Dead Things

I discovered the Eric Carter series in a Daw Books Facebook post announcing new relases a few weeks back. Not sure how this could happen, but I had never heard of Stephen Blackmoore prior to seeing that post. Even worse, I was kind of shocked to find out that Cult Classic was the 9th volume in a series which debuted in 2013. Read the blurb for the first installment and got in touch with the folks at Daw to see if they could hook me up with a copy. They were happy to oblige and I'm glad I gave this book a shot.

As always with urban fantasy series featuring a male lead, I was afraid that it could be a Dresden clone. Yey though there are similarities between Butcher's Dresden Files and this one, such as a powerful mostly self-taught young magic-user with ex-girlfriend issues, with few friends and plenty of enemies, and with untapped power levels that he is unaware of, who has come to the attention of higher beings who may seek to recruit or kill him, Eric Carter is no Harry Dresden. Even though Dead Things may read like the episodic early Dresden Files installments, the novel is more of a paranormal and gritty noir murder mystery work than anything else. Expect more blood and gore and a somewhat engaging protagonist, but not as endearing as Harry Dresden turned out to be. I have a feeling that this is intentional and that Eric Carter will grow on the audience as the story unfolds through the sequels.

Here's the blurb:

Stephen Blackmoore's dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Necromancer is such an ugly word, but it's a title Eric Carter is stuck with.

He sees ghosts, talks to the dead. He's turned it into a lucrative career putting troublesome spirits to rest, sometimes taking on even more dangerous things. For a fee, of course.

When he left LA fifteen years ago, he thought he'd never go back. Too many bad memories. Too many people trying to kill him.

But now his sister's been brutally murdered and Carter wants to find out why.

Was it the gangster looking to settle a score? The ghost of a mage he killed the night he left town? Maybe it's the patron saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte, who's taken an unusually keen interest in him.

Carter's going to find out who did it, and he's going to make them pay.

As long as they don't kill him first.

What I probably hate the most about urban fantasy works is that the market demands that they be short and relatively fast-paced reads. As a result, the opening chapter of any series in this subgenre is always parsimonious on the worldbuilding front. That aspect is built upon with each subsequent novel, sometimes reaching amazing and unanticipated heights. It's too early to tell whether or not this aspect of the Eric Carter series will echo with the sort of depth that has come to characterize urban fantasy series by authors such as Jim Butcher and Simon R. Green, or if worldbuilding elements will always remain in the background, with the author providing just enough information for the reader to understand what's going on and little else. Blackmoore does a good job explaining how necromancy works and how Carter can use his powers. The same goes for his surprisingly powerful magical toys, which give him a few aces up his sleeve. However, very little is said about how the magical world at large actually works. The same goes for the theology behind said world. Sure, there are gods, goddesses, monsters, etc, but exactly where they fit in the greater scheme of things remains to be seen. Making the death goddess Santa Muerte, patron saint of the Narcos, part of the story gave it a new flavor and will likely have important repercussions down the line. In the end, though the worldbuilding needs a lot of fleshing out, the ideas and concepts introduced by Stephen Blackmoore are intriguing enough to make me want to discover more. As with any other first volume in urban fantasy series, that's all that matters.

As a do-gooder at heart but with a knack to see most of what he touches turn to shit, Eric Carter is an easy protagonist to root for. True, he's a foul-mouthed smartass who gets beaten to a pulp way too many times in the span of such a short book, but there is something about him that makes you care for the poor sod. Imagine if Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad was a badass necromancer. Again, Dead Things doesn't allow for any character development and he's mostly an idiot because he's trying to protect those he loves without realizing that he's alienating them in the process. But as is usually the case for any urban fantasy main character, there seems to be much more to him than meets the eye. Time will tell if that's the case or not. Carter has been running from his past for a long time and now it's catching up to him. The supporting cast is made up of an interesting bunch and like everything else they would benefit from some fleshing out as well. Still, Vivian, Alex, Tabitha, and the immortal bartender Darius all add layers to this story.

Blackmoore captures the LA noir setting extremely well and he keeps the tale moving at a good clip. Pace is never an issue from cover to cover, and it's quite entertaining to follow Carter's first person narrative as every stupid decision he makes forces him to find new ways to get out of the mess he made again and again. Such a structure might get old fast if the main protagonist doesn't wise up at some point. And yet, for the duration of the revenge plot that is Dead Things, it made for a fun ride.

If you are looking for a gritty urban fantasy novel featuring a deeply flawed male lead, Dead Things is for you. There is definitely potential for bigger and better things to come. It remains to be seen whether or not Stephen Blackmoore can up his game and elevate this series to another level.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

3 commentaires:

Peter said...

I just discovered the series this year, and while I've only read the first one I enjoyed it. Have you read the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka? It's an urban fantasy in the same vein as this, set in the UK. I think it's easily as good as Dresden..

Khaled said...

Peter I was thinking the same thing. In fact, I've come to like Alex Verus more than Dresden. The author has a new series out that also seems promising. The first back was just recently released

Patrick said...

No, I haven't heard about the Alex Verus series. Will have to look into it. =)