★ ★ ★ 1/2
This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
In 2001, a dimensional rift opens up in New York City, and all sorts of strange things come from out of it—demons, a virus that turns people into vampires, a zombie virus, and other assorted supernatural strangeness.
Thirty years later, Ella Gray is a Demon Patrol officer with modest magical ability. Her role is to keep her patrol area clean of minor demons that are little more than annoyances—there are more powerful officers in charge of taking down bigger threats. One day she and her partner try to take out some small demons only to find out there's a much bigger and more powerful demon in the building, too. In the following fracas, Ella and her partner are mortally wounded. Her partner dies, and Ella does, too. But her death doesn't stick and she wakes up in the morgue.
A few weeks later, she's back to work—she's having strange visions, has a new partner (with a mysterious past and more magical power than she's ever seen), a supervisor that seems pretty antagonistic to her and, well...life has become stranger than she thought possible. She finds herself investigating what seems to be a gargoyle possessed by a demon and somehow the gargoyle has imprisoned a human inside it, too. (don't worry if you can understand it, no one in the book can at first, either).
Ella enlists help from a very human PI with all sorts of nifty gadgets that can help on the supernatural front; a political activist always in search of a new cause to take up; her best friend, a pretty powerful mage; and a supernaturally-inclined mutt. No, really. The dog is a lot like Walt Longmire's Dog, just with freaky eyes and an apparent talent for protecting Ella from magical attacks. (some anyway). Such things ought to be encouraged whenever they're encountered, and I hope this will work in the dog's favor.
The novel's focus is setting up the world and looking at the tensions between various aspects of Ella's life and the characters around her. Although Faith tells a pretty good story along the way, I just can't help but think that it comes in second to setting up the overarching series stories.
I really enjoyed Faith's take on vampirism and zombies. It's a nice blend of vaguely-science-y with the supernatural. I have many questions (that I assume will be answered in the ensuing books) about the demons and magic—and just about everything that goes bump in the night, I guess—in this particular world, but initially I'm buying in
I'm not saying that Faith borrowed (intentionally, anyway) from other UF series, but I had an impulse throughout to say “Oh, she got X from Kim Harrison,” “And that bit is from Sarah Kuhn,” “Is that Butcher or Strout there?” and so on. If she did, more power to her—she picked some good influences—and she took those elements, shuffled them up and put her spin on them. If she didn't, all the better—fans of the things I think were influences will find plenty to like here. My gut instinct is to say that Faith is a student of Urban Fantasy and has read widely within it so she can produce something that draws from the best. Ignore the voice of the cynic and enjoy this book.
To be honest, I wasn't looking for a new UF series (I'm always open to one, however), but a friend at work emailed me, wondering if I was familiar with this Urban Fantasy series that appears to be set in Boise of all places. This piqued my interest, and as I'd just finished an audiobook, I figured I'd take this one out for a spin. Now, this may come as a surprise to you, but Boise (and the general area) isn't exactly a popular setting for fiction. I can think of a tiny handful of books that have a character stepping foot in the town, but only two (this and Kolokowski's Boise Longpig Hunting Club) that actually portray the city in a recognizable fashion. Faith clearly knows Boise—her use of local names and locations testifies to that, and for those familiar with the city, we can easily see the action and movement of characters in it. Which is an added bit of fun, if only for the novelty. This isn't to say that people who don't know Boise will be lost or won't be able to enjoy it—it's like any other novel set in a city that's not commonly used. Who doesn't like getting to see a novel set somewhere that's not NYC, Washington DC, Chicago, LA, SF, etc? Briggs' use of the Tri-Cities in Washington, Vaughn's Denver, Carey's Pemkowet, Michigan; Hearne's (all-too-brief) use of Tempe, AZ, and, now, Faith's use of Boise.
(If—and this is a big if—Jayne Faith happens to be reading this, I'd love the opportunity to ask you a few questions about your choice of—and use of—Boise. Feel free to drop me a line!)
Landon does a fine job with the narration. I can't really think of much more to say—I didn't hear anything remarkably good (nor, remarkably bad) Simply a strong, capable narration to help listeners to get invested into the characters and story.
I really enjoyed this introduction to the Ella and the rest, the magic and the world Faith has put them in. I have a pretty good idea where some of the stories she's set up are going, and am looking forward to watching them develop. At the same time, I also look forward to Faith showing me that she has a better idea for them than I assume. It's a solid Urban Fantasy story with an unconventional setting. You should give it a shot.