Paperback: 325 pages
Published September 2, 2013
Publisher: Ivy Moon Press
Genres: crime thriller, fantasy, paranormal
The Sleeping Warrior by Sara Bain
LONDON solicitor Libby Butler’s life is in a mess. Her affair with her boss is going nowhere as is her position in a city law firm. A narrow escape from the knife of south London’s elusive serial murderer, The Vampire Killer, has challenged her outward bravado and left her nerves in tatters.
When duty calls Libby to a police station in the middle of the night, she meets the enigmatic Gabriel Radley. Dressed like an ancient warrior, Gabriel has a habit of disappearing from police custody and danger appears to dog him.
Gabriel is searching for a ‘stone’, its value ‘beyond human imagination’, that will help bring a ‘monster’ to justice. When Libby agrees to help him, she plunges her life into grave danger where no one is safe.
A cult who call themselves The Awakened, a gangland thug and his henchman, a female assassin, a detective chief inspector from Scotland Yard, and even the serial killer, all become inadvertently embroiled in the chase for the stone and the pivotal force of Gabriel.
As the death toll rises, Libby is forced to face herself, learn the true value of life and the potent significance of the Sleeping Warrior within.
Visit Goodreads to read an excerpt from The Sleeping Warrior
When I travel, I enjoy dining at eateries that reflect the local flavor of the area I’m visiting, and I tend to bypass major restaurant chains whenever possible. I used to wonder why someone visiting small town, USA, for example, would choose to stop at a McDonald’s over the one and only small town diner that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. McDonald’s restaurants are practically everywhere and you can always eat there, so why pass up an opportunity to sample some local cuisine? I now see that it’s a matter of predictability and comfort. We go to McDonald’s because we know what to expect. We’ve eaten there before, we know what’s on the menu, the layout of the restaurant is familiar, and we understand the process for ordering and receiving our food.
This same concept often applies when choosing to read a book. We choose books from genres we are familiar with because we can anticipate the book will have a general plot structure and follow rules and conventions that are defined by that particular genre. We like to read books that fit into a well-defined category because, although there’s no guarantee, we think we will increase our chances of having an enjoyable reading experience. However, I like to step out of my comfort zone whenever I can, and reading The Sleeping Warrior afforded me the opportunity to do so.
The Sleeping Warrior is not a traditional novel; instead the plot is a result of merging and blending boundaries and elements from both the crime thriller and paranormal genres to create an intriguing, suspenseful, and absolutely unpredictable storyline that kept me off balance from beginning to end. I liked the unusualness of the plot, the symbolic title, and the flawed characters hiding behind a façade of content.
The setting for the majority of the book is London, and the characters’ dialect and diction help readers to become immersed in this fictitious world that entwines the story threads of a variety of characters (police detectives, attorneys, gang leaders, cult members, assassins, and supernatural beings) into a cohesive, complex narrative that centers around the search for an elusive serial killer and a missing stone. An enigmatic man who goes by the name of Gabriel is the pivotal character responsible for bringing everyone into the fray and whose presence provides the catalyst for many of the characters to change.
If you are looking for admirable characters that you can look up to and respect, you won’t find them in this book. These are not the nicest, most honorable individuals you could meet. Overall, they are selfish, self-indulgent, cold-hearted individuals whose day-to-day shallow existence moves them just a little bit further away from their humanity.
There are no clearly defined good and bad characters. All of them walk around in a world shaded in grey.
I consider Libby the protagonist in the book. She’s an attorney, or as the British would say, a solicitor who’s dedicated to her career with plans to become a full partner in her firm. I like that Libby is a straightforward, no-nonsense, realist who can hold her own in any antagonistic situation she encounters. She projects confidence sometimes to the point of arrogance even though deep down she is aware of her own imperfections. However, she refuses to show any vulnerability by acknowledging her weaknesses. Her sharp-witted tongue is quick to lash out at others who may pose a threat to her, especially other women. When we first meet Libby, her aloofness and disinterested attitude indicate that she doesn’t play well with others in her firm, and especially not with “coppers.”
