Book Review: The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl

Charlie has been a ferryman, an immortal who guides recently passed souls into the afterlife, for 250 years and has never failed a single assignment. But one day he gets special instructions---save Alice before she commits suicide, or continue being a ferryman. Charlie saves the girl, but when Inspector Javrouche finds out that Charlie broke the most important rule of the Institute, it puts both Charlie and Alice in danger, and Charlie isn't about to let die the one person he's ever saved.

Book Review: The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl | reading, books, book reviews, fantasy, urban fantasy
Title: The Ferryman Institute
Pages: 432
My Rating: 4 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher


*I received a free ecopy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

I love reading about different versions of the afterlife and all things related, so reading about a ferryman was right up my alley. Oddly enough though, this book turned out to be not so much about afterlife and far more about life and what it means to live.

That being said, the whole concept of the Ferryman Institute, the actual institute in the book, was so unique and creative! There were the ferrymen, and each one had a team that also consisted of a manager, who would choose assignments based on the ferryman’s skill level, and a navigator, who would sort through the info when the person’s life flashed before their eyes and gives the important points to the ferryman. Then the ferrymen would go off and try to convince the person to actually cross into the afterlife. There were rules, a whole control room, etc., and I loved the thought that went into the way the Institute worked.

The book was also funny! Within literally 1% of the book, I was laughing so hard I was almost crying. (It was that part about the envelope not opening—you’ll understand if you read it.) The book wasn’t quite as hilarious from there on out, but it was still somewhat funny. And because their limbs grow back, the ferrymen kept chopping limbs off like it was the most normal thing in the world, and that just became comical to me too.

The book also had some emotion. Not a ton, but there were some parts that made me feel for the characters.

One of the problems I had though was that I didn’t care for Alice. Her personality and sense of humor just didn’t click with me. But Charlie was interesting, kind of brooding and tortured, but also sarcastic and funny. He also gave some really riveting speeches. Even though I couldn’t actually hear the cadence of his voice and all that, I was just as hypnotized as Alice.

Javrouche, however, was possibly even more interesting and a somewhat sympathetic antagonist. When I found out his story, I truly did feel bad for him. And even though it wasn’t Charlie’s fault, I understood why Javrouche blamed him. So I didn’t agree with Javrouche’s actions, but the author did do a good job of making him an antagonist whose actions were plausible, and I could see why they made sense to him.

As for the plot, it took a while for the book to get started. By 10% I understood Charlie’s dilemma, but roughly the entire first 30% was just thoughts and chats with Cartwright and assignments and all stuff explaining the dilemma. I felt like I was being beat over the head with it. But after that, the book got more action-packed, and I got sucked in. And near the end, all these twists and turns started coming, and I was just as confounded and fascinated as Charlie was!

So overall, this was a funny, twisty, somewhat whimsical book with a unique take on ferrymen, and I’m glad I gave it a read.


Book Blurb

In this stunning, fantastical debut novel from a bold new voice in the bestselling traditions of Christopher Moore and Jasper Fforde, a ferryman for the dead finds his existence unraveling after making either the best decision or the biggest mistake of his immortal life.

Ferryman Charlie Dawson saves dead people—somebody has to convince them to move on to the afterlife, after all. Having never failed a single assignment, he’s acquired a reputation for success that’s as legendary as it is unwanted. It turns out that serving as a Ferryman is causing Charlie to slowly lose his mind. Deemed too valuable by the Ferryman Institute to be let go and too stubborn to just give up in his own right, Charlie’s pretty much abandoned all hope of escaping his grim existence. Or he had, anyway, until he saved Alice Spiegel. To be fair, Charlie never planned on stopping Alice from taking her own life—that sort of thing is strictly forbidden by the Institute—but he never planned on the President secretly giving him the choice to, either. Charlie’s not quite sure what to make of it, but Alice is alive, and it’s the first time he’s felt right in more than two hundred years.

When word of the incident reaches Inspector Javrouche, the Ferryman Institute’s resident internal affairs liaison, Charlie finds he’s in a world of trouble. But Charlie’s not about to lose the only living, breathing person he’s ever saved without a fight. He’s ready to protect her from Javrouche and save Alice from herself, and he’s willing to put the entire continued existence of mankind at risk to do it.

Written in the same vein as bestselling modern classics such as The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, The Ferryman Institute is a thrilling supernatural adventure packed with wit and humor.

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  1. Bookworm Brandee

    So I’m giggling over you liking a broody, tortured hero…*gasp* I’d have never guessed you’d like him! ;) Charlie seems like a hero I’d like as well and it seems like Gigl did a great job in fleshing out his character if you could ‘hear’ his voice in your head. It also seems like this is a primarily character-driven story, which I like, with enough fascinating characters to make up for the fact that you didn’t connect with Alice. I’m certainly intrigued and I’ll be adding it to my tbr. :)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol it’s like all the posts you’re reading this week relate to each other in some way. And what a shock that I liked the tortured hero, right? :-P It was kind of partly character-driven, partly plot-driven maybe? To be fair I read like a month or two ago and no longer remember perfectly lol. You’ll have to let me know if you read it :-)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I’m fascinated by afterlife related things and Greek mythology, so it always piques my interest when I see that a book is about that! You might like this one if you also like those things :-) Thanks!

  2. Greg

    For some reason this premise reminds me of The Adjustment Bureau. Did you ever see that movie? It’s pretty good and while it’s not the same idea, it’s similar in that there are powers behid the scenes controlling fate. Or whatever. Anyway I’m imagining a control room and a whole operation behind the ferryman/ afterlife thing, and it is kinda cool. :)

    And the afterlife is something you don’t always read about. Or I should say I don’t, I suppose big UF or PNR readers probably encounter more- but it’s interesting. Nice that it’s funny also.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I don’t even know what that movie is about and haven’t seen it, but I can see why you might find that similar. The Institute in this book aren’t really controlling anything, but there is the whole control room and operation dealing with things. I thought it was a super creative take on the ferryman myth.

      Lol yeah, I do read about afterlife-related things quite a bit, but it has yet ceased to interest me, so I’m gonna keep reading about it until it does! And a bit of humor is always a nice addition :-)

  3. verushka

    I tried to get this book from Netgalley, but couldn’t and omg I am so insanely jealous right now because it’s so many shades of GOOD from your review! You’ve made me want to read this even more!

  4. AngelErin

    I’ve been wanting to read this one. I had no clue that it would be funny though! The whole concept sounds intriguing and unique so I’ll definitely have to give it a try sometime. I’m glad you liked it.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think I saw somewhere that it would be funny before I picked it up, so I’m pretty sure that was part of why I read it lol. It was definitely a unique concept. You might like it. Thanks!

  5. Lola

    I don’t really read a lot of books about the afterlife, they don’t appeal to me as much. It’s not that i actively avoid them, but they rarely catch my attention. It does sound interesting how this one was more about life than death. And the whole concept of ferryman and the institute sounds unique. And chopping of limps is made funny? That just sounds weird if you mention so casually like that, lol.

    I like how you mention the author made the antagonist actions plausible and made you understand why he acted that way. Great review and I am glad you enjoyed it :).

    1. Kristen Burns

      I get it, there are plenty of topics I don’t avoid but they simply don’t catch my attention, so I really only read about them if there’s something else interesting about the book. But yeah, this wasn’t really all that much about the afterlife, definitely wasn’t death-filled or anything like that. And lol, well, they’re immortal, so they don’t bleed, and their limbs just grow back right away. So sometimes they’d just chop off a hand or something if that was the easiest way to accomplish something.

      He really was an interesting antagonist! I know you like those sympathetic ones too :-P Thanks!