It's been years since I've dived into a world weaved by Braunbeck - I remember him as serious, sobering, and depressing. I also remember him as creative with his plot structure, hard to put down, and good with blending dark-fantasy horror. This book fits my memory of his others - a complex story that isn't merely about a killer figurine as I figured. In fact, the back cover is so vague based on what the story is really about (who writes these lazy blurbs?)
I won't fill review space laying out all the plot here, I'll let you find out yourself if you read this one, but let's just say there are different structures that tie together about midway through. Not really a straight protagonist to follow, this one has grey characters who are bordering on black most of the way through. Tragedy forms their motivations and and downfall, for they're tainted by cruelties of the world that aren't fun to read about. Child abuse, child neglect and abandonment, isolation in grief, all sobering stuff. Mr. Hands makes the point of getting a sort of vigilante justice that goes upside down on the misled crusaders.
Pacing stays focused and the story never grows boring. I especially liked the bar where certain characters gather - the shelf with the objects that all hold stories was a nice touch. I got a small fairy tale vibe from this story, from Mr Hands and the man at the carnival, to childlike wishes for very adult situations, to mystical ways of solving things. Bleak but interesting. Braunbeck writes well and spends plenty of time in the characters heads with effective inner monologue, even if sometimes the characters can seem a little straight-forward and simple in their thought processes.
It's certainly note a tale that exists to use shock value, violence for violence sake, and senseless gore. It's an emotional punch wrapped around an intriguing story, not a simple horror tale, but a sobering one of the sad realities of the world of which there is no right or wrong solution.