Book Review - Black Dog Rising (Kat Caulberg)

Black Dog Rising is a paranormal romance by American author Kat Caulberg. The book follows Emma Aubrey as she travels to a town in rural England to escape the conflicts and discords of her previous relationship. Finding solace in a centuries old pub, Emma is drawn to the mysterious, aloof, though protective, Toby Deering; a man with as much past baggage as Emma has in her present. What follows is a taught, well-paced story that seamlessly blends romance with the dark fantasy of fae England, that I enjoyed from start to finish.

If you're looking for well-drawn, complex characters, you won't be disappointed in Emma and Toby. These are not two-dimensional tropes, dropped into the story to play their roles. Caulberg is skilled in dialogue and nuance, drawing us unto a relationship with each of them. It would have been easy to give each of them a straightforward backstory (I thought I'd guessed their histories early on - I was wrong!) but the easy route isn't taken, and instead we get well formed individuals, who come to life from the page. Similarly, the secondary characters are well drawn and capable of surprising you as the story develops. Jack's story arc is particularly satisfying. What I'm trying to express is that this isn't paint-by-numbers writing; there's depth in the characterisation and skill in drawing it out.

An element that makes the book stand out for me is the setting. The first part of the book reads as a familiar account of a traditional, peculiar English town. I've been to places like that. I've sat in those pubs and spoken to those people. As the book progresses, we get more insight into the Fae underbelly of England. It's not overplayed, and it reads very well. If you're familiar with Suzannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, it has that feel about it (albeit without the 200 academic footnotes). You get a real connection to the Britain of ancient stones and hills, lost Roman legions, tricksters and spectres.

One thing I especially enjoyed was how the book starts out with a relatively normal, if compelling, depiction of the world, but before long you're knee deep in the fantastic and strange without ever really noticing itThere is no jarring transition from the mundane to the fantastical; it seems perfectly natural that it should end up that way.

In terms of theme, Black Dog Rising is in some ways a traditional romance. The romantic tension between Emma and Toby is there from the start and runs throughout the story; two damaged people find each other and through mishap and circumstance are given an opportunity for a new life together. Yet, there is more to it than that. The narrative tackles ideas of loss, duty, revenge and sacrifice as we are drawn deeper into Toby's England.

Overall, I really enjoyed Black Dog Rising. If the idea of reading a paranormal romance is up your street in even the slightest sense, you will enjoy it, I'm sure. 100% recommended.

You can find Black Dog Rising here

Kat Caulberg's website is here


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