Category Archives: urban fantasy
Urban fantasy is a genre I’ve been gradually warming up to more and more over the last couple of years, thanks to authors like Cassandra Clare, Jaye Wells, Richard Kadrey, and others. So, I was figuring I’d use the card to snatch up Kalayna’s book.
I hadn’t used Amazon.com before though, and being Canadian made the shipping costs crazy. So, I’ve kept it on my wish list all this time.
I did happen to see a paperback copy of the book on Book Depository, on sale for less than $6, though. I think that could be a real steal, so I have it in my basket and will be ordering it soon enough. Meant to get it months ago, but I guess the same could be said for a lot of books.
What books have you been meaning to buy and just haven’t gotten around to yet?
I would say Richard Kadrey demonstrates a rapier wit in his novel, Sandman Slim, but it’s less like a rapier and more like a sawed-off shotgun. James Stark, the protagonist and narrator of this story, is brash and about as antihero as a character can get. Hell, this guy makes most antiheroes look like boy scouts.
Stark has a pretty good reason for being so pissed off, though. He’s been in Hell for more than a decade, and upon learning his girlfriend has been murdered back on Earth, he’s busted out of Down Town (Hell’s nickname for itself) to return to L.A. and find the people responsible: his former circle of magician friends who sent him to Hell in the first place.
I suppose this novel fits nicely in the urban fantasy genre, what with it set in Los Angeles predominantly and has plenty of demons and magic, but the tone of the novel seems to defy the conventional idea of that sub-genre. There’s more anger permeating through the text–it is a revenge tale after all. The quick-witted one-liners and fight scenes do lend themselves to that action-oriented fantasy adventure.
The beginning of the story sets the stakes really well, introducing important characters and alluding to others that appear later. But the first act seems to spin its wheels for a bit. It kind of meanders, or deviates, from the overlying mission Stark is on. It’s entertaining, yes, but I had to wait a hundred pages or so for the book to really kick into high gear. But when it did, the book was impossible to put down.
Another plus for this book is that it works as a stand-alone novel, even though it’s the first book in a trilogy (or maybe series) that usually forebodes some kind of cliffhanger or “to be continued” moment. Sandman Slim is a very satisfying reading experience all on its own, so I was spared the aggravating feeling that comes with so many books that serve as jump offs for trilogies.
I’ll be looking forward to reading the sequel, Kill the Dead, in 2011. Fantasy tales with a barbed-wire tattoo instead of a tramp stamp are a welcome change of pace.
I’m not usually into the reading challenges, but this one is right up my alley. Carolyn of Book Chick City fame is hosting more than one reading challenge on her blog, including a Mystery & Suspense Challenge and even a Stephen King Challenge. I may sign up for the King one too, but I’m unsure just how many of his novels I’ll actually read next year–I think my number of King novels read for 2010 was a half-dozen.
As for reading a couple dozen horror and/or urban fantasy novels in a year? I’ll likely have read that many by the time the snow thaws.
If you’re interested in signing up for the reading challenge too, head on over to Book Chick City and see the challenges she has to offer. It should be fun to see what titles people choose to read through the year. Might be a good way to add some books to the ol’ wish list.
Urban fantasy, in my few experiences within the genre, tends to steer away from the perceived vulgarity of the horror genre even though there are horror elements that appear in many a UF title. Armageddon Bound isn’t as timid when it comes to walking that line, and that is thanks largely to the protagonist and narrator of the tale, Frank Trigg–Satan’s nephew and reluctant Antichrist.
To set the stage, God and Satan called a truce, made amends, and abandoned the universe fifty years ago. Today, Heaven, Hell, and little ol’ Earth are on their own. And things are not going so well. Angels and Demons are still fighting, humans are still doing what humans do best, and poor Frank Trigg is caught in the middle. Once destined to be the Antichrist, he long since shirked his birthright and now makes do as a hired hitman of sorts with Demonic Resistance and Containment (DRAC).
DRAC is an anti-Armageddon faction comprised of wizards, telepaths, and other supernatural entities, doing what they can to prevent the End Times. Since there are no tog dogs anymore to pick up the pieces, the End Times truly mark the end of everything rather than a new beginning. Still, there are forces at work trying to jumpstart an Apocalypse. But it’s not just DRAC that Frank finds as his allies, as Frank has an angelic cousin, Scarlett, a demonic mafia-style boss, Baalth, and others he doesn’t exactly get along with. Not to mention his ex-wife, Victoria, who may or may not have put a hit out on him.
The noir-esque elements are at peak volume, with the story being a blend of heroism and cynicism coming from Frank Trigg. I mentioned him as the source of much of the vulgarity in the novel. Well, it’s not a piece of gory fiction, if that’s how you took the statement. Instead, it’s his inner monologue that drips with puerile and lewd thoughts. The guy can’t even think about his own cousin without fantasizing about her sexually.
Quentin Tarantino’s Foxy Brown meets Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings it is not, but the mish-mash of styles gives it a vibe I ended up liking. To stray from movie references to video-games, it felt a bit like Grand Theft Auto mixed with God of War. But enough “this-meets-that” stuff, the book stands out to me. Let’s leave it at that. And as the first book in a series, it caps off nicely like a stand alone novel, so readers can give it a try and not feel like they’re only reading a prologue.
I thought the book was more urban than urbane, more ribald than refined, but Armageddon Bound was a fun read. And that was enough for me.
You can find another review of this title at: Fantasy Book Critic