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(Not all Princes Are... ) Charming
by Elliott James
Orbit Books, 2013, $15.00, 379pp
Release Date: September 24, 2013
John Charming was supposed to follow in his father’s footsteps and be one of the Guardians of the Pax Arcana that keeps ordinary humans from noticing the supernatural creatures on their borders and in their midst. Problem #1: the Guardians are under a geas, and some of them interpret the law quite literally, to the point where protecting the Pax trumps safeguarding humans. If a few thousand, or tens of thousands, of humans end up as causalities, oh well. Problem #2: John’s father pissed off a pack of werewolves. Their revenge: letting him live just long enough to see his pregnant wife infected with the were virus. And that leads to Problem # 3: John Charming was born with a dual heritage, and most of his father’s Order now want him dead. As far as they are concerned, he’s an Anakin one full moon away from becoming Darth Vader. He’s their target, and they don’t care who gets caught in the kill zone.

John does.

Eluding capture, avoiding relationships, and keeping a low profile has become a way of half-life for him. It’s working too, until vampires with a smart young leader take over the town he’s made his home, and an aggressive Valkyrie named Sig who doesn’t grok the concept of subtlety recruits John to help unearth them and stake them down.

So on to Problem #4: if John doesn’t help her out, the Pax Arcana is jeopardized, and the geas that he inherited from his father won’t allow that; but if he does, he signals his presence to the people who are trying to kill him. And, oh by the way, now there’s a Problem #5: John really likes Sig, but her lover does not play well with competition. With ‘friends’ like an insanely jealous psychic, his trigger-happy nephews, and a naga who would like nothing better than to dissect a half-were to study his regeneration abilities, John needs all his heightened senses to stay alive long enough to confront the hive of vampires. After that… all deals are off.

This, the best new urban fantasy series of the year, IMO/emoige, is the rare mix of action, evolution, and humor that makes a book a keeper. Elliott James has a distinctive style that charmed me utterly, even as I recognized some of the influences that he named in his interview, printed at the back of the book. Anyone who chooses Jim Butcher, Carrie Fisher, Joss Wedon and Roger Zelazny as mentors is someone I will follow down any dark literary alley, trusting him to have the wit to extract his essential characters from misadventure, even if they come out chewed up. With Chapter titles like “A Blonde and a Vampire walk Into a Bar…”, “Mental Reservations for Two” and “Blood, Bath and Beyond”, you know you are in for a good time. Intensely recommended, and let’s hear it for upcoming sequels. – Chris R. Paige

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