Series: THE JEREMIAH HUNT CHRONICLE
Plot Type: Urban Fantasy UF)/Horror
Ratings: Violence-4; Sensuality-0-3; Humor-1-2
Publisher and Titles: Tor
Eyes to See (6/2012)
King of the Dead (11/2012)
Meanwhile, Hunt has no idea where Dmitri and Denise are or even if Denise is still alive. In the climactic ending to the previous book, Hunt had to save Denise by stabbing a magical athame through her heart, and he's not sure that she lived through the experience. Fuentes is aware of Hunt's feelings for Denise and Dmitri, and he claims that he will have them killed if Hunt doesn't cooperate.
The story follows Hunt as he becomes part of Fuentes' magical team, which includes a beautiful half-demon; a Gifted human douser (who can find anything or anyone); a powerful sorcerer; and a non-magical, but highly skilled, human thief. He soon learns that some of them are being held against their will, but that at least one is completely loyal to Fuentes. As Hunt tries to make friends with the team members and with the household staff, he learns more and more about Fuentes and his plans for the Key. Hunt realizes that he will have to figure out a way to defeat both Fuentes and the Preacher if he wants to save his friends and himself from mortal peril.
Along the way, Hunt has a fateful run-in with a fierce and powerful spectre who wants revenge on Fuentes and drags the unwilling (and, at first, unknowing) Hunt into his vengeful activities as a human tool.
This book is marginally better than the first two, but there are still some distracting plot bumps. For example, Hunt eavesdrops on a conversation between Fuentes and Rivera (the sorcerer) in which they discuss Durante (a dead man) and his assistant, whom Fuentes believes knows the whereabouts of the Key. Then, later in the story, Hunt does some research on Durante and discovers that the assistant was Durante's lover. Eventually, Hunt tracks down the assistant, but then he is surprised to find that Fuentes is looking for the guy. Wait a minute…Wasn't Hunt paying attention to the conversation he overheard, when Fuentes told Rivera, "I want you to find that whiny bastard"?
In another (unnecessary) scene (in chapter 15), Fuentes sends Hunt out to work on one of his construction crews—during the day, when Hunt is basically blind. Besides the blindness issue, Hunt has been grabbed because of his magical powers, so why wear him out hefting "bags of concrete and stacks of lumber, loading them onto trucks at one location and then unloading them at the next."? (p. 115) This happens only once and has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, so my question is this: why include such an improbable scene in the first place?
Here's another one: About halfway through the story, Hunt begins to have blackouts—going to sleep in his own bed, but then suddenly waking up behind the wheel of a car or in another person's bed. The first two times this happens, he brushes it off, telling himself, "Stranger things had happened, I knew, so I didn't try to analyze it too much." (p. 157) Hunt's lack of reaction to these blackouts seemed utterly improbable to me. This is a smart guy who knows his way around the magical world. Why isn't he stopped in his tracks by these incidents? Why doesn't he make some attempt to figure out what's happening until much, much later in the story?
Finally, there's the scene (p. 165) in which Hunt learns that Durante was the Magister of Los Angeles before he died. That fact is mentioned only in that single scene and it really is unnecessary to the plot. Durante's importance has nothing to do with his position as Magister; it relates to his strong magical powers and to his possession of the Key. Even if the author is using this as a set-up for a rivalry between Fuentes and Durante that ends in Durante's murder, it is still unnecessary because what Fuentes really wants is the Key. He would have killed Durante for that reason alone. This comes across as an authorial attempt to make the plot a bit more complex, but in reality, it just muddies it up.
The book ends in the requisite showdown, but leaves a number of loose ends. On the author's web site, he calls this series a trilogy, but this third book doesn't really end Hunt's woes. Will there be a fourth book? I'll be on the lookout and I'll update this post as soon as I can dig up any information.
