I’ve been a fan of ‘Nathan Burgoine’s short fiction since reading his first published story “Heart” in the critically acclaimed anthology Fool For Love: New Gay Fiction. To say that I eagerly awaited the release of Light, the author’s first novel, is a bit of an understatement. As it turns out my anticipation and excitement were well founded. In Light, Mr. Burgoine brings together elements of several sub-genres including action/adventure, fantasy/urban fantasy, horror, the paranormal, suspense and romance to write an incredibly charming, funny, action-packed and by degrees sexy page-turning superhero adventure that I could not read fast enough and devoured in one sitting.
Kieran Quinn is an unassuming massage therapist, with a penchant for tea and his cat Easter. He’s also a bit telepathic, a little psychokinetic, and very gay. He loves Pride Week and plans his annual vacation to coincide with the Pride festivities and events of Ottawa’s LGBTQ community. Kieran considers his powers to be somewhat underwhelming, even though he has the ability to refract light, bending it into spectacular rainbows behind which he is able to hide; he can move objects with his mind; and can both hear the thoughts of others and project his own. But when bible thumping evangelist Wyatt Jackson (a.k.a. Stigmatic Jack) and his Church of the Testifying Prophet show up at the Opening Ceremonies of Ottawa’s Pride Week things take a violent turn and Kieran has no choice but to step up and protect his community.
Stigmatic Jack unleashes his hatred and violence on LGBTQ community members and their allies gathered to watch the Openning Ceremony festivities and many are injured, including Sebastien LaRoche, a sexy leather man and Pride organizer, who Kieran saves and the sparks between the two immediately begin to fly. Despite Kieran’s reluctance about his supernatural powers and his fear of being discovered, he makes it his mission to rid the world of the evil Stigmatic Jack and his followers with the help of his new boyfriend Sebastien, the wisdom and guidance of his dreamscape friend Miracle Woman and even inquisitive police detective David Stone.
The story is narrated in the first person from Kieran’s perspective and the character is an absolute joy to read. A reluctant superhero, with the perfect mix of: cuteness and geek; shyness and sass; confidence and klutz. In Kieran, Mr. Burgoine has created a character that is completely accessible to the reader – an ordinary guy with extraordinary powers, who’s reluctant to be branded a superhero. He’s quick-witted and smart-mouthed, compassionate and kind, sexy and bit of a goof all rolled-up into one. The character had me grinning ear-to-ear throughout the story, except when I was too busy laughing out loud. While Kieran pretty much steals the show, he doesn’t do so alone. The author has created an excellent cast of supporting characters, starting with Sebastien LaRoche, Kieran’s hunky leather man boyfriend, his bossy but well-meaning best friend Karen, his pesky but loveable brother Callum, the somewhat elusive Miracle Woman and handsome and sympathetic police detective David Stone.
Mr. Burgoine sets an excellent pace throughout the story incrementally ramping up the tension and suspense as Kieran faces off with Stigmatic Jack in a series of fight scenes leading to an extremely climatic ending. One aspect of the writing that stood out for me was the tightness of these scenes during which total chaos and destruction ensue. The scenes are intricately choreographed and the descriptions of Kieran’s powers in action equally substantive. And yet, there is no confusion and the reader never loses the thread of the action from beginning to end.
The action and suspense is balanced with the goings on in Kieran’s everyday life, and as much as this story is about Kieran’s fight against evil and those who would harm his community it is also about Kieran’s life and relationships. Bitter sweetness with emotional integrity is one staple of Mr. Burgoine’s writing style and the author begins the novel with Kieran’s backstory and a poignant glimpse into the nature of Kieran’s relationship and lasting bond with his mother. Fast-forwarding to the present, the romance between Kieran and Sebastien emerges as a strong secondary plot throughout the story. There is great chemistry between these two and much of the sexual tension between them comes through their dialogue, as Mr. Burgoine fades to black for many of their love scenes. I found that less was definitely more in this regard because it allows the reader to let loose their imagination as the on-page sexual sparks begin to fly. The author also gives us glimpses into Kieran’s relationship with his best friend Karen and the family dynamic with his brother Callum, providing the reader with a well-rounded portrayal of Kieran’s life and the people that matter to him.
Finally, as someone who shares Mr. Burgoine’s city, I loved the fact the story is set in Ottawa. Through Kieran’s comings and goings the author provides the reader with an ample sense of Ottawa’s sights, sounds and environs, including the heart of the city’s Gay Village, and an overall slice of contemporary (local) Canadiana.
I was easily able to sink into this great story from page one and lose myself in Kieran’s world and journey, with plenty of smiles and laughter along the way. The only issue I had with Light is that, even with a length of some 200 plus pages, the story ended much too quickly for me. But, Mr. Burgoine leaves the door slightly ajar for the possibility of more super heroic adventures involving Kieran and his crew. Here’s hoping.
Light is a breath of fresh air – an extremely well written feel good story that I cannot recommend enough!