Well, if I hadn’t already been well and favorably acquainted with Schaefer’s Daniel Faust series, I might have given up on this one. More specifically, I might have never have given this one a try, which probably would have been a better choice; once again, reinforcing the idea that no author is an auto-buy.
Confused? Yeah, me too. How can the author of one of my favorite series put this out? There’s some seriously clunky writing, some goofy plotting, and its a kitchen sink of world-building. In an effort to preserve eyestrain, I almost quit until suddenly the plot twisted and the pace picked up.
An intrepid reporter, Lionel Page, gets an offer he can’t refuse from an attractive and enigmatic woman. Will he go to New York to investigate a recently surfaced manuscript to see if its the real Poe? Or will he stay in Chicago and have his past exposed, probably destroying his career and his relationships? His decision is aided by a junior reporter ambushing him in hopes of an exposé. The reader, of course, is prone to be sympathetic to the object of blackmail, but can’t help wondering at the past secrets. The blackmailer seems even more threatening when the reporter turns up dead. He heads off to New York City, first time visitor, and in a cafe, runs into an attractive woman named Madison Hannah… who keeps turning up where he is. Are they after the same thing?
Narrative is third person, mostly from Lionel’s viewpoint, although there are some chapters from Madison’s as well. Madison’s backstory isn’t done well, especially when we’re in her head, and as another reader mentioned, I have trouble believing her as a centuries-old witch (could even have been a millennia). Lionel is more believable as a dude in his thirties that is invested in his career and maintaining a decent friendship with a past girlfriend.
There’s a romance here, but to me it feels very uneven and not particularly well done. At times it seems the main focus of the story, and it certainly becomes critical later, but then there’s the whole mystery/bad-guy plot. The insta-love that turns into romance is probably believable on Lionel’s part, although I’m much, much more skeptical on Madison’s part. Interestingly, Schaefer is completely okay with hetro relationships where women are more powerful than men. That sentiment is unfortunately littered with forced analogies such as,
“He wanted to know more about her, to get closer to her, but he wasn’t gong to barge into the mansion of her heart and kick the doors down.”
Plot seemed uneven. Once Lionel makes it into a super-secret auction, the pace went crazy and supernatural elements finally made an appearance. There’s a super-hero feel to some aspects, with over-the-top villain-hood, and villains that just want to be loved and can’t help but explain themselves as they deal the non-fatal blow.
And the writing. Dear Schafer, what happened? It contains some choice phrases that almost cost me a contact and are really unexcusable for his caliber of writing:
“the pavement was rigid and firm under Lionel’s feet’
“Maddie’s eyes narrowed to slits, glinting in the half light”
“He punched the button for the lobby”
“a plum dress that clung to her body like water on a leaf”
Although I’m a big fan of Faust, I honestly didn’t think this was up to the same caliber. The world feels more erratic, the writing occasionally awkward, and the plot uneven.