Between Two Fires: Epic, emotional, cross-genre fantasy

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsBetween Two Fires by Christopher BuehlmanBetween Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman

Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman is a hybrid fairy tale / fantasy / horror / historical fiction. These individual parts blend to create a fulfilling whole in a Canterbury Tales-style story of a fallen knight and spiritually lost priest who journey across France during the plague-ridden middle ages with an orphaned girl who’s either an exceptionally special individual, a weird witch, or a gift (literally) from the heavens.

The emotionally driven backdrop is a beautifully diverse French countryside, absolutely decimated, both mentally and physically, by the Black Death. Humanity has been abused and tortured so completely and without relief that the very reasonable question of “is there a god, and if so, why is this allowed to happen?” rests on the lips of all but a few of the most hearty of souls.

The knight, priest, and girl travel across France to follow her very singular vision that she must get to Avignon, seat of the Pope during the years the papacy was moved from Rome. Their travels provide Buehleman the momentum and opportunity to build his narrative through flashback-propelled back-story. They face trials that range from the supernatural and celestial to the physical and emotional, which build the story, relationships, and put flesh on the bone of each character.

Redemption and renewal, faith and love are all key themes throughout Between Two Fires. The struggles that orbit these themes are not always obvious, and while sometimes dealt with metaphysically, they’re often enlarged, and as real as any armored first to the jaw.

A beautiful, horrible and significant battle scene brings their journey to Avignon to an end: good v. evil, demon v. angel, dark v. light. Buehlman paints this scene with audacious characterizations of demons and brightly colorful descriptions of angels. Within the context of the larger journey of discovery, the scene is realistic and affecting. Imagine a demon transformer made from the remains of the dead; imagine something more, however, than your typical Hollywood ending.

I intensely enjoyed Between Two Fires. The story is uniquely built, and falls just outside of any easily characterized genre. It crosses categories and does so successfully. The historical details are rich and authentic, the plot is thoroughly developed and tautly paced, and the characters evoke understanding and empathy.

Epic, emotional, and exciting — I strongly recommend Between Two Fires.

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JASON GOLOMB, on our staff from September 2015 to November 2018, graduated with a degree in Communications from Boston University in 1992, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University in 2005. His passion for ice hockey led to jobs in minor league hockey in Baltimore and Fort Worth, before he returned to his home in the D.C. metro area where he worked for America Online. His next step was National Geographic, which led to an obsession with all things Inca, Aztec and Ancient Rome. But his first loves remain SciFi and Horror, balanced with a healthy dose of Historical Fiction.

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  1. Wow, this sounds like almost everything I enjoy reading! Thanks, Jason, I’ll put this one on my list.

  2. I just glanced at the internet and was startled to discover that Avignon was the site of the Vatican for much longer than I thought. I always associate Gregory with Avignon, but he was the last of several.

  3. Great review. I bought both the Kindle version and Audible version after reading this review. This website is hard on my pocketbook!

    • Ha! I guess that’s good to hear.

      Let me know how you like it after you’ve had a chance to dig in.

      • Getting close to the halfway mark. This story is very strange. Loving it. It’s got a surreal feel to it, like maybe the characters all got dosed with some super strong hallucinogenic. Seriously, lots of eye-widening moments that force me to rewind a bit and verify what I just heard.
        I’m mostly listening to the audio book and the narrator is great.

  4. Great description. I felt the same way…I had to circle back on certain parts to be clear that I read what I thought I did. But it works.


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