I love when I find an intricately complex book that manages to blend fantasy, drama, thrills, mystery, and action without becoming overtly confusing. While I wouldn't classify Hang Wire by Adam Christopher as an easy read, I really enjoyed this book. It has the elements I love in a mystery-styled novel, all while having the excitement of a proper thriller. Add in the fantasy elements, and this one was a winner for me.
Before I move on to what I liked (and ultimately didn't like) about this book, I want to expand on one of my comments in the introductory paragraph. This is not an easy read. If you go in expecting to be spoon fed every little detail, you'll get frustrated with this book. If you tend to read books by skimming for the main points, you're going to be flipping back and re-reading sections.
Take your time with this book. Read carefully. This will make sure you get the most out of this novel.
The TL;DR version: I like this book. It's a great book for anyone wanting a good, creative, contemporary fantasy novel. This story has a bit of everything, including strong characters balanced with an equally-strong plot.
Hang Wire is the story of one man, Ted Hall, who starts sleepwalking. Unfortunately, his forays at night coincide with the murders of the infamous Hang Wire killer. It is also the story of immortals, of being seeking power, and of the existence of power. It's a story of the past and the present. It's a story that spans generations, encompassing far more than just the here and now.
That doesn't tell you much, does it? This book is hard for me to describe in a short blurb because of its complexity. This is the fault of me as a reviewer — and one of the things I loved about this book.
This novel mixes a lot of sub-genres under a modern umbrella, so expect the unexpected and the fantastical, all at the same time. That's all I'm going to say about it, because I want you to step into this book without any spoilers.
It's a fun read.
I think that's why I liked this book so much. It's fun. It's different. It's quirky. It breaks all of the wrong rules in all of the right ways. Things that are often deal-breakers for me work in this book. Tenses are selected and used as tools in scenes, drawing attention to the subtle shifts in perspectives. Each character — each era of character — has a life all of their own, and it is expressed in the use of shifting tenses as a writing tool. It's a purposeful, well-done progression rather than an error.
When I first saw it happen in the book, I thought I was going a bit insane. I don't like shifts of this nature as a general rule. I went through a roller coaster ride's worth of thoughts on it, because by the time it started happening, I was already invested in the novel.
While it did keep the novel from being a 5* novel for me (I just can't make myself love one of the tenses — and I reserve 5*s for books I love everything about…), it didn't change the fact I thought this was a good story, and well worth the read. The characters are interesting, and how the tense shifting is used matches the book. It's not my particular cup of coffee, but it didn't tear me out of the book either. The characters, so diverse and unique, made sure I stayed invested all of the way through.
As a side note, this novel defied sub-genre for me. It has a lot of urban fantasy elements, in taking place in cities in various eras, and in modern era, but it's something more (and possibly less) as well.
If anything, Hang Wire tells the story of several different locations and times, which makes the urban presentation feel a little off to me. Some of the locations are urban, and have a great sense of wonder and history to them — others aren't. Some of the book takes place in times that are anything but modern, which makes this book really hard to place on the shelf for me.
At least I can say with confidence is that this book is definitely Paranormal, no matter how you look at it. It's definitely contemporary fantasy, too — but I still feel a little stuck on the urban labeling. (It's definitely not a romantic kissy kissy paranormal though, be assured of that.)
The book does start off very strong in setting, but it didn't maintain the sense of setting all the way throughout, at least not in the intensity I desire. I wanted a little more of this element, especially towards the climax of the novel.
This is personal preference, as I'm sure other readers will gobble down the settings used without thinking twice about it.
I'll just say one thing: I'm really glad I didn't live in the San Francisco portrayed at the start of the novel. And as a bonus second thing: I absolutely adore his portrayal of Old San Francisco — even though I definitely wouldn't have wanted to live there.
There are a lot of things I could say about this book, but to do so would be to spoil some of the marvelously creative things within these pages. So, I'll leave you with this:
Please read carefully so you don't miss a thing.