Spirit Of Independence, by Keith Rommel

spirit-of-independence-by-keith-rommel coverGenre: Horror
Publisher: Barclay Books
Published: 2001
Reviewer Rating: three stars
Book Review by Paul Kane

Have you read this book?

Here we have a novel by a publisher that’s causing quite a stir in the horror world via its Spectral Visions imprint. There are quite a few titles to check out, and this is the first one I’ve come across – the inaugural volume in a four book series that promises to change the reader’s (after) life.

Travis Winter is the Spirit of Independence. Murdered in the Second World War, he was kidnapped by demons before being rescued and recruited into the ranks of divine knights called Spirits. For there’s another war raging that has even greater consequences than WWII, one involving Heaven and Hell with Earth and its inhabitants slap bang in the middle…

Fast-forward to the present and when Winter’s granddaughter Amanda is put in danger, he materializes to save her. But his actions set off a chain of events which threaten both lots of combatants. As the Devil pleads his case, arguing that God is the one who uses humanity for his own sport, the lines between good and evil become increasingly vague, threatening the safe haven of Chova – a kind of middle ground between realms. And when the third antichrist is born, it seems that Armageddon can’t be too far away. Will the Spirit of Independence be able to save humanity, save his family, and save the day?

It’s always a difficult thing, kicking off the first in a series of novels. You have to lay the groundwork for what’s to come, introduce characters that might not be developed fully until the next book, or even the one after that. And you have to find some way of making it a self-contained story in its own right, yet still leave the reader with the sense there is more to come… On the whole, Keith Rommel does all of this very well. Although the premise is far from fresh (it stretches back as far as Paradise Lost, and there are more than a few nods to The Prophecy films I think), the author does manage to put his own personal spin on it.

What also shines through is the research, as Rommel incorporates different aspects of various religions in his fiction. He’s certainly done his homework as far as I can see, and in the character of Spirit he’s also found the ideal way to tell an ambitious story of this magnitude. It’s just a pity he doesn’t carry the first person recollections of Spirit right through to the end of the book. Each chapter is told from a different character’s point of view, so you get headings that say ‘DemAngel’, ‘Divination’ or ‘Osiris’ to let you know who’s doing the talking. Now, although this is a brave move on Rommel’s part and a unique way to present the story, at times it does give it a disjointed feel that you wouldn’t get if it was being told through the eyes of one character, or maybe even in third person.

There were one or two lines of dialogue that didn’t quite ring true as well…Things like: “Leave me; you’ve already broken my rationality.” and the Yoda-esque, “Bad I did by her. I did! Show you, I will!” And I doubt very much whether God would start a sentence “I guess…” either. But then maybe that’s the Brit in me shining through. All things considered though I’m looking forward to seeing where Rommel will take the mythos next, and I’m hoping it will build into an epic story arch to match say King’s ‘Dark Tower’ series or Babylon 5 on TV. That’s the spirit!

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