When you read a fantasy series, you can often expect plot arcs that span across books. I wasn’t expecting that when I picked up Benson’s historical and medical series, but it’s starting to look like this series has multi-book plot arcs. When I wrote about The Plague Tales, I wrote that I was disappointed that I didn’t get the disaster I was expecting. It looks like that disaster is finally happening in book two, Burning Road.
In Burning Road, the historical plot jumps about ten years and takes place during the Jacquerie Rebellion of 1358. The current plot seems like it’s taking place only a few months after the events of The Plague Tales. Instead of the plots mirroring each other, with both doctors trying to fight outbreaks of bubonic plague, these plots don’t mesh nearly as well in this book. The historical plot follows Alejandro and his adopted daughter’s struggles to survive in the extremely volatile political climate of post-plague France. The modern plot is frankly bizarre, with Janie Crowe trying to uncover a very disturbing cover-up involving some illegal genetics work and then running into a second epidemic of drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
It’s kind of strange to have gotten two books into a series and still have no real idea where it’s all going. I’m wondering if Benson is one of those authors who sits down to write without an outline, in spite of the amount of structure these books have in terms of plot mirroring.