By Grace Gardener
Sometimes, reading can be a bit tiring. I’ll still want to enjoy a story, but I don’t want to put in as much effort as I usually do. Thankfully, I’ve found a solution: books that don’t take themselves all too seriously. No long words unless the book is trying to be funny, worldbuilding that doesn’t require me to picture a whole ecosystem in my head, and characters who are ridiculously funny and stupid. That about sums up all of Kyle Robert Schultz’s books, collectively titled the Afterverse. What the books “lack” in difficulty, they make up for in quantity: as of this writing, there 5 series (all in the same world and story), making up a total of 18 short stories and 7 books. Thankfully, they read away easily!
Since the stories don’t really follow the same people, I’ll give a quick description of the main series around which all other books and stories revolve: Beaumont & Beasley. Every different series in the “universe” can be read and understood separately, so there is no need to read them all. Nick Beasley is a private detective in 1922 E.A. (Ever After). His main job involves proving to people that they are not, in fact, cursed, but simply unfortunate. Magic is not something he believes in, and fairy tales are – according to him – a thing for the uneducated masses. However, when the Earl of Whitlock enlists his help solving a mystery, he and his brother Crispin are pushed nose-first into the actual truth behind the city’s modern exterior.
What I loved about the Afterverse books was, first of all, the humour. First of all, the chapter titles (“Ouch”, “Logic and Proportion”, “Otter-nal Love”) were so dumb they were hilarious. Characters were clumsy dolts, but not in a contrived or annoying way. I could still see myself in them. There was also a lot of banter between characters. Something I did start to notice, however, when I read the companion series Crockett & Crane, was that the banter was virtually unchanged between the main male and female protagonists. The dynamic between Todd and Amy in those books was pretty much the same as the dynamic between Nick and Cordelia in Beaumont and Beasley.
Just because a book is light reading does not mean it should underperform in the emotion and plot areas. The Afterverse books do not disappoint. The plot becomes a lot more complicated when the author introduces the infamous time-travelling trope. Personally, I never try to understand what’s going on and just roll with it when people start jumping, so I really have no idea how coherent it is. I will say, however, that it causes some gut-punching emotional reveals. Book 3 of Beaumont and Beasley, The Stroke of Eleven, really went all in trying to make me cry. Because of the heavy emotional plotlines and pretty scary scenes, I would say these books are 13+.
What I did not appreciate was how often and in what way the possession trope was used. I don’t mind when characters get possessed, as long as it is seen as a bad thing. This was not so in the books: possession is a useful tool to be more powerful, and Nick’s curse manifests itself as a person in his dreams – a person he will have to “kill” to get rid of the curse. I really dislike this trope because it undermines the sanctity of the body, treating it like it’s some object to rent out. By having spirits just come in and take over the body as if it were a machine implies that the body is not important: it’s just a vessel your spirit is using. This is not a Biblical approach, and it also sends the message that opening yourself up to outside influence is a good idea. I don’t necessarily believe the author holds this low view of the body simply because he uses a trope, I’m just saying the trope itself inherently invokes this worldview.
All things considered, I’d say Kyle Robert Schultz’s books are suitable and fun for people over the age of 13. There are some parts that I don’t like as much, but the humour and emotional stakes are amazing, largely due to the amazing protagonists. Although there are quite a few books, it’s not necessary to read them all; separate series and books can be appreciated on their own. Not only that, but the books are easy reads. I’d say they’re the perfect lazy read for when you don’t have the energy for something intellectual.