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Wow, my friends. It took me a while to get this review of R.S. Belcher's second installment of the Brotherhood of the Wheel series, and I do apologize, but here it is. To paraphrase a couple of lovable hillbillies, it's a doozy of a book! So let's dive right in, shall we?
Jimmie, Heck, Lovina, and Max are all back for some wild and crazy shit. The fireworks start pretty much right away (where there's Heck, there's fire), and they just don't stop. The characters spend most of the book on separate paths, and you aren't always sure where it's going.
We learn more about the Brotherhood (and the other two spokes of the Wheel), including a new aspect of travel: the rail. Book one introduced the Road and how it attracts magic—generally of the bad kind. The Rail works similarly, being comprised of the U.S. rail system. This means hobos and their modern incarnation, nomads. (I had actually never head of nomads before this book, so I found that pretty interesting.)
And killer clowns. Yes, if you suffer from coulrophobia, King of the Road will give you nightmares. (It may give you nightmares anyway, just saying.) Plus this is Belcher, so they aren't ordinary killer clowns, oh no, no, no. Also, there are Juggalos. (Just roll with it.)
We get to learn more about Heck and his mysterious past, the demon inside that he wrestles with, and his complicated relationship with his deceased stepfather Ale, who raised him. We also learn more about Jimmie's past with Ale and Elizabeth (Ale's wife and Heck's mother).
More of every characters' interpersonal relationships are explored, making them even more real and endearing. The barbecue at the Aussapile's is so full of homey nostalgia, it's adorable. I love Jimmie's solid relationship with his wife Layla. You don't see much of the kids in this one, but a lot more of Layla, which I enjoyed. There are a few good scenes between Jimmie and his dad, too, who was also of the Brotherhood.
Much, much, much to my utter delight, the budding relationship that was sort of taunting me at the end of the previous book between Lovina and Max is further explored. I am so very excited to see Lovina explore her new feelings and growing understanding of her sexuality in the future. (I could be mistaken, but I think it's new on Max's side, as well, though I don't think it was talked about as much as Lovina's.)
A lot of people died in Brotherhood of the Wheel. Be prepared for a lot more carnage. And heartache. King is an emotional roller coaster from beginning to end, mixed in with a little bit of love, a little bit of sex, a lot of mystery, and, of course, magic. I think I feared for the life of every single character in the book at one point or another.
I have some suspicions on what one new character signifies and their past with the Blue Jocks and Jimmie is, but I won't spoil it, and I assume they will tie into a future book. I hope to see nomad Dusty in a future book, as well, and his insane (har har, you'll see what I mean) brand of magic.
While Brotherhood could have been a standalone book, King more than hints at a sequel. That isn't to say that I was left grasping at loose threads, Belcher is too good of an author for that, but there is some unfinished business between some of the characters that I am intrigued to learn more about.
The wheel turns...