Review: Cannibal Hearts

Cannibal Hearts

Flying SaucerFlying SaucerFlying Saucer

Three flying saucers
(3 out of 4 rating)

Cannibal Hearts is the sequel to Catskinner’s Book, which I reviewed last year. Although paranormal/urban fantasy isn’t my favorite sub-genre, I enjoyed Catskinner’s book. To me, the best aspects of the story were a world where it felt like anything could happen, and the dual nature of the main character (not in some boring literary or psychological sense; it’s more like demonic possession).

All of the characters who survived the first book reappear, as do a few of the paranormal elements, such as a dimension-bending garden supply store, heavy metal men, and hermaphrodite love interests. One of the latter appeared in a sex scene which romance readers might find tame, but was the most explicit thing I’ve ever seen in print. So, although I think the main character might resonate with younger readers, I wouldn’t recommend the book to them.

In the middle portion of the book, I would have appreciated a faster pace, as the characters simply went about everyday work and social activities. I think the author was trying to portray that the main character had settled into a routine which could then be disrupted by a violent attack, but to me the routine activities lasted too long and the action scenes were a bit brief.

However, once the bad guy sent his minions after the good guys, I enjoyed those brief action scenes. I found the first attack humorous, which I believe was the author’s intention, and there was quite a bit of tension to the two follow-up attacks.

I also enjoyed the settings in the story, such as an abandoned factory, a Mississippi River gambling boat, and a poorly-designed medical center. [I don’t mean that the medical center was poorly described by the author, rather that the author described its design flaws.]

This book’s ending seemed a little stronger than that of the previous book, but I felt it could have ended a chapter or two earlier. My opinion is probably wrong, however, as I find myself thinking this about many books and films. When I watch “Star Wars”, I think the story ends when the Death Star blows up; I don’t need a scene where the characters get medals pinned on their chests. Let me know in the comments section if you enjoy these “cooldown” scenes/chapters. Do you think ending a story with a BOOM is too abrupt?

Returning to Cannibal Hearts, there were several loose ends which I’m assuming will be wrapped up in future books. I was particularly intrigued by a certain type of “lost city” which was hinted at, and I hope it will be rediscovered in a future book.


  1. Worlds where it felt like anything cld happen are those I wld like to create!
    Good to see u again!

  2. Reblogged this on mishaburnett and commented:

    Very thoughtful review of Cannibal Hearts.

  3. Excellent review – makes me want to look at both books. I am not sure about ending with a boom. I am not sure about standing around getting metals either. I’d rather they ran off towards more adventures – make the reader envision life and excitement following – I think it is the writers job to offer possibilities. Neither too pat nor too harsh – but every book is different and some have to have that kind of ending. Obviously if you are left unhappy – I’d say they should do an edit.

  4. I love Misha’s books, especially The Worms of Heaven. His character development is awesome. It seemed to offer more closure rather than hanging on the cliff’s edge. I get frustrated with series that do that. My own series Book One had a soft ending and, although some of my beta readers loved it, my editor said it needed to go. Once the villain was presumably killed in a dramatic explosion the book needed to end with the pairing of the PI and his new sidekick. To go beyond that to a visit to his race track to adopt a greyhound in an effort to show character growth and an ability to accept commitment seriously weakened the ending and dragged the reader along into slow scene that didn’t need to exist.

    1. Did you manage to work the material into a later book?

      1. I haven’t yet and not sure if I’ll use it. But I like the story without it. That’s what was important to me. 🙂

  5. I think the value of a “cooldown” scene depends on the content. I agree that the medals scene is unnecessary, but I do like it when we see a brief glimpse of aftermath. Otherwise the ending can feel a bit abrupt and leave you hanging. It depends on how complex the story is and how many threads need to be tied up.

    1. Hmm, I do like the idea of an aftermath scene. Also, now that I think a bit more, if an author knew a book were the last in a series, then readers really might appreciate a cooldown showing the likely future of the important characters.

  6. […] Misha Burnett gave me an audiobook of his third novel, The Worms Of Heaven. I’ve already reviewed the two previous novels, Catskinner’s Book and Cannibal Hearts. […]

  7. […] Burnett. I’ve interviewed Misha, and reviewed several of his books: Catskinner’s Book, Cannibal Hearts, and The Worms of Heaven. I think he hit a home run with this HP Lovecraft-inspired story. […]

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