Title: Gather the Fortunes (A Crescent City Novel Book 2)
Author: Bryan Camp
Publisher: John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: May 21st, 2019
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy
Subjects and Themes: Gods, Mythology
Page Count: 384 (hardback)
Renaissance Raines has found her place among the psychopomps—the guides who lead the souls of the recently departed through the Seven Gates of the Underworld—and done her best to avoid the notice of gods and mortals alike. But when a young boy named Ramses St. Cyr manages to escape his foretold death, Renai finds herself at the center of a deity-thick plot unfolding in New Orleans. Someone helped Ramses slip free of his destined end—someone willing to risk everything to steal a little slice of power for themselves.
Is it one of the storm gods that’s descended on the city? The death god who’s locked the Gates of the Underworld? Or the manipulative sorcerer who also cheated Death? When she finds the schemer, there’s gonna be all kinds of hell to pay, because there are scarier things than death in the Crescent City. Renaissance Raines is one of them.
(Note: I got to Gather the Fortunes after reading about 1/4 of the first book–I ran out of time!–and while having some prior knowledge of some of the characters might be beneficial, it can absolutely be read as a standalone.)
That title isn’t hyperbole. Not in the slightest. Because holy shit, I am in love with Bryan Camp’s imagination.
Gather the Fortunes is set in an alternate world of gods and demigods and spirits and other supernatural beings, and the result is a beautiful, rich conglomerate of various mythologies–Greek, Norse, Native American, Haitian, you name it, he has it–each carefully constructed and all woven seamlessly into the narrative.
It’s not just the premise and the complexity of the story that reminds me of Gaiman’s work; it’s the utter confidence with which he crafts it. As if this isn’t some fictional world he pulled from his imagination but a reality that actually exists in some alternate dimension. Bryan Camp understands his world inside-out and he has the talent to manipulate it in ways that are not only exciting but also thought-provoking. I love the way he interprets death and afterlife and posits the idea that there are always, always two sides to every coin.
And what astounds me is how polished and detailed everything is. Nothing is done half-assed–from the process of soul-taking (which involves unbraiding and distilling a part of the soul and then turning it into a piece of fruit, eating it, and escorting the remaining spirit through the Underworld. Camp lends grim reapering a sense of craftsmanship, turns it into an art form. It’s fantastic) to the various gates of the Underworld (in the last gate, your life in the form of a coin gets weighed on a scale and that decides whether you’re sent off to a good afterlife or tossed into oblivion).
The prose is just as rich and hard-hitting. There are passages that have this internal rhythm, so that when you read them out loud, they play out like spoken poetry. It’s stylish as hell. Of course not all of it is written that poetically–that’d be exhausting–but Camp knows exactly when to turn it on and off, and that in itself is praiseworthy. And the opening paragraphs that you find in some of the chapters are tiny art pieces in and of themselves–brief narrations about topics like death and luck and premonitions as they apply to different mythologies.
And the last two paragraphs? Chills down my spine. Gave me hard, hard vibes of the Dream vs. Choronzon scene from Sandman. I had to read them aloud multiple times, once to a friend.
Here’s a snippet:
Everywhere Death walks, Life follows. Everything Death takes, Life gives to another. She is Asase Yaa. Onuava. Demeter. Coatlicue. Phra Mae Thorani. He is Kokopelli. Makemake. Geb. Lono. They plant the seeds in the earth and children in the womb. They gave birth to the gods and to the first mortals and to the cosmos and to the sea. They gave their lives to water the earth, to bring plentiful game to hunt, to keep the sun in the sky. They are the sky. They are the sun. They are the buds of new growth in spring, and after a fire, and after a flood, and in the shadow of a failed nuclear reactor. They are everywhere we swore they couldn’t be, in the exothermic vents of the deep ocean, in the ones and zeroes of information, in the fossil records of Mars. Death can end a life, or lives, or this life, or very life.
But not Life.
Our heroine is Renai, a young black woman who, five years previous, had been dead and subsequently resurrected with very few memories of when she was alive. Now she works as a psychopomp, someone who guides the dead to the Underworld. I really quite liked her. She’s a great mix of fierceness and vulnerability, with sass running through it all.
I did have issues with the plot and characters. The story goes through a lot of moving from point A to point B, doing one thing, and then moving to point C, and then doing something else and moving on again. And while parts of it were interesting, others…weren’t. They often felt disconnected from each other and I wasn’t sure what the point of some of them were.
I was also disappointed that Ramses didn’t play a bigger role in the story (at least, not directly) because the synopsis had me anticipating a sibling relationship forming between Renai and Ramses. But sadly, no.
Overall, though, this was a very impressive read and Camp’s New Orleans is one you absolutely need to experience for yourself.
10 people can win finished copies of Gather the Fortune. Open internationally!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bryan Camp is a graduate of the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop and the University of New Orleans’ Low-Residency MFA program. He started his first novel, The City of Lost Fortunes, in the backseat of his parents’ car as they evacuated for Hurricane Katrina. He has been, at various points in his life: a security guard at a stockcar race track, a printer in a flag factory, an office worker in an oil refinery, and a high school English teacher. He can be found on twitter @bryancamp and at bryancamp.com. He lives in New Orleans with his wife and their three cats, one of whom is named after a superhero.
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I do like the cover redesign this series went through. I’ve somehow missed the first book but I’m intrigued. Thanks for sharing!
This one sounds pretty cool. I had never heard of it before, great review.
Thank you! I wasn’t too sure what to expect from it but I was pleasantly surprised. 🙂
I’m always on the hunt for more Neil Gaiman esque tales so you are preaching to the choir with me!
Your reviews are always so brilliantly crafted! Talk about writing with confidence (and I love that phrase, by the way). Love how this sounds, Kathy!
Awww thanks so much, Jennifer! (your comments, as always, are just the loveliest <3) And I'm so happy to hear you think my writing is confident! Behind the scenes I'm a massive ball of panic and "oh noooo, where do I even start with this review??" 😀
“The most Neil Gaiman thing I’ve read since Neil Gaiman” LOL- love this! Great review! I’ve seen this floating around on Edelweiss or NetGalley but haven’t seen many reviews for it. I think I’ll add it!
Haha thank you! Glad you liked it. 😀 I also haven’t seen a lot of (any??) reviews on the books, which is a shame because they deserve a lot more recognition.
I don’t recall hearing of this before and yet it sounds like something I would adore. And, you hit the nail on the head with your comment about the author not just having the imagination to come up with these wonderful things but also having the ability to pull it all off. That’s really the key isn’t it.
[…] Gather the Fortunes (A Crescent City Novel 2) by Bryan Camp: An urban fantasy set in New Orleans starring Renaissance Raines who collects and escorts souls to the Underworld. I compared Camp’s style to Neil Gaiman’s and I don’t regret it one bit; his interpretation of afterlife and all the different mythologies is just so intelligent. [Review here] […]
[…] BRYAN CAMP – Gather the Fortunes | Pages Below The Vaulted Sky […]
Your review is amazing! And now I have to check it out because it sounds so good! Even if I am not a Gaiman fan this sounds too good to pass!
YES!! And the first book is even better, so definitely do give it a try! Bryan Camp has such a cool imagination. <3
Alright, you have my attention with this review. I’ll add it to my list. 😀
[…] has 10 copies of Gather the Fortunes by Bryan Camp to give away (open internationally)! Enter using Rafflecopter before […]
[…] was a book I picked up and set down again almost at once – right up until Kathy’s glowing review of the sequel over at Pages of the Vaulted Sky. Being a completest, I wasn’t going to read the sequel first, so I tracked down City of Lost […]