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Book Review: Charming

August 20, 2013

book cover image, Charming by Elliott JamesCharming
Elliott James
Orbit September 2013, 366 pages
Advance reading copy via Book Expo

I underestimated this book, at first. Urban fantasy, making self-conscious references to Prince Charming and monster fighting, I grabbed it at the Book Expo with a shrug. I’ve been out of the practice of reading fantasy and scifi, simply because I’m usually so picky about it. I want a specific blend of action, originality, some good writing, interesting characters, and I’d like to be able to laugh as I read. It’s a complex blend that’s hard to deliver, and harder to balance.

Charming nailed it. This book was a direct hit to my urban fantasy reading sweet spot. John Charming (yes, he’s heard all the jokes) is a great first-person-sarcastic narrator, working in a bar, minding his own business, when in walks a gorgeous blonde. A gorgeous blonde who turns out to be a really good fighter. And knows a thing or two about monsters. Which is good, because there are vampires to be dealt with. John has secrets to guard, including some that give him supernatural abilities of his own (I’m being deliberately oblique here because I like the way the author does the reveal). He does not want to get involved. And yet…

The writing is good, solid fantasy and action, with interesting world-building, and with John’s narration, more than a little whiff of the private eye noir genre. As the action and fights get going, John and Sig (the blonde) work with an interesting supernatural-smashing team. I do love a good eccentric ensemble monster fighting team. Especially when there’s banter. And there’s plenty of banter. (See also: Bureau 13, by Nick Pollotta.) I admit I have a sweet spot for the terrible puns in the chapter titles, like “Blood, Bath and Beyond.” No, it’s not deathless prose. But it’s very tasty genre junk food, worth gobbling down.

The adventure is set up for a sequel, which I would happily read. I can see this working for fans of Jim Butcher, Spider Robinson, and other urban fantasy.

I picked this book up as an advance review copy at BEA, and am not being compensated for my review.

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