Release Date: September 24, 2013
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo
John Charming isn't your average Prince...
He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is — until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.
That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn't change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar... Right?
I like reading novels, fantasy novels in particular, in the male POV. It's so cut and dry and even if there are romantic interludes, it's kept to a minimum and instead maxes out on the action/adventure part of the story. It's another level when writer is a man (Hello! Jason Bourne, James Bond, Aragon & Legolas), I find these heroes fascinating in their dispassionate and ruthless approach to their life's missions and existence. And male POV driven stories is a great way to break the streak of emotionally driven novels usually written in the heroine's POV or benefit, these kinds of books reset my reader settings to factory default.
Armed with these
impossible expectations, I heralded my weekend with Elliott James' CHARMING. Read the blurb and you'll understand why I'm such an eager beaver to read this.... see?! Anyway John Charming is admittedly, not a Prince. He explained that on the first part of the book so any fantasies I, and some of you might have, about romanticizing him is squashed. He's a warrior, an outcast, hunted, bitter, jaded and a smart-ass. He's a lone wolf and for years have been surviving hunting expeditions by his fellow Templars. Yes, The Knights Templars. Exciting right? The Templars being the hunters and John Charming as their prized buck who they will eagerly send to the taxidermist after they're done skinning him alive. So far he's been successful in dodging his fellow Templars and staying on the DL until a blonde walked in at the bar he was working at.
And thus began the hunt for a newly bred teen vampire who's too smart for her own good. I don't understand why vampires is the first course in Pax Arcana, it's a new series and EJames is carving a niche for himself amongst urban fantasy readers, why go with the overexposed and overused vampires?! Anyway, the plot was still great, it's fueled with large amounts of adrenalin, clever plotting, smart-ass dialogue coupled with a smorgasboard of otherworldly creatures ranging from the familiar to the exotic. So aside from the fangers, we have werewolves, Valkyries, and nagas to name a few. The cast of characters are great with a some double-crossing to keep John Charming and his posse on the balls of their feet.
The romance was very light but the implications of John having feelings for the unavailable Valkyrie, Sig, is complicated. It's a forbidden love triangle kind of thing. Thank goodness it wasn't annoying because though Sig is involved with someone, he's an ass and it's one of those cases where she owes him her life sort of and she's loathe to leave him even if he's an jacka$$. They managed to work it out in the end but as John puts it, there's not happily in their ever after. They just lived. And this is where male driven POVs is so different from it's female counterpart. If this were the latter, you bet there'd be a lot of emotional drama and sometimes, I need a break from them simpering females.
The truth is that the world is under a spell called the Pax Arcana, a compulsion that makes people unable to see, believe, or even seriously consider any evidence of the supernatural that is not an immediate threat to their survival.
The world building is impressive, it's rich and EJames did a real good job in terms of presenting the otherworldly existing side by side with the ignorant, human world. At the same time, he used too much cocoa on an otherwise decadent novel. CHARMING has the makings of being a modern fanboy novel because EJames through John, regurgitates bits and pieces of myth, lores and legends and piled together you get a novel that may give you information overload! I get it, EJames did a lot of research and wanted to give us a super unique world but it became excessive which placed speed bumps on the pace of the story. I read that EJames already trimmed his interludes down, honestly CHARMING could use another round of trimming and saved what's on the cutting floor for the next books. Here's an example:
"It's kresnik," Choo said irritably. "Not Kreskin." [to which John thought] Sometimes I forget how old I am. I thought about explaining that Kreskin was a famous stage psychic whose name was an anagram for kresnik, but let it drop.
I may not have fallen in love with CHARMING but I did like it. The first half was a little challenging to get through because of the information overload but there was enough humor and smart-ass remarks to distract me from that and have me plowing through. The second half was much better probably because I've already adjusted to EJames writing style. But hey, I wasn't impressed with Darkfever at first myself but look at where the Fever series is now? I'm not sure if this review will matter to Orbit & Co. but if maybe they could make this less of a teaching novel, I'm sure it'll be more universally appealing to the readers of the genre. Right now I feel it's limiting its audience and John Charming comes across as Mr. Know It All and I don't really want a hero who will correct or spew out trivia at every opportunity. I have Google for that.