Obsidian Heart Book Two: The Society of Blood by Mark Morris
Titan Books (October 2015)
Mark Morris continues his time-travelling, genre-smashing Obsidian Heart trilogy with The Society of Blood. Like any good trilogy middle child, Society is unencumbered by the need to set up plot points or tie up storylines; instead, it can simply take what’s been put into place and run wild until it’s thoroughly exhausted. And run wild it does, taking readers on a trip from Victorian times back to the modern world, with a plethora of ghastly murders, surreal villains and plot twists along the way.
To recap where we are and how we got there, Obsidian Heart Book One: The Wolves of London introduced Alex Locke, an ex-con working hard to establish a better, cleaner life for himself and those around him. A major monkeywrench is thrown into the works when his daughter Kate is kidnapped, thrusting Locke into a series of seemingly impossible encounters and scenarios, culminating with a trip back through time to Victorian-era England. It’s here that Society picks up with Kate still missing, murderous creatures still hot on Locke’s tail, and an ever-growing set of questions and conundrums set up by the time-travelling capabilities of an ancient artifact that was once in Locke’s possession, the Obsidian Heart.
Locke knows he must have the Heart if he’s going to find his daughter, and much of the first two-thirds of the book is taken up by his search for it. At his side are Clover, a young woman drawn into his adventures during the events of Wolves of London, and Hawkins, his Victorian-era right hand man. There’s also a child named Hope, rescued by Locke and Clover from a mad scientist-type who enjoyed fusing humans with machinery. There are plenty of other characters as well, and Morris does an admirable job of making them interesting without slowing down the book’s staggering pace.
If you’ve ever tried to make sense of time travel and its implications, there are several conversations among characters in Society that you’ll read with glee. Morris takes great delight in having his characters comment on the entanglements time-hopping can produce, introducing the idea of multiple timelines and the future repercussions of past actions; at one point, Locke begins keeping a notebook handy so he can scribble down all the things he’s done and all the things he’s supposed to do. It’s as though the author, anticipating the questions (and eyebrows) his story will raise, is getting out in front of the reader, saying, “Yeah, I know it’s complicated and illogical and confusing…it’s supposed to be.”
When I finished reading Wolves of London, I figured Morris would spend this second book tying up a bunch of plot points and setting up the endgame – and I wondered how in the world he would manage to do it. I’m still wondering. Society of Blood left me with just as many, if not more questions than before. The lack of resolution did not make for a frustrating read; on the contrary, it’s got me quite excited for what should be one hell of a finale.
Morris has set up a major challenge for himself, and I don’t envy the task he’s got ahead of him in wrapping up this giant, slippery narrative he’s created – but I am definitely looking forward to the end result.