Review: Almost Damned by Chris Leibig

Title: Almost Damned
Author: Chris Leibig
Format: Paperback
Pages: 209
Genre: Legal thriller/magical realism/paranormal

Reading Time: 2hrs 58mins
Date Finished: March 24, 2021

Content Warnings: Alcoholism, racial slurs, murder, incest, psychological manipulation, religious gaslighting

What Worked For Me: The religious research; the ending
What Didn’t Work For Me: Pretty much everything else

Seeing as I didn’t enjoy the first book, I knew going into the sequel would be kind of rough. This book focuses a lot more on the religious elements of the story and speculative Biblical history. I bring this up because it’s something I had a lot of issues with as the story progressed, seeing as it didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

This story explores more of the supernatural world that was established in the first book, leading up to a really big court case that Sam Young, the main character, is preparing for. He spends a good portion of the book researching Biblical history and trying to understand why his life is suddenly in danger.

To put it simply, this book made even less sense to me. The first 144 pages had me completely lost and I found myself unable to keep track of anything that was going on. I didn’t understand why the characters were suddenly going by different names, there was almost no explanation as to why Sam was being targeted by random people or why they were after him, and connections were being “revealed” which made absolutely no sense to me.

I think that the Biblical element of the book was well researched, but it’s not something every reader would grasp the significance of. Being a Christian and having been educated quite extensively on Biblical history throughout school, I found it easy to understand what was being creatively interpreted for the sake of the story. To me, it felt borderline heretical, but readers outside the Christian or Catholic faith will probably feel differently. That being said, I think the average reader would struggle to follow the religious plotline because so much of it is rooted in knowing early Biblical history.

It’s hard to talk about the issues I had with the religious elements of the book without spoiling it, but I will say that anyone who has a good grasp of early Biblical history could easily find all the flaws in this plotline. The two biggest conflicts could be explained away with a very simple answer and it would have solved everything and negated the story. While there was clear research put into this book, it wasn’t enough to excuse this major oversight.

There was also the issue of racial slurs that were used in the book. I know for a fact that this was written recently, as the book was released on April 1, 2021. However, the terms “ch*nk” and “g*psy” were used to intentionally insult two characters. It was completely uncalled for, not that there is any good reason to use those words, and repeated a few times. The use shocked me because the book never used language like that before, and I felt that the author should have known better than to use those terms in the current social climate. While the intent was to be insulting, I don’t think it was necessary to use those words in the book and I felt incredibly offended to the point where I had to put the book down for a while.

As with the first book, Sam’s psychic abilities continued to confuse me. I still didn’t understand how they worked or how he discovered that he had them. It seemed to have almost no logical or discernable rules around its usage and I was consistently frustrated by the lack of explanation. It was like I was expected to know the rules the way the author knew them, except that I didn’t.

In all honesty, I think my struggle with this book has a lot to do with the fact that I’m a Christian and I have learned a lot about the Bible and its history. My knowledge of it meant that I saw the flaws in the story and couldn’t wrap my head around the explanations, or lack thereof, as to why things were the way they were. I wasn’t able to suspend my belief at all because I was expected to take the story’s “explanation” at face value when there was nothing to back it up.

I did enjoy the final courtroom scene as it was the most exciting thing about the two books. I had fun reading about the legal arguments on both sides, though I believe the case would have fallen apart quite easily with a single argument that was never made. However, my feelings on that are due to my knowledge of Biblical history and I think non-Christian/Catholic readers would find the proceedings more believable or plausible.

There’s little I have to say that’s positive about this book. I do feel bad because the author’s publicist reached out to me and I was sent these two books for free. Unfortunately, I’m not in the target audience and my background as a veteran thriller reader and Christian made me critique the story more heavily than other readers might.

If you want to hear more specific/spoilery thoughts about the book, I do have a vlog in which I discuss more of the things I had a problem with and why.

Thank you to Sabrina Dax and Chris Leibig for sending me a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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