Review: The Blissenburg Chronicles

by
I’ve decided to finally write my review of The Blissenburg Chronicles, by Howard Rasmussen.
Heidi looked up, eyes squinted. The sunlight flowed through the crystal and spilled across her face, soaking into her auburn hair and pooling on her chest before its mist rose to illuminate the rest of the room.
‘We haven’t much time,’ Thomas said.
‘Actually,’ Heidi said, ‘we have all of it.’
It’s not often you run into a book like Blissenburg. By “not often,” I mean “nearly never.” Purportedly, this book has been translated from German, but the writing shows little evidence of having been run through the usual lost-in-translation wringer.
The story begins in a rural town struggling to cope with the loss of its only church, which burned down taking the only priest in town with it.
Though the priest is dead, one girl still makes her weekly confession: Heidi, a nineteen-year-old who sees through time. The townspeople think her mad or possessed or both. When Thomas tries to save her, though, she makes clear she is anything but helpless.
Heidi is constantly frustrated by the ability to see the future, but not change it. Thomas’ appeal for her to join him fall on deaf ears, until he introduces her traveling companion.
Thomas draws the other characters into the adventure, at first promising them riches, fame, and excitement, later revealing a grim resolve to disrupt the dark processes he believes he’s set into motion. Blissenburg’s protagonists don’t just interact with each other, they perceive each chapter of the story differently. Thomas’ latent psychic abilities allow him to communicate directly with the embittered dead during his travels, though he is not always aware that they are dead or certain that they are real. At the climax of the story, the five travelers–all of them, in one way or another, seers of the unseen–look together into a realized abstraction of the unknown. Each of them is profoundly changed– but none can agree what they saw. Similarly, though we’ll never know if Thomas’ transgressions have doomed him or he’s needlessly torturing himself, his character is tragic, somber, and at times strangely manic. I can only wish to aspire to dialogue like this:
‘I am called Thomas,’ the tall man said, raising his eyebrows slightly.
Deik grunted, but offered no further reply.
Thomas held out his canteen. ‘Might I ask where everyone is?’
‘Funeral.’ Deik replied without looking up or accepting the proffered drink.
‘Whose?’
Deik wrinkled his nose and stood, swaying slightly. ‘Mine.’
It’s highly readable, tightly edited, but most importantly, the story itself is a journey which the reader is invited to take alongside the characters. In fact, during the course of their adventure, one of the characters becomes aware that she is a character in a story, and eventually even becomes aware of the reader. It’s a really clever bit, which I will probably expand upon in part 2 of my review.
Seriously, stop whatever you’re doing and buy this book.
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