Managing Death by Trent Jamieson

Rating 8.0/10
The dreams of Death are cold, dark and troubled, the life of Death even more so.

No rest from Death, no sleep everlasting. Death, boundless, hungry and eternal stirs, gnawing and biting, filling every moment and breath with the sound of beating hearts and an end to life. Steven de Selby, newly elevated Regional Manager of Death struggles with his new responsibilities, all of which is not helped by the God of the Stirrers growing in power and dragging its primordial essence to the world of the living. To make matters worse Steven must organise this year’s Death Moot, the gathering of the Worlds other Regional Managers. Having that many murderous psychopaths in one place only adds to the problem that another mad man is now trying to kill him and the ones he loves. Coincidences only happen to the living.

There is a discrete difference between Death Most Definite and Managing Death, and the best way to describe it would be to say there is more wholeness to this instalment than the previous book. Maybe as the reader, I was more familiar with the characters and their world, but truthfully it feels more than that. If I had to pick one reason, I think Jamieson had grown in confidence and belief in the story and its characters, which shines in the writing.

The perspective in Managing Death has moved from outer to inner and is a welcome change.  The read and as such the characters are more contained and focused. In Death Most Definite the reader was shifted around Brisbane CBD, surrounding suburbs and countryside, which in hindsight felt a little diluted.  In the sequel the scenarios are well defined, the characters and story is centred in several key locations without jumping around, which enables the reader to immerse themselves in the locus of the scene and drill down on the plot and writing, both of which come across wonderfully.

The pace of the story was constant and well timed, spiking in the right places and sloping in others, this reflects well in the plot development for Steven and the events surrounding him. Suffering from the choices he had to make to survive in Death Most Definite, the loss of his parents, getting Lissa back and the pressures of the new job, he initially buckles under the stress before having to pick himself up from the bottom of a bottle. Death, Gods and Regional Managers aside Jamieson is telling us a story of friendship, love and the effort of rebuilding a life after a major trauma, holding onto the events of your past, its dreams and family as best you can. These elements, while only a modest but central piece in the overall story, do stand out and allow you to empathise with Steven's character.

Managing Death gives us flashes concerning the approach of the God of the Stirrers and an introduction to greater concepts of Death, such as the Hungry Death (boundless, hungry and eternal) and the Death of the Sea. These new editions are solid pieces of fiction, which are the sprinkles on top of the new twist Jamieson takes with Death.  I am already looking forward to seeing what new Deathy magic book three will bring.

Much like Death Most Definite, we are given an overall threat and a taste of an underlying conspiracy occurring, one which Steven doesn’t see coming as forces and persons outside his control drive and provoke his choices.  The scheme, when finally revealed and while not an earth shattering surprise was one well thought out with only the barest of hints written throughout the book. I actually didn’t mind this, it was refreshing to not see the twist coming as sometimes an author can add just one too many clues with what's to come, detracting from the plot.

When Death Most Definite finished and the original Regional Manager, Mr D, took up residence in the One Tree an agreement was made that he teaches Steven the ropes and pitfalls of the job. While Mr D appearances are short lived, I really didn’t feel they added much to the storyline. If this was such a big element I felt they could have been bumped up a notch in mystery and relevance, as they came across very flat. I do hope that in The Business of Death, book three, he will have a greater role to play.

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