I picked up Quarter Square by David Bridger, because it looked like one of those books where the hero steps through a hidden door into a secret world that borders the world we know. I like those kind of books. It’s a neat idea, to think that there is more to this world, or more beside this world, than we know. There are days when we could all use a little magic.
But Quarter Square only started out that way. Joe Walker does discover that the theater he is restoring in Plymouth is the bridge to a different, wilder world. And that the street performers who work in area surrounding his theater are all part of the magic.
Joe’s process of discovery would have made for a good story. He finally feels like he’s an insider in “The Wild,” not the outsider he’s been all his life. He falls in love with a woman named Min, who has real magic. Of course, he has a rival for Min’s affections who does not want to give her up. His reconstruction of the old theater he owns is going to be difficult in a lot of practical ways, as well as magical ones. That was the story I was expecting, and it made up about a quarter of the one I got.
Then Joe’s ex-wife and ex-partner got murdered, and Joe was hauled off as the logical suspect. They had become his “exes” after he found them in bed together, and it hadn’t been all that long ago. The story problem: well, they had been murdered by a werewolf. And some of the cops knew it. The story started heading for X-Files territory at that point.
But it didn’t stick with the X-Files, either. Joe was released from custody since what little evidence they had proved he wasn’t the murderer, and the police left him with a whole bunch of dire warnings. Then his new girlfriend tells him that she’s an 11,000 year old nature goddess and he’s her long-lost consort. She’s been waiting about a century for him to reincarnate again. After this segue into mythology I just hung on for the ride, waiting to see what would happen next.
I thought my “willing suspension of disbelief” had been completely shot but there was one more blow coming. It turned out that the werewolf who murdered Joe’s exes was a powerful wizard who had been pursuing her Goddess-self for all of those 11,000 years. In other words, the werewolf was immortal too. And, they needed to run, straight into the heart of the Wild, where there was a neolithic lost tribe that would hide them for a little while. They turned out to be werewolves, too.
At the end, everyone came back to the “real” world, into the middle of a biker gang war!
Escape Rating: C-. Any one of the threads in this book would have made a good story. The other world on the border of this one. The cops knowing about magic. The goddess bound to her one true love, waiting for him to reincarnate so they can be together. The lost tribes hanging on in the heart of the secret world. I just wish the author had picked one and stuck with it.