Definitely a QB¹ read, but strangely addicting. I found the combination of ex-military, magic-wielding, NYC, and inclusion of the pantheon of gods downright irresistible. I finished this and went straight (haha) on to the next.
My synopsis, aka what makes this different from everything else I’ve read: A very damaged² ex-military mage is called in by the locals to consult on a stalled investigation² of what seems to be supernatural serial killings. In the course of the investigation, he runs into one of NY’s most powerful seers, who happens to have strong ties to the local Pack.² Solving the crimes will mean facing his own troubled past.²
There is a bit of a rocky start that feels somewhat like a first book. Turner has the tendency to over-explain or re-explain as she builds her world. However, I’ll note that there are some readers out there that like Every Single Thing spelled out, so perhaps this technique was in response to those kind of beta readers.³ Once our hero, Pat, came into conflict with a demon and things started popping, I was able to ignore such wordy moments. (Either that, or I used my Super-Skimming Power®.)
I haven’t read many (really any) military urban fantasy (excepting Larry Correia), so it was interesting to take the culture and background of someone with that focus and bring it into the UF setting. I probably stay away from that genre because of the machismo and inherent -isms (again, see Correia), but the male-romance eventually softened the testosterone angle.
Action turned out to be an interesting combination of independent-operator and team-operation, which also feels like a nice change in my reading. There’s a good combination of questionable allies², as well as definitely-villains, as well as villains-but-on-our-side-now² types, which kept me guessing at how it was all going to play out. Patrick has a complicated backstory that ends up being important.²
The genre tropes and the information-dumps in the beginning really make this a candy-level read. However, the PNR tropes were strangely tolerable for me because they involved a male-male romance, although in this book, I think I’d hesitate to call it ‘romance.’
Off-topic commentary follows.
I don’t believe I’ve ever read any male-male romance before, which may or may not say something for my prejudices or predilections. Honestly, it probably does, but what it should mostly say is that I rarely read romance or erotica, and when I do, it’s always a sub-plot, and apparently, it takes work to find that kind of representation. But the interesting thing that I discovered reading this series is that the tropes that drive me batty in the normal PNR romance hardly bother me at all in the gay male romance, perhaps because I’m so outside of the norm that I have nothing to react to? So there can be insta-attraction/lurv, there can be over-protective behavior, there can be the obligatory try-to-push-them-away-so-I-don’t-hurt-them trope (there’s gotta be a short-hand for that one), and I just find it eyebrow-raising, not eye-rolling. So if the protagonist and a lurve interest get together, and one of them decides not to tell the other something, well, is that really patriarchal patronizing behavior? Or is is just, you know, emotionally stupid behavior? And what if they each take turns doing it? Neither seemed to be socially/economically ‘dominant’ (although perhaps one was sexually dominant?), that kind of defangs my trigger-irritation of it as a social more, and just makes it a mild plot-irritation. It was so fascinating to me how little deconstruction it triggered. Speaking of potential eye-rolls, for those who may or may not be comfortable with it, I’ll note there are three quite explicit sex scenes, taking it a step or two beyond the normal PNR/UF.
So, definitely up there for quarantine reads. I burned through the next, then gave a few days before I went on to book three and four. On the upside, Turner does seem to be avoiding cliffhanger endings, though there is an overarching plot. It also seems the series is done, ‘for now,’ which is always a bonus. The romance has turned into a relationship, which I’ve discovered is kind of sweet, and not at all annoying³. The world-building has continued to enlarge, which I always appreciate.
Overall, I’d say I’ve definitely found it more interesting than a lot of the female-lead PNR/UF I’ve given a try (First-Something-Grave², Frost-Something-Something², Cassandra Clare², Kitty Werewolf Thingy², Fevers², Chicago Vampires², Touching Seers See Stuff², etc., etc).
Really, probably 2.5 stars at the moment on overall quality, but a solid 3.5 on the QB¹ scale.
¹QuarantineBrain™ You’ve heard people relapse after recovery, right?
³You know, the over-explanation stuff. Maybe I’m not the ideal audience here. I prefer the organic build.
⁴I know, I’m shocked too.
Hey! Guess who decided to use All The Symbols today?