cover image The Burning Man: Kingdom of the Serpent, Book 2

The Burning Man: Kingdom of the Serpent, Book 2

Mark Chadbourn. Pyr, $17.95 trade paper (404p) ISBN 978-1-61614-611-5

The final battle against the Void looms in this Gnostic mix-up as the champions of Existence, the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, travel the globe to seek the hidden Keys that will unleash magic and undo the Mundane Spell. Jack "Church" Churchill (from 2012's Jack of Ravens) and companions follow cryptic clues to confrontations with Norse, Greek, Egyptian, and Chinese gods, before taking a stroll off the Empire State Building through an invisible cloud maze. Faced with betrayals and the suspect reformation of nemesis Ryan Veitch, Church and his team have to decide who to sacrifice and who to save as the Army of the Ten Billion Spiders starts to overrun reality. Chadbourn again blends humor, horror, and mythology in a dimension-hopping epic that could use a few scorecards to tell players and teams apart, especially where scenes like those involving the Burning Man (as in the real annual counterculture festival) are undermined by muddled moralizing. Still, readers looking for hard-nosed heroes will enjoy a bunch who adopts the motto, "No Happy Endings." (Apr.)