Orbit Books (24 Sept 2013), Paperback: 400 pages, Urban Fantasy
Series Listing • Amazon UK / US
On the surface, the book has a good premise relating to the supernatural world which exists alongside the human one. This world is shielded from humans by the Pax Arcana, a kind of magical veil that will make humans doubt themselves if they witness any supernatural phenomena, or just forget that they saw anything. The book mentions a whole host of beings which exist in the real world, but most of this first instalment’s plot focuses on vampires, werewolves and psychics.
Into this melee of beings fits John Charming, a half-werewolf who also happens to be a member of the Knights Templar. He has heightened perception and fighting abilities from his knight training, as well as the added bonus of extra sensitive hearing and vision from his werewolf genes. However, when the knights discovered his werewolf tendencies they turned on him, as their motive is to protect humans from the supernatural, forcing John to go on the run. He has been in hiding for many years, with his current disguise being a bartender.
His undercover existence is thrown when a busty blonde walks into his bar, followed later by a vampire. John is immediately attracted to the woman, seeing her turn down a multitude of other men who approach her, but is more focused on removing the vampire from the bar. He executes a cunning attack against it, which prompts it to return after closing time. John engages the vampire in a fight, only to be saved by the blonde from before and thrown into her crazy world.
The blonde is called Sig, and has powerful psychic abilities to perceive information about those around her, as well as being great in a fight with a spear. She introduces John to the rest of her team, despite his scepticism about any of them revealing his identity to the knights. He gets to meet Sig’s long-term boyfriend, Stanislav, whom he instantly dislikes, whilst the crew go on a mission to find out why the vampire was out in the open and who made him. They uncover a plot from a new potential vampire queen that could test the limits of the Pax, prompting a military style mission to find and execute the vampires before it is too late.
I thought the plot of this book was well-established, especially as each member of Sig’s team is introduced one by one so as not to overload the reader, but I didn’t enjoy the plot twist at the end of the book. It wasn’t very exciting, and was the kind of ending that really requires you to have connected with the characters so that you care what happens to them. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for me with this book, as I struggled with the characters and just couldn’t relate to any of them.
As a main character, whose first person perspective we follow throughout the book, John Charming was irritating and cocky, who seemed to be perfect at whatever fight he engaged in. There were few instances in which he displayed self-doubt, and even when there was a touching scene about his past, it turned into something more doubtful. I didn’t like his pursuit of Sig, as he was attracted to her from the first chapter purely because of her appearance, and paid little mind to the fact that she was already taken. Although Stanislav wasn’t the nicest of characters, I still didn’t appreciate the fact that John was flirting with Sig right under his nose.
I wasn’t sure what to make of Sig to begin with, as she was made out to be gorgeous but with the strength of a man, often displaying many male characteristics in her hard demeanour. To begin with, I thought she was a strong woman who would resist John’s charms and stick to her guns, but then I saw how she treated the rest of her team and found her to be bossy and overly dominating. It often seemed like it was her way or no way, with the secondary characters forced to play second fiddle, despite some of them having some great one-liners.
For me, the plot of this book was very character-driven, so my inability to like the leads made it hard to engage with the book. I wasn’t rooting for Sig and John to get together at the end, as even though the plot tries to make their relationship feasible I still saw it as cheating. I didn’t find the conclusion of the book all that exciting, as the fight against the vampires was over quickly and a bit anticlimactic. I’m not sure where the series will lead on from here, as it is only really the future of the characters that is hinted at, and not future plot events. Nevertheless, I’m not sure if book two will be on my to-read list.
As the first in a series, I can’t really say that this book hooked me enough to continue reading onwards. Although there was a good premise which incorporated a lot of supernatural elements, I just couldn’t connect to any of the characters and found John to be way too cocky. I wasn’t a fan of James’ writing style, especially as the book is written in first person and I didn’t like John as a narrator.