Libby isn’t in the best place in her life. Although she’s been living with her partner, Tony, for five years, she’s also been having an affair with her boss, Carl for the past two years. When she gets called down to the local police station to provide counsel to a foreigner who has been taken into custody, she has no idea that he will be the one who helps Libby to awaken and face the ugly truth about the life she’s been living.
Libby is taken aback when she first sees the gorgeous, magnanimous man waiting for her in his cell:
“Before them sat a young man with a face that would cause an angel to weep with envy, but housed in its exquisite beauty the black, mesmeric eyes of a demon.”
Ironically, the man tells Libby to call him Gabriel. It quickly becomes obvious that Gabriel is not a man of this world based on his thoughts, speech, dress, and behavior. Indeed, Gabriel is from another realm and is on a mission to find a missing stone that will lead him to the “monster” he is charged with bringing back to his world. Even though Gabriel is reluctant to reveal much about himself or his purpose, Libby is drawn to him and wants to help him in his quest. Yet, she is also unnerved by Gabriel’s unnatural ability to see into the minds of others and know their deepest, darkest secrets. Gabriel is kind toward others but also brutally honest with those around him, forcing them to take a long, hard look at the ugliness in their lives.
Although Libby tries her best to avoid self-reflection, her conscience won’t let her ignore the shame and guilt she feels about the choices she’s made in her personal and professional life. Gradually the emotions she keeps bottled up over her infidelity, representation of a notorious gang leader, and her fears of being one of the serial killer’s targets all begin to seep out in destructive ways, through bouts of crying, drinking, and smoking.
By the half-way point in the book, Libby has begun to feel how out of control her life is and her evolving relationship with Gabriel does lead her to enlightenment where she finally has the “light bulb” moment and realizes how hypocritical and hurtful she has been to others. In the midst of the danger, drama, and chaos she decides she wants to become a better person.
Whereas some of the characters are clear antagonists, this isn’t always the case. Rose Red, Lars, and even Carl are characters who have little loyalty to anyone but themselves, and, at times I’m not certain who Libby can really trust. At one point, I even wonder whether Libby is a reliable character trustworthy in describing her experiences. She even begins to question her sanity:
“According to the rest of the world, I’m a freak. My marbles are rolling all over the place and there’s no way I’ll ever be able to find all of them ever again.”
One thing I am certain of is that at some point, each character disappoints me, even Gabriel. At times I get frustrated because the characters refuse to behave in ways that I want or expect, and I just want to shake them and say:
The plot of The Sleeping Warrior is intense, filled with danger, and has some surprising twists that keep you guessing about the identity of serial killer and the “monster” that Gabriel searches for. The plot does follow a chronological sequence but covers a longer span of time than I expected, and it’s sometimes jarring when I finish one scene and move onto the next only to discover a month or more may have already passed. I also think the gaps in time distracted me from being able to predict what would happen next.
Bain uses a third-person limited omniscient narrator to tell the story and give us access to the thoughts of many of the characters which helped me to understand their motives and actions. At times, though, the inclusion of so many characters makes it hard for me to connect them to one other and understand their involvement in the plot. Libby was probably the most fully developed character in the book, but I still wanted to know more about her past and what led her to become such a hardened woman. Furthermore, beyond knowing that Gabriel is some type of supernatural warrior, I really don’t get to learn more about exactly what he is and the world he comes from.
It is clear that he and Libby care for one another based on their actions, and I had really hoped for more to develop between the two. However, this is not a romance, and there aren’t any love scenes. There are scenes that imply sex has occurred but without any graphic detail. I did wish for a different outcome, but the author wraps up all of the story threads to unify the plot, and I am left with a feeling of hope for Libby’s future.
I received a copy of the book from the author for an honest review.
Sara Bain is a fantasy writer. She creates worlds of dark and light, of good and evil, of sorrow and happiness. Her panoramas, scenes and characters are born purely from a wild imagination – at times extravagant, but never restrained.
She says: “I don’t write ‘what ifs’ but rather try to create believable stories and characters that my readers can absorb themselves into and escape for a while into my world.”
A former newspaper journalist and editor of professional text books, Sara is a fantasy writer who now lives in south west Scotland.
Dark Dawn, the first book of her epic fantasy The Scrolls of Deyesto, is due to be published at the end of 2013.
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