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Peak L C Barlow Main

"Peak (Jack Harper Trilogy Book 3)" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Rare Bird Books

peak l c barlow poster large

Written by L.C. Barlow
2021, 322 pages, Fiction
Released on October 12th, 2021

Review:

I was a huge fan of Pivot and Perish, the first two books in the Jack Harper Trilogy and although the concluding part has its moments and imaginative ideas, it is not a patch on its magnificent predecessors. If you have never heard of Jack Harper, I strongly suggest you click back and read the earlier reviews, as Peak is almost impossible to review without providing horrendous spoilers. Also, just to be absolutely clear, this conclusion will make less than zero sense unless you have read them in sequence. Both sequels pick up the action moments after the immediate conclusion of the predecessor, so it should be seen as one continuous story presented in three parts, which is played out over a relatively short period of time. Considering where Pivot opens, with a fascinating inner look at the inner workings of a cult, Peak ends up a million and one miles away, but lacks the suspense and intrigue from the earlier stages. Horror is abandoned and the action edges into the realms of urban fantasy and in doing so, much of the wind disappears from the sails. However, if you have read parts one and two, then dive straight into the conclusion, you may well be a bigger fan of it than I.

By way of recap, Pivot has a fascinating history, being originally self-published back in 2013 before a substantially rewritten version was picked up by Rare Bird Books some years later. The new version saw the much chunkier original sensibly halved into two much slicker parts; Pivot and Perish. The main character Jack is a member of a cult, but because she is completely isolated, the rest of the world is unaware of the sinister organisation she belongs to. Jack has been adopted by the leader Cyrus Harper, who teaches her a peculiar skill: that of assassination. Bizarrely, Cyrus also has the ability to bring the people he kills back to life, so Jack quite literally has killed the same few people hundreds of times over a number of years, bringing an enticing supernatural element to proceedings. They do say practice makes perfect, with Jack being bred to be a psychopath, she gets very, very, good at killing.

The million-dollar question revolves around how Cyrus Harper has the ability to bring the dead back to life and this is a major plot strand in the high-quality sequel, Perish. A substantial part of the continuation takes place in New York, with Jack struggling to survive and before returning to her killing ways. Around the same time, she receives letters from children who remain imprisoned by the cult, for deeply unpleasant motives which are revealed in Pivot, taking the story into even wilder supernatural territory with ‘The Builder’, who becomes a major part of the events of Peak. This middle book leans heavily into fantasy with the introduction of supernatural creatures, which were very reminiscent of creations which were a big deal in YA (specifically Paranormal Romance) a decade ago and I struggled to take them seriously because of this. At this point the book begins to lose momentum and as this is the major plot thrust in Peak, my interest began to wane as it got progressively more fantasy and less horror.

In books one and two, Jack is an outstanding character; she is presented almost as asexual, the product of her unique upbringing, and remains enigmatically difficult to get a handle on. She is undoubtedly a remorseless killer, but she does begin to show empathy. However, she stalls somewhat in Peak and as she becomes more powerful, loses many of the factors which made her so engaging in the first place. Much of the story is action-driven as she is thrown from crisis to crisis and there is not enough time for character development, which was a shame.

I also failed to find the central story hugely engaging, which revolves around a fight to the death with ‘The Builder’ or at least a complex plot to outwit him. As villains go, this guy is fairly dull, there is continual talk of him, but his appearances are fleeting and when he finally does pop up, he fails to fire the imagination and is rather underwhelming. All the quirkiness of the two previous novels disappears and we are presented with a standard ‘good versus evil’ storyline which is exactly like those YA novels I mentioned earlier, which had teenage girls swooning a decade ago. The problem is Jack is not exactly ‘good’ in the earlier entries in the series, nor is she a true hero, but circumstances lead to her becoming one of the most powerful beings (note, I did not say human) in the world and goes to battle with those who gave Cyrus his power in the first place. Truth be told, I much prefer her as a good old-fashioned psychopath.

Many of the characters from Pivot and Perish reappear, with some of the narrative being seen from Patrick, her drug-addicted friend’s point of view, as the balance between good and evil shifts, with Jack fighting to restore parity. Events partially played out like a race against the clock, which gets slightly repetitive. However, the return of her truly evil brother Alex does liven up proceedings.

As a conclusion, one could argue that Jake Harper deserves better, but this final part is just not as engaging as its predecessors and lacks the suspense that makes them such hits. Peak is by no means a bad book and I am sure there are fans of Pivot and Perish who will enjoy it more than I, but I was hoping for a conclusion that gave us something more than ageless immortals battling it out on another plane of existence.

Grades:

Overall: 3.5 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
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Buy from Amazon UK.

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About The Author
Tony Jones
Author: Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer - UK
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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