Christopher Rice conjures up a new superhero in his latest novel, “Bone Music.” Let’s give her a proper superhero introduction:
After she is tricked into ingesting a new and dangerous drug, Charlotte Rowe acquires superhuman strength. Her power makes her mighty, but its trigger is terrifying — indeed, it is terror itself. Accepting the burden, Rowe seeks out evildoers whose acts stir up memories of her childhood trauma, giving new meaning to a cruel nickname. She is Burning Girl.
Rice, the son of Anne Rice of Vampire Chronicles fame, unabashedly and skillfully embraces the troupes of a comic book origin story. But he also blurs the lines between heroes and villains — though to be sure, there are some unmitigated villains on offer — forcing his protagonist to make nuanced choices that seldom feel like false dilemmas.
Arguably, as happens in many a superhero tale, the bad guy who must be defeated is given short shrift in this story. Rice makes sure we understand the twisted motivations that drive his cruelty, and he is well drawn. But he is, of necessity, in the background for most of the tale as Charlotte acquires her powers, convinces her friends she’s not crazy, and attempts to build a loyal team even as she’s unsure of who she can truly trust. Oh, and there’s a burgeoning love story, too.
All in all, it’s a satisfying set up for a series. The action is well paced, Charlotte is a complex, believable character (even with her unbelievable powers), and the sidekicks know when to engage in witty banter and when to get down to business.
I’m looking forward to the next installment of the adventures of Burning Girl.