Percival Constantine Reviews Rabbit Heart

Note: This review was originally posted in 2010.

I’ve been familiar with Barry Reese’s work for quite some time now. And when you’ve been reading an author who specializes in a certain area for a number of years, there are usually relatively few surprises. Oh, the stories are entertaining, but by that point, you’re usually so familiar with the writer’s style that you’re not going to be left with your mouth hanging open.

So imagine my surprise when Barry’s latest book, Rabbit Heart, was able to cause just that reaction in me.

Barry is well-known and well-regarded (and rightfully so) for his work on The Rook series, which focus on a supernaturally-tinged vigilante operating in Atlanta in the 1930s. It’s great stuff, a lot of fun to read. And most of the work I’ve read from Barry over the years has been in a similar vein.

Rabbit Heart is definitely not what one would come to expect from Barry Reese. Make no mistake, this is not a tale for young readers–and even some adults may find themselves put off by the very mature themes and situations present.

The book centers on Fiona Chapman, a young woman who was nearly killed as a child by a vicious serial killer. Only what no one knows it that Fiona actually did die, in a fashion. By the time she reaches her early twenties, Fiona embarks on a quest to confront her killer and this awakens her true nature, as an Archetype of the Furious Host. But this is only the beginning of her adventure. Her brethren kill humans with almost wild abandon but Fiona chooses to turn on her fellow hunters instead. And with the help of Ascott Keane, a legendary occult investigator, she pursues one such hunter in the town of Milledgeville in Georgia.

Rabbit Heart is extremely graphic. It’s brutal, gruesome, and strangely erotic–sometimes all at once. Sex and violence mix together in a way that may be disturbing to some, but is nonetheless gripping. I found it impossible to tear myself away from the book–I was disgusted and shaken to my core and I say these things as compliments. It takes a certain kind of writer to be able to bring about these emotions in a reader, and Barry has proven that while he’s very talented in his usual area of expertise, he’s also versatile and open to experimentation.

Although the central story will no doubt keep your eyes glued to these pages, what I found most fascinating was the taste of metafiction Barry uses. He does it in such a way that sets Rabbit Heart apart from similar tales, but which is subtle enough to avoid falling into the trap of smug arrogance or tongue-in-cheek camp that metafiction writers sometimes find themselves in.

If you came to this book because you’re familiar with Barry’s other work, rest assured that he definitely brings his A-game to the table. But don’t expect something with a similar tone to The Rook Chronicles–Rabbit Heart operates on an entirely different level. This is Barry Reese does grindhouse, and I for one hope we’ll see more tales of Fiona Chapman and Ascott Keane in the future.

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