In case you missed the blitz, BOOKBURNERS is an awesome urban fantasy for lovers of The Librarians. It follows a secret team with the goal of hunting down books that contain dangerous magic.
Magic is real, and hungry. It’s trapped in ancient texts and artifacts, and only a few who discover it survive to fight back. Detective Sal Brooks is a survivor. She joins a Vatican-backed black-ops anti-magic squad—Team Three of the Societas Librorum Occultorum—and together they stand between humanity and the magical apocalypse. Some call them the Bookburners. They don’t like the label.
Supernatural meets The Da Vinci Code in a fast-paced, kickass character driven novel chock-full of magic, mystery, and mayhem, written collaboratively by a team of some of the best writers working in fantasy
How to make contrast work? Bookburners features an international ensemble cast—New York cop Sal Brooks, Guatemalan Jesuit Arturo Menchú, mysterious heavy-hitter Grace Chen, tatooed hacker Liam Doyle, and Doctor Asanti, the Vatican Archivist in charge of storing and cataloguing magical books. And, since the serial’s a collaborative project, co-written by Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty, Brian Frances Slattery, and myself, each episode features its own author’s pace and vision. Contrast is key—but only if the contrasts reinforce one another, rather than leaving the reader confused.
In mix-making as in showrunning, transition and balance are key. Where does episode eight leave us, and how should episode nine start? If episode six hit our concept’s horror notes hard, perhaps it’s time for a lighter, more high-concept beat. When do you let the readers have fun, and when do you try to make them think the whole world could come apart?
Christiansands – Tricky, Pre-Millennium Tension
Christiansands is our first alternative for the Bookburners credits, highlighting the show’s horror notes with Tricky’s petrifying bass and ghostlike vocals, with a vaguely international, European edge through the lyrics—perfect for our globetrotting Vatican agents. The track’s a bit grim for us, but its outro continues the tonal character of the intro, lending it that dreamlike feeling we try to evoke with our magic, and that features so intensely in Brian’s episodes. And that chilling, disorienting outro gives us just the right edge to jump into:
Comfort Eagle – Cake, Comfort Eagle
A blaring, horns-forward start, up-tempo, Tricky’s disorientation giving way to driving pop licks—a transition only made possible by the slow fade out of the previous track. Comfort Eagle highlights Bookburners’ pace, its sense of humor and looming disaster all at the same time—“The only one to turn to when your castles turn to sand.” The World of Bookburners is glitzy, exciting—and always on the verge of self destruction.
John the Revelator – Ollabelle, Ollabelle
And now the overall religious theme becomes clear—and the slow approach of apocalypse. Ollabelle melds the two preceding tracks—the drum beat keeps us moving, but the bass lurches like in Christiansands, and the scraped, produced vocals clash weirdly with the chorus. I think of this as the team’s walk-out music: our heroes set against the looming apocalypse. This feels very Sal for me, too, because of its American emphasis.
Amazing Grace – Blind Boys of Alabama, Spirit of the Century
By this point we’ve removed most of the production and taken ourselves down to a slow, slow sound, vocals and bass and guitar. By setting Amazing Grace to the tune of House of the Rising Sun, the Blind Boys of Alabama highlight not only the current religiosity, but its root in a life of sin and suffering. Arturo Menchú and Liam Doyle both know that story in their bones—Menchú’s lived through his mistakes in the Church, but Liam came to his faith late, after losing himself to experiments with techno-magic, and being possessed by a demon.
Azamane Tiliade – Bombino, Nomad
Adding a little fuzz on vocals and guitar, but continuing the long male vocal lines, slides us into another tradition entirely, a little more up-tempo. A track for the hard-driving action and exploration parts of Bookburners—not to mention the occasional flares of romance.
The Future – Leonard Cohen, The Future
This is Asanti’s theme song—or at least, it’s how she sees the world. Asanti, more than anyone in Team Three, knows that the current state of affairs is unsustainable. Magic is flowing back into the world; Team Three’s methods solve symptoms, but they don’t solve the problem. The future’s coming—and it’s murder.
Diablo Rojo – Rodrigo y Gabriela, Rodrigo y Gabriela
More devils, more intense action backdrop, meshing the pace of The Future with the acoustic guitar focus that will smooth the transition markedly down-tempo into…
Pacing the Cage, Bruce Cockburn, The Charity of Night
Basically Arturo Menchú’s theme song. As the leader of Team Three, Menchú has spent his life in the service of the Church, trying to protect his team and the people of the world—and sometimes failing. This song captures Menchú at his darkest and most contemplative, a man trying to find his role in a world that won’t allow him more time to think.
20th of April, Oysterband, Trawler
Picking up the acoustics from Pacing the Cage, and some of the tonality, we have Liam’s theme. 20th of April contrasts the wild abandon of Liam’s past with his current wistful memory—he’s not sure how to relate to the people he knew (and the people he hurt) back in his glory days, but he’s trying. But that potential abandon always lingers just out of reach…
Bored of the Raging, The Deadly Gentlemen, Roll Me Tumble Me
This is mostly here because I really like the song! And because it eases the transition to…
Black Annis – Solas, Reunion
Grace’s song. There’s no Annis in Grace’s life, exactly, but she’s had the same feeling of being drawn into a world beyond her control, finding herself trapped within it and empowered by it. Grace, more than any of our other heroes, knows the cost of dealing with magic—and the danger of coming so close you get burned.
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful – Florence and the Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
I think of this as a big end credits number: the religious imagery, and the Doors of Perception theme of the chorus: our heroes and their adversaries open doors, and the world behind them rushes through. And Sal, Liam, Grace, Menchú, and Asanti have to answer that last big question: what are we going to do now?
Thanks Max! I definitely need to check out some of these songs.
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