By: Gary Jonas
Narrated by: Joe Hempel
Series: Jonathan Shade
A SAVAGE MURDER
A husband armed with a sword hacks apart his wife in a Denver grocery store. There are dozens of witnesses, and the crime is captured on the security cameras. To the police, it’s an open-and-shut case.
To Naomi, the daughter of the couple, it’s evidence of dark magic. She hires her ex-lover, a private investigator named Jonathan Shade to prove her father is innocent.
Shade specializes in paranormal cases, but he isn’t buying it. Still, he takes the case, hoping to rekindle their relationship. Instead, Shade finds himself mixed up in supernatural intrigue with wizards, magically engineered assassins, and an ancient sorcerer returned to life who’s willing to kill anyone who stands in his way.
Too bad Shade doesn’t have any magic.
(I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.)
Recently, I’ve discovered something. I no longer jump into reviewing books willy nilly. I still don’t look at the existing reviews. I want to form my own opinion. I just browse through the description and sometimes run through to find out the average star rating. I look at authors and avoid those I just don’t like (who wants a bad review based on the fact that the reviewer doesn’t like what you write or how you write it before they even give the new book a chance?).
Since I listen to a lot of books just because my life doesn’t accept me sitting down for long periods of time pouring over the words like I use to, I also pay attention to narrators.
I have touched on this before, but it bears repeating if you’ve not browsed the archives. I am peculiar. I think female voices are meant for daytime listening because some of them inadvertently pierce my brain during character changes or emotional story moments. I do not want to wake up to that in the middle of the night. Female narrators keep me on point during the day. I’m more productive listening to them. (Weird, huh?)
I know that many people cannot listen to stories at night because it frustrates them when they fall asleep. I have a system. A male voice works in that system. Yes, it takes me longer to listen to a book, but it adds to my enjoyment, so that’s really all that counts.
So daytime = female voices and nighttime = male voices.
Here’s the thing. There are some exceptions. (Mainly full productions, but that is a whole other topic. Twilight zone for sleeping. Gaiman for long drives.)
One exception is Mr. Joe Hempel. His voice doesn’t have the deep timbre of Mr. James Marsters. His voice is not high enough or whiny enough to wake me in the middle of the night. It’s like his voice is just right for either waking/working/productive day or calm/relaxing/sleeping night.
This led to another epiphany. I have a lot of Joe Hempel narrated books. And I’ve liked every freakin’ one of them. So what did I do? Something I never do. I reached out and told him so. What did he do? Sent me another book. (A tiny bit of jumping and yeahing.)
Less than 16 hours later, I’m finished. (Had to do that thing we need to stay alive, you know, sleep).
Another fabulous choice in books, I would never have found otherwise.
And, after listening, I had to go check out what others were thinking.
So, yes, this idea is similar to the Dresden Files, in that the MC is a PI in a world full of magic. I can even see either character slipping easily into either world to give the other a hard time. That would be something to see.
However, you can’t expect it to stay so similar. Jonathan is not Harry. I see Harry as the old noir PI (of course, he wears a trench coat and opens doors for ladies). I see Jonathon as a guy I might have grown up with. One of those guys you’d rather shoot a round of pool with instead of just sitting at the bar knocking back shots. You enjoy being around both of them, but one is a bit mellower and more cynical than the other.
Other reviewers have mentioned that Mr. Hempel doesn’t fit the character. I (am surprised by this) disagree. I don’t want Jonathan to sound like Eric Meyers reading The Maltese Falcon.
Dresden is for a night of chilling and bitching about work. Jonathan is for getting worked up and going out to find trouble just to blow off some energy. This is why you don’t want a deeper timbre for the MC. You don’t want him to seem exactly like every other old noir PI out there.
Jonathan is different. That’s what makes Modern Sorcery so different.
(What made me really happy is the nod to James Marsters hidden in the pages. I’m not going to tell you where, you just have to find it.)
Being a Dresden fan, and being that this is so similar, I did look for knock-off clues. The wizards are a closed society of asses, yes. But it feels as if we’re seeing a different side of them. Not a good one, but another one.
I may have enjoyed this one enough that I’ve overlooked some critical thinking. But, ya know what? That’s a good thing. It is rare that I don’t pick apart every little thing even in my head.
I wasn’t blasted out of my fun by grammatical gaffs. I wasn’t slipping down the passivity slide with an overabundance of passive voice. Every sentence felt like a bit of action, pulling me to the end.
I do agree with some that character development was light. I understand that this was more of a journey for Jonathan than manure to feed his personal growth, but he hasn’t gotten there yet. This is not the epic emotional voyage.
This is the beginning of a series. Compare it to prime time police procedurals like Law & Order (any of them). For the first season, it’s case driven. We don’t get into personal lives until at least the second. This first book in a series could probably equate to the first half of the first season.
The other characters were fun for me. I loved Esther’s turn of phrase, inconsistent though it might be. I mean, she’s been dead for how long and she doesn’t draw heavily from contemporary speech, but the villain, dead for three hundred years, barely back for a week and he references the finger in the throat for nausea? Hmmmm. What makes Esther different?
I liked Kelly, too. I didn’t think I would, because characters like her tend to soften halfway through until you don’t recognize them anymore. She remains consistent. She’s a construct. She doesn’t feel physical pain. She has attachments and objectivity.
Crazy as it may seem, I really enjoyed this beginning and cannot wait to see what happens next.