about religious items/locations/themes into 272 pages in Crypt of Bone without overwhelming the reader or creating too much exposition, but she does and she does it skillfully and with a precision that elevates the story within the genre. It's clear Penn is highly knowledgeable and capable of writing about complex subjects in accessible ways.
I'm usually drawn into stories based on the characters as I appreciate deep character development with insights about motivation and what makes them tick. In the ARKANE series, you get a taste of that, but the development of the characters evolves more slowly over the course of the series. This serves to keep the reader interested in learning more about the characters (including the antagonists). I'm also pleased to see a strong female lead.
Knowing from J.F. Penn's podcast that she doesn't outline or plot in advance makes her ability to weave creative plot ideas with religious themes and detailed settings all the move impressive. The book moves from scene to scene quickly, making the book fast-paced and keeping you on the edge of the page the entire time you're reading.
While I prefer a slower pace in psychological thrillers, in action-based thrillers, this style works to keep me from overthinking and happily in a place of suspended reality for the duration of the story. Interestingly, while Book 2 was much shorter than Book 1, it read faster and with more cohesion and less interruption from my brain pointing out things that break from the story (namely, in Book 1, a somewhat confusing mix of American and British English).
And I think that's one of the things I like most — this book is unpretentious though well-researched and smart. It's an escapist thriller, a fun read, and one that relies on action and intrigue.
What is my favorite part of Crypt of Bone?
Penn does something I truly love in a book - she pulls together fact and fantasy in new and unexpected ways, making the story even more interesting for the use of truth to make the fiction come alive. Even better? The author includes additional reading recommendations and research insights to help readers interested in learning more make a deeper dive.
For example: The concept of the God Helmet. I was in high school when I first learned about Michael Persinger's theories about god(s) and the mystic "living" in our brains and think between this area of our brain and creativity (no surprise these things would fascinate me!). I attended an all-girls Catholic school and was taking psychology both at my school and concurrently at a local college. My imagination lit up with these discussions and the idea hasn't left me since.
Penn's book brought me back to Persinger's experiments, some of which were interested in triggering the "god" effect by stimulating the temporal lobes. This was especially relevant for me since lately, my medical writing has found me deep in the world of TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) therapy. I found Penn's imaginative ways of incorporating tidbits from reality with imagined uses of such technology impressive and intriguing. My only complaint is that I wanted more, but that's because I'm someone who loves 1500+ page books full of details and digressions. =)
Who should read Crypt of Bone?
Crypt of Bone is for fans of action-based thrillers, as well as readers who enjoy religious mythology and psychology. This fast-paced book is a quick read and perfect for taking with you (along with some other books from the series) when you travel, or if you need a break from the routine of your everyday life and want a quick escape.
I recommend it for high school readers and up. It's not for readers who are easily put off by acts of violence (it is an action thriller, after all) or those who don't enjoy the use of fictionalized elements of religion.
You can buy the book direct from the author or any of the usual places books are sold.
I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the book in the ARKANE series over the holidays, and I'll let you know what I think when I finish!
*Note: I received a free copy of the e-book. It was not in exchange for a review; however, I decided to write a review. In other words, my reviews are not influenced by what I pay for a book, including free books.