The Brotherhood of the Wheel
by R.S. Belcher
Cover Artist: Getty Images / Shutterstock
Review by Katie Carmien
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765380289
Date: 01 March 2016 List Price $27.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The roads of America are protected by the Brotherhood of the Wheel--descendants of the Knights Templar committed to guarding humanity. Now a new evil has arisen, connected with the mysterious black-eyed kids, urban legends who aren't so legendary. Into this mess fall four very different people: Jimmy Aussapile, trucker and seasoned Knight; Heck Sinclair, a young biker who is both more and less than human, and who must become Jimmy's squire; Lovina Marceau, a police officer with a burgeoning gift who's made it her mission to find missing children ever since her sister was kidnapped; and Ava James, a college student trapped in a sinister town. Each of them holds a piece of the puzzle--and they need to act fast, or Armageddon's on the way.
There's a lot to love in The Brotherhood of the Wheel, so let's start with all the good. The world is hugely compelling and original, weaving together urban legends such as the black-eyed kids and the vanishing hitchhiker with old Celtic myth and throwing in some original spins, like roadwitches who draw their power from highways and the Knights Templar having become truckers and taxi drivers. The monsters are genuinely frightening even when Jimmy and company are clearly about to win, because Belcher paints vivid descriptions and it's always very clear what would happen if our heroes weren't there.
The characters, though, are what really carries the story. As the oldest and most settled character, Jimmy doesn't have a lot of developing to do, but he doesn't need to--his role is to anchor the story, and he does. Heck is lots of fun with some deeper conflict about who and what he is, and Ava is likewise great, with her determination and courage. The minor characters, like Doctor Maxine "Max" Leher, are vividly drawn even with the limited focus on them, and it makes me want to know more. But it's Lovina who really shines--she's complex, driven, smart, and frankly just cool. (She also had excellent chemistry with Max, which I want to see more of!)
If I have any complaints, it's that the story can meander somewhat--everything Belcher includes is relevant, but he can go a touch too slowly sometimes. The prose is also a little workaday, and he dumps character descriptions in a way that seems intrusive (two of the main four characters end up with looking-in-the-mirror descriptions, for example). But that doesn't particularly impede my enjoyment of the story.
In the end, The Brotherhood of the Wheel is a terribly hopeful book. The heroes can't save everyone from the monsters, but in the end they win the day--and while there might be another battle on the horizon, there's also family and friends and good things ahead. The world and characters are equally compelling. For a riveting, high-octane dose of magic and horror with an upbeat ending, R.S. Belcher has the reader covered.