Friday, July 5, 2013

Brand of Annwn by J.A. Biggs Review

Title: Brand of Annwn
Author: J.A. Biggs
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 198
Price: $2.99
Rating: 4 out 5 stars

Book Synopsis:

Annwn, according to Welsh mythology, is the underworld which exists beneath ours, parallel and invisible. It is a land of darkness and light in stark contrast and violent conflict. A world where that which is hidden on Earth is open and visible, where good and evil show their true face to all.

The year is 1986. Somewhere in the California Valley, Brand is on the verge of becoming a man. A frustrated teenage boy, a child of a single parent on the poor side of town, Brand is in danger of sliding into the violence and darkness of our modern age when he and a friend discover a key in a mysterious book that leads them to another world. It is the underworld of ancient Gaelic legend. It is a place of terror and exquisite beauty, of walking myths and living legend. It is deadly, but ever so alluring, and the boys cannot resist the call to adventure.

The boys see it as a grand diversion. They set off on a series of ambitious forays deeper and deeper into this new land. Inevitably, they will begin to experience the consequences as the results of their adventures come back to haunt them. Brand’s life at home with his single mom has been strained for a long time and now his growing obsession with his fantastic world leads her to bring in a psychiatrist. Life at home becomes intolerable as what he considers his “real world” and the fantasy one start to reverse places for him. Even more disturbingly, the boys begin to realize that the monsters they have discovered in their new world might exist in our own as well; all around us without our ever realizing it.

Brand and his friend are forever changed when Annwn finally reaches out to touch them directly in California. The dark enemies they have been toying with are deadly serious, and the boys realize that this is no game as their personal worlds begin to collapse. Now Brand has to decide what is really important, and ultimately, whether he will try to protect his family or return one more time to repair the damage he has caused.

To protect his loved ones might cost Brand more than he realizes, for his quest will require the boy to face that which cannot be faced, and defeat that which has never been defeated. To succeed, Brand will have to face Annwn itself.

Brand of Annwn is about a boy growing up, becoming a man, and facing a world that is more complicated than what he had thought. It is a reflection on that bittersweet moment when childhood ends set amid symbols drawn from the oldest myths of the human race. Babylonian, Hebrew, Gaelic, and Native American mythology all inform the detailed universe that is Annwn.


The first thing I want mention about this urban fantasy is that Brand of Annwn is better geared toward male readers. That's not to say that female readers won't enjoy it, because it is expertly written, it's just that it's not the urban fantasy that most women are accustomed to. With that said, the novel does tell a wonderful story filled with myth and legend. What I really liked though were the pop culture references to the 1980s. I was pulled back to my youth as I read about girls wearing neon green and pink dangle earrings and the smell of Hubba Bubba. J.A. Biggs does an excellent job at creating an urban fantasy that focuses on the human element and how characters react when things are far from normal.

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