Book title: Subterfuge In Heart
Name of author: Tobias Troy
Genre: Magic Realism / Fantasy
Subterfuge in the Heart is delightfully different and I loved it straight away. It’s a highly imaginative and in-depth exploration of the platonic love/hate relationship of two men. The book has superb imagery and moving scenes that remain with you long after you have closed the book.
The author called this book a blend of magical realism and fantasy and though it lies much more on the side of fantasy, I can see how the magical realism tag applies. Magical realism is set in the real world and the magical elements are basically extremely extended metaphors for the characters’ inner experiences. The fantasy in Subterfuge in the Heart is clearly an expression of James’s inner turmoil, until we end up in a completely fantasy world for the second half of the book.
The story starts when James is in the womb, and the first odd and fascinating thing is that he can’t hear his name or see it written – James is a name he gives himself, not his actual name. We never find out what his name is either, because in the book it’s written as a black line. The description of the affect the sounds of his name have on him is wonderful; instead of a name, James experiences a kind a vacancy. It’s a fascinating concept.
James is a genius and he soon meets another genius by the name of David who happens to live next door. They grow up together as good but highly competitive friends, and by the time they become young men, James realises that David exhibits abilities far beyond what any man should be capable of. James is not without his own abilities though. Every night he visits the same dream world where he develops the ability to manipulate time.
David gains success in the things both boys dreamed of achieving, while James fails, and so jealousy enters the relationship, but at the same time as James hates David for his success, he loves and idolises him. My favourite scene is where David holds James after the loss of his girlfriend; it’s beautifully written and very moving.
The last part of the book takes place in ‘Heart’, a fantasy world where James battles the dark side of David. This expresses James’s jealousy and sense of betrayal when David marries, effectively ending their close relationship.
The only thing I didn’t like in this book was the ending, not because of what happened, but because of what didn’t happen. The end of the book came too quickly after the outcome of the battle in Heart. I think it would have been more powerful and satisfying if the author had tied the happenings in Heart back to the real world. Without it, I was, to some extent, left hanging.
Although unusual in style, it’s not alone in this kind of approach, at least in the Indie world, where – oh joy – such interesting departures from the norm can actually be published. It reminds me very much of Emily Devenport’s The Night Shifters. Both books have an intense writing style and highly imaginative fantasy worlds that parallel the inner lives of their central characters.
All up, it’s a well written book. I give it 4 stars and a place on the Awesome Indies listing.
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