An interesting genre-mash-up, Enigma Black, the debut novel of Sarah Furlong-Burr (@sarafurlong), is part superhero fantasy, part romance and part conspiracy thriller that ends on a cliffhanger to be continued in the author’s next novel. Finishing it after a couple days of reading, I couldn’t help but think it would make for a good graphic novel.
At the onset, a teenage Celaine Stevens suffers a terrible loss that leads her older self to sacrifice nearly everything in an attempt at revenge.
A series of horrific bombings by an enigmatic and frightening villain — named the Man in Black by the media — creates a state of fear and panic in the population that the government of President Brooks tries to assuage. Many of the residents of Celaine’s home city flee to less-urban areas deemed safer, but that does not stop the part-man/part-machine Man in Black from creating mayhem among the empty buildings and streets.
Without spoiling the plot for future readers, Celaine will be given the opportunity to do something about her desire for revenge, and will get some interesting…upgrades…to make the fight fairer. But everything comes with a price, and paying the bill isn’t easy for Celaine or others like her.
This is, I believe, my first 3-star review, and therefore I feel it necessary to remind readers that in my grading criteria a 3-star book is: A good read, worth a reader’s time in my opinion. I enjoyed it. Each reader will, and should, form their own opinion of Enigma Black, which is a pretty cool thing about us humans.
In some ways, Enigma Black reminded me of what would happen if the Lifetime television network decided to create a superhero franchise. Celaine’s heart is broken a couple times, and there is quite a bit of dwelling on the emotional state of many of the main characters: tears flow, secrets loves are revealed, etc. This isn’t meant as a negative comment — I’ve enjoyed many movies produced and/or televised by Lifetime — but there is a certain formula used in those productions that often meshes uneasily with an action story.
I often think of the term “suspension of disbelief” when reading a novel such as Enigma Black; the very best stories create a feeling of total or near-total immersion in the plot — regardless of how far-fetched or off-the-wall. This was not, for me at least, the case with this novel, as I was very aware of how unlikely much of it was.
Still, all novels are made-up stories and not all of them adhere to a gritty fact-based reality, with entertaining the reader being the goal. I was entertained enough by Enigma Black that, first of all, I read through it in a couple days (can’t tell you how many novels I’ve given up on and set aside in half that time) and secondly, I will very likely purchase the author’s next book to see what happens next.