BOOK REVIEW: BLACK IRIS by Elliot Wake (writing as Leah Raeder)

I know all of you are probably familiar with my love of this author, particularly his book CAM GIRL, especially if you watch any of my YouTube videos. When BAD BOY came out in December, I was all set to by it instantly, but was told it might help to read BLACK IRIS first, as some of the characters overlapped, and it might spoil the book a bit.

Of course, I was more than willing to pick up another of Wake’s books, and dove in enthusiastically.

I think this is one of Wake’s first novels, and In comparison to CAM GIRL, it shows. (I’ve done some checking; looks like this may be a second novel.) Both novels have less than reliable narrators, dubious morality, and levels of social dysfunction that would drive most people mad. But where Vada and Ellis become relatable characters, ones we can attach ourselves to, Laney and her cohort don’t quite get there.

This isn’t to say that the characters in IRIS are bad, since they really aren’t–they just seem flatter. I wanted there to be more to them, and there wasn’t–at least no more than we were ever led to believe. Everyone had an angle; no one was completely truthful. This was shown and expected. And beyond that… nothing. The one character who came close, Laney’s personal demon of a character–ends up coming short too. Now, there is an element of this that Laney tells us at the beginning that we should expect, so perhaps I had unfair expectations of the novel from the start. I’m not sure.

The reveals on some of the darker aspects of characters (Armin comes to mind) felt forced and strange. There’s always an element of “but I liked them!” that comes with a reveal like that, but this was… stronger. Bigger. I’m not sure how to phrase it.

I’m writing this a bit after I read the book, and I’m finding that the actual plot isn’t coming back to me. I remember pieces, scattered through a jumble of time lines. I remember aspects, but not where they came from. It’s very disjointed–but maybe it’s supposed to be.

In the end, Wake’s writing still carries it through, and while it’s not a favorite perhaps, I’ll be happy to have it on my Kindle and read over again in the future.

Rating: **** (Recommended)


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