'Sleeping in Flame' is a slow burn, har har. Thoughtful, and with well-drawn characters, Carroll knows what he's doing. Or, rather, he would if he hadn't put in the 'Goosebumps' ending. Two star deduction for faltering and grabbing the balance beam.
Putting fantasy in a near-real world setting is tricky. Most authors rush in and by page 50 your New York copywriter or Midwestern housewife are nonchalantly besting wizards and becoming elf-friends, no big deal. But Carroll takes his time developing Walker Easterling and his relationships, evoking the Vienna setting, and offering only teasers and a few mysterious run-ins before the roller-coaster second half of the book takes over.
The dark side of the fairy tales, and stories from our childhood, and hundreds of years further back, threatens to be over-mined, but Carroll has a fresh spin on the story he chose and had me won over with the seamless transition from reality to fantasy. I'd been hearing a lot of good things about Jonathan Carroll, and 'Sleeping in Flame' (mostly) doesn't fail to live up to the praise. I'll definitely be reading more from him.