Concluding a series must be one of the most difficult things a writer can do – especially a series that’s been as popular for a writer as the Timmy Quinn stories (comprised up to this point of The Turtle Boy, The Hides, Vessels, and Peregrine’s Story) have been for Kealan Patrick Burke. Not only have they been popular for him, they have in many ways defined his career: from the hot-shot indie writer making a splash among those “in the know” with The Turtle Boy, to the growing artist tackling more complex themes in Vessels, to the mature author back from a long absence with new confidence and mastery of his craft as displayed in Nemesis: The Death of Timmy Quinn.
Many of the series I’m familiar with as a reader are open-ended, like the Hap and Leonard books by Joe R. Lansdale. Series such as these are more about the ongoing growth and development of the characters than a single storyline, and therefore are free of the pressure to give readers a definitive, cover-all-the-bases conclusion. For those writers who face wrapping up multiple books’ worth of interconnected storylines, I imagine the pressure is immense. J.K. Rowling had to be on pins and needles waiting on fan reaction to her last Harry Potter book. Stephen King was inundated for years with fan requests – demands, really – for a proper end to the Dark Tower series, and has been subjected to various degrees of second-guessing ever since he delivered the final chapter.
I don’t know how much external pressure Burke felt in writing the final Timmy Quinn book, but I believe the pressure he likely put on himself was more than enough. Fan feelings aside, this was a book Burke wanted to get right.
In my opinion, he did.
In Nemesis, Burke manages the precarious balancing act of not only tying together the threads from the previous books, but also introducing a number of new elements to the mix. He’s working on a much larger scale than in any of the previous Timmy Quinn books – larger, in fact, than anything he’s done up to this point. Where in the past Burke has struggled a bit with large casts and larger-scale stories, this time it’s clear that his craft has caught up with his ambition.
I’m not going to go into a plot description here. Not only do I want to avoid spoilers, but I also feel that if you’re interested in reading this review you’re probably already invested in the series. If not, I’d recommend that you start at the beginning – although Burke does a good job of bringing readers up to speed, it’s going to take more than a passing familiarity with the series to truly appreciate the scope of events that happens in Nemesis.
All along, this series has been about much more than the surface idea of a young man cursed with the ability to see the dead. It’s been about fathers and sons, and mothers and sons, and revenge, and fate; all wrapped up in the journey of Timmy Quinn, who has unsuccessfully tried running away from his abilities for most of his life. As Nemesis begins, Timmy is through running, ready to (or, perhaps, resigned to) embrace the destination those abilities have brought him to. Burke jumps back-and-forth in time throughout the narrative, weaving the threads he’s scattered throughout the previous books into a tight, cohesive whole. Yes, there are entirely new characters introduced throughout the book, and new details that haven’t even been hinted at before are brought to light, but each of these additions feels like an organic extension of what’s come before. Never once do you get the feeling that Burke is just trying to fill in plot holes – it all plays out like the carefully orchestrated finale that it should be.
And make no mistake, it is a finale – at least, for Timmy Quinn. What’s great about the book is that, while it delivers on the promise of bringing an end to the Timmy Quinn series, it simultaneously opens up a whole new mythology for Burke to play with in the future. Those looking for a definitive conclusion will be satisfied, while those hoping that Burke wasn’t abandoning the ideas of The Stage, The Curtain and the resurrected dead for good have a lot of hope to hang on to.
The Timmy Quinn Interviews
- Kealan Patrick Burke on The Turtle Boy
- Kealan Patrick Burke on The Hides
- Kealan Patrick Burke on Vessels
- Kealan Patrick Burke on The Turtle Boy: Peregrine’s Tale
- Kealan Patrick Burke on Nemesis: The Death of Timmy Quinn
Nemesis is available digitally as well as in a signed, limited edition hardcover from Thunderstorm Books. Thunderstorm is also prepping a deluxe edition of Stage Whispers: The Collected Timmy Quinn Stories that will include Nemesis, which is not included in the current digital edition. Visit Thunderstorm Books for more information.