John Charming isn’t your average Prince…
He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is — until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.
That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn’t change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar… Right?
I have had this book on my to-read list for a couple of years now. I’m not sure why I never started it, except that I’m always a little worried about starting new Urban Fantasy books because I’ve been disappointed so many times. But I’ve been on a bit of a shelf-cleaning-binge lately, trying to get through some of the stuff that I keep wanting to read and kept putting off for whatever reason and this was top of the list of series that I wanted to dive into. Then I read the seven prequel short-stories and was intrigued.
As a quick aside – the unresolved thing left hanging in Talking Dirty….not resolved here either. Although, apparently, it was resolved as some time or another, because there’s no reference to it here either. And, also, I’d love to read a short-story prequel about the events that happened in Alaska that are mentioned in this book….
I’m not one of those readers that inserts themselves into the main character, living the story through them, like I know some readers do (and there’s not anything wrong with that, it’s just not how I read). I’ve always been the reader that experiences the book like it’s a movie, or something that I’m experiencing over the shoulders of the main character. Sometimes the characters feel like friends and people I almost know, but I never feel like I am the character. Which is why I’m not sure why, in general, Urban Fantasy books with male main characters don’t tend to work as well for me. Don’t shoot me, but I’m not a fan of Harry Dresden.
This might actually be the reason why, despite how much I wanted to dive into this series and love it, I delayed. Because I didn’t want to be disappointed by it when I didn’t love the main character.
But I love John Charming. He’s the perfect blend of broken, cocky, smart, and sarcastic that I love. He’s got a history -and issues, loads of issues, particularly a big furry one – and he’s eminently capable. He tends to brood, a bit, which I admit I kind of dig in my characters. And he’s got an over-developed sense of responsibility, which I always love because what’s in his best interest isn’t always what he’s going to do – and it’s not just the geas that’s making that choice for him.
But it’s not really a surprise that a male author can write a believable, realistic male character. What really sold me on the characters was Sig, and to a lesser degree, Molly. I admit I have a weakness for the particular supernatural being that Sig is and I’m pre-disposed to like them, but that’s not why I enjoyed Sig so much. She’s a heroine that I can get behind. She’s smart, a leader, strong as all hell, doesn’t need to be rescued, and blunt. She has her code and values, and they’re important to her. But that doesn’t mean she can’t change and recognize that sometimes sticking to something just for the sake of it isn’t always the best plan. I’m really looking forward to seeing her character growth in the next book(s).
I’ve always kind of been a sucker for the ‘team’ device in a story. I love Ocean’s Eleven, and Leverage, and Six of Crows, and Avengers, for example. And when you get together a team of disparate personalities there’s plenty of opportunity for conflict without it seeming terribly contrived. And I look forward to that in the future as well. Though, I have to say, it’s the one aspect of this book that I didn’t love. There was one part that was terribly cliche. Because of course Sig is in a relationship and there’s this intense attraction between her an John. And of course the guy Sig is with is a tool and (eventually revealed to be) a bad guy. And then, of course it can’t end in any way except the way it does. *sigh* Honestly, I would have been happy if it had went any way but the expected. I suspected what was going to happen with that particular thread the moment that it was revealed, and I’m a little disappointed that it went down the way it did. I would have liked a bit more surprise and maybe a twist to the traditional resolution. But now that it is resolved, it doesn’t bother me, either. Because at least that is resolved. I would have hated it even more if it had dragged on forever and ever.
It’s really a minor complaint, in an otherwise brilliant read. The world is what I’m most interested and looking forward to exploring more. It’s one of those worlds that lives just on the edge of our real world. The one that could almost, actually, really, exist. Maybe it does in an alternate universe. Maybe it does right now. Maybe the Pax Arcana is a real thing….And that’s what I love. Just enough realism and possibility to make it work for me. Who knows, after all, what’s real and what’s fantasy.
This was a nearly perfect book for me. It had a ton of kick-ass action, lots of dry humor with a healthy dose of sarcasm, characters with an astonishing amount of depth and diversity, a world that feels both real and fantastic, and a plot that grabbed my attention. This is the kind of book and series that I’ve been waiting for – and here it was waiting for me to just pick it up off of my shelf.