REVIEW: Red Claws Blue Ink – Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

Red Claws Blue Ink - Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

Genre: Adventure, Space Opera, Travelogue

Reviewer: Ulysses, Paranormal Romance Guild

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About The Book

Testing his decision to become a travelling agent of the Circle of Thales, Rene Laurent accepts two training missions – one to beautiful Shiraz, another one to the thousand island planet of Gui Lin. Compared to his adventures with Brother Riccardo, merely copying reports of a local werewolf sighting and fetching a book from a remote island estate sure sounds harmless enough.

But things are never as simple as they appear, and while figuring out how to navigate the wildly diverse cultures of the Virasana Empire, Rene gets to explore himself and his psionic powers. He realises that his powers aren’t as benign as he thought them to be, and that it is indeed a very fine line separating man from monster…

‘Red Claws, Blue Ink’ is a colourful space opera adventure, a coming-of-age travelogue and the second book in the ‘Doctor Laurent’ series.

The Review

Nothing makes me happier, apparently, than to read ANYTHING by Osiris and Beryll Brackhaus. The Virasana Empire books have been an endless font of amusement and pleasure for me since the first Sir Yaden book appeared some years ago. This new series, about a young, tattooed, underground (literally) scholar from the planet Floor, offers a whole different kind of delight. What all of these books share, however, is the rich sense of character and the vivid sense of place with which the authors imbue their narratives. 

If the Sir Yaden books approach the giddy diversity of the Virasana Empire from the rarified perspective of a noble hero-knight (albeit one who is pretty down-to-earth and fairly goofy); the Dr. Laurent books offer the reverse. This is sort of a worm’s-eye view of Virasana’s teeming variety, from the perspective of a person who tries not to be noticed. Rene Laurent, soon to be Doctor Laurent, has left his family and the Circle of Thales on the lower levels of Floor for the first time in his life. He has been assigned two seemingly simple jobs on two different planets, in order to test his skills and interest in becoming a full-time agent for the highly secretive Circle of Thales—who exist to study and preserve knowledge about the Virasana Empire. 

What makes the Virasana books so interesting is that they gradually educate the reader about this remarkable, complex, ethnically and culturally textured universe. On his first-ever voyage, Rene travels the long way through space (on spaceships), first to the planet Shiraz, where everything is beautiful and unpolluted, but apparently caught in a technological backwater. It is the way we might imagine stepping into a Dickensian novel would feel. Like the historical anthropologist he is, Rene studies and sketches, getting used to a culture where everyone is beautiful and friendly. When his simple bit of scholarly research and copywork opens up talk of an old tragedy, Rene finds himself accompanying a handsome apprentice constable named Jack deep into the pristine forest to solve a grisly mystery.

What Rene discovers on this half of his adventure is twofold: he finds the ability of pleasure to counteract the deep store of pain tucked away in his powerful psionic mind; and uncovers the sobering truth that, even on this most lovely of planets, the reality of all-powerful nobles and human weakness takes its toll.

The second adventure takes him to the island planet of Gui Lin, ruled by a very different sort of noble house, and the place where the long-extinct Virasana family founded the Empire. We are treated to still more carefully drawn history of this universe, but this time, instead of a constable, Rene’s companion is a Jansahar priest, Brother Chang, who has been exiled for training to the very island where Rene is headed to pick up two ancient books for the Circle library. What begins as a fraught interaction for Rene, who fears the Jansahar’s ability to read his powers, becomes a life-changing friendship. 

Once more, what was meant to be a simple courier job turns both violent and delightful, with the discovery of ancient magic triggered by interplanetary corporate greed. I know that last pair of adjectives seems odd, but that’s the only way I can describe it. 

I was disappointed to learn that Brother Riccardo was not going to be in this book, but now I have no regrets. Jack and Chang and Rene and all the people we meet along the way are memorable and intriguing and worth every minute of my attention. When Riccardo and Rene meet up again, I’ve no doubt that both young men will discover that the other has become wiser, more mature, and better for their time apart. 

Book 3 of the Dr. Laurent series can’t come too soon.

The Reviewer

Ulysses Grant Dietz grew up in Syracuse, New York, where his Leave It to Beaver life was enlivened by his fascination with vampires, from Bela Lugosi to Barnabas Collins. He studied French at Yale, and was trained to be a museum curator at the University of Delaware. A curator since 1980, Ulysses has never stopped writing fiction for the sheer pleasure of it. He created the character of Desmond Beckwith in 1988 as his personal response to Anne Rice’s landmark novels. Alyson Books released his first novel, Desmond, in 1998. Vampire in Suburbia, the sequel to Desmond, is his second novel.

Ulysses lives in suburban New Jersey with his husband of over 41 years and their two almost-grown children.

By the way, the name Ulysses was not his parents’ idea of a joke: he is a great-great grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, and his mother was the President’s last living great-grandchild. Every year on April 27 he gives a speech at Grant’s Tomb in New York City. 

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