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Black & Orange / Benjamin Kane Ethridge

Bad Moon Books / October 2010
Reviewed by: Anthony J. Rapino

Reading a writer’s first novel is always an exciting endeavor. It’s a chance to discover a new talent. It’s a chance to track the author from book to book, watching and noting with pleasure the growth in each new offering. So was my mindset entering the world of Black & Orange, Benjamin Kane Ethridge’s first novel.

Martin and Teresa are nomads tasked with protecting the Heart of the Harvest, a human who holds the key to opening a gateway between worlds in his or her chest. On the other side of this gateway lies the Old Domain. Every Halloween Chaplain Cloth and his “children” – a horde of pumpkin-headed demons – quest after the Heart, which, once devoured, will open the gateway a little wider.

This year is a game-changer, for if even one more heart is lost, the gateway will be wide enough for the Old Domain to spill through into our world, bringing chaos and death.

Helping Chaplain Cloth, who is trapped in the Old Domain until Halloween, are members of his Church who hope for the merging of the two worlds. Teresa and Martin are powerful, but the cards are stacked against them. Teresa is suffering with lung cancer, there are four hearts to protect this year, and Paul Quintana – a new, powerful Bishop – is helping to track them down.

It may be the horror fan in me, but any novel that takes place on and around Halloween gets brownie points. It’s not fair, and it may not be the most professional of confessions, but it is the truth. The truth is also that Ethridge didn’t need the help.

Black & Orange is a fast-paced, yet thoughtful, novel that explores the balance between opposing forces. The colors black and orange may as well be good and evil, or yin and yang. These complimentary opposites play against each other throughout the novel — and within the characters.

The Messenger – the unseen player who tells the nomads what to do – can be God in the way the nomads blindly follow his (or her) will. And Chaplain Cloth, the Devil, prying open a gateway to expel his domain into ours.

And yet, it’s never as simplistic as this. Ethridge, with great care, creates layered, believable characters that aren’t simply good or bad. Each and every one of them has their own needs, wants, and problems. Bishop Quintana is obsessed with a Priestess, whom he would disavow himself for. Martin constantly tries to get Teresa to quit smoking, while she stubbornly resists. The story is never only about whether or not the gateway will be opened, and for this reason alone, Black & Orange is a dynamic and unforgettable novel.

Whether for Halloween, Christmas, or the Fourth of July, in the world of Black & Orange, it’s always autumn.

Purchase Black & Orange by Benjamin Kane Ethridge.

Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 at 09:35AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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