Nassise is a good story teller, with a nice use of the first-person voice and a talent for pacing, but plotting is definitely not his strong point. So far, the primary suspense has revolved around the slow, but fascinating, development of Hunt's powers, particularly his growing control over his blindness. At this point in the series, he can steal sight from ghosts, steal sight from humans, and use ghost sight (to view the preternatural world). In this book, he acquires special sunglasses that allow him to see in daylight. His magical powers of music seem to be gradually getting stronger as well. By now, he can usually figure out rather quickly just what type of music will calm an angry ghost.
What the series lacks is a clear and cohesive series story arc. Yes, we have the enigmatically evil Preacher and the horde of law enforcement agencies that are after Hunt for crimes he didn't commit, but what is the end game? Is there a metaphorical one-armed man in Hunt's future who will prove Hunt's innocence? What has to happen to get the Preacher out of Hunt's life permanently? Even the famous fugitive, Richard Kimble, wasn't just running for the sake of running. He knew what his purpose was: to track down the evidence to get his life back. Hunt just seems to be running with no real goal in mind. For me, that's what is missing here.
Once again, great cover art by Cliff Nielsen! Click HERE to go to the Watcher of the Dark page on amazon.com, where you can read an excerpt by clicking on the cover art at top left.
This series is obviously aimed at fans of Jim Butcher's THE DRESDEN FILES, but it's definitely not at DRESDEN's level of quality, suspense, or readability—at least not in the first two books. Here are some similarly themed series that you may enjoy. Click on the series title to see a chronological list of titles and to read my reviews: Benedict Jacka's ALEX VERUS SERIES, Kate Griffin's MATTHEW SWIFT SERIES, Kevin Hearne's IRON DRUID CHRONICLES, Jim C. Hines's MAGIC EX LIBRUS SERIES, Ben Aaronovitch's PETER GRANT/RIVERS OF LONDON SERIES, Anton Strout's SIMON CANDEROUS SERIES, and Alex Hughes' MINDSPACE INVESTIGATIONS SERIES. And, of course, you can always read Butcher's fantastic, seminal series—the granddaddy of them all.
The best thing about the books in this series is their cover art by Cliff Nielsen, who also created the cover art for Cassandra Clare's INFERNAL DEVICES SERIES, among others. Click HERE to read his Wikipedia article.
The meant-to-be-dramatic scenes are dulled by a plodding narrative that is frequently interrupted for unnecessary info-dumps of background information about various aspects of magic. For example, Here is part of a paragraph that is plopped into what starts out to be a dramatic scene in which Denise and Jeremiah meet for the first time: "She explained that wards were one of the mainstays of modern magick and were used to form a shell of protection around a specific location, person, or object. They came in two types: minor and major. Minor wards were just what the name implied, minor magicks that could be used to protect an object or a location for the short term. These could be performed by a single individual with limited preparation, often on the fly...Major wards differed entirely, intended to last indefinitely and requiring several days of preparation by a sorcerer with considerable power, using the assistance of several acolytes. Major wards were not undertaken lightly, and the slightest mistake could have disastrous consequences." (p. 151) None of this information has any purpose in the ongoing plot, so why interrupt the flow like this. Unfortunately, the book contains many, many examples of this interest-stifling, story-padding material. This is an urban fantasy/horror novel, so I'm not looking for extraneous background information that is not tied directly to the advancement of the plot.
So...there are a number of rough spots in characterization and plot development (not the least of which is the murkiness of the explanation for why Elizabeth was kidnapped in the first place; and where on earth did that harmonica-playing come from?), but if you can "read through" the unnecessary details and if you don't think too hard about the implausibility of some of the events, the story might be appealing to you.
Not to be pedantic, but here's one last point: I have mentioned in previous paragraphs that the author has taken great pains to research and explain various aspects of mythology and magic, but there is one area of realism that he has obviously failed to study. That subject is the proper procedures that sighted people should use when guiding blind people (and I speak from the experience of having a blind family member). All the way through the story, people keep grabbing Jeremiah's arm and pulling him along with them. That's exactly the WRONG way to go about guiding a blind person. A sighted person should allow the blind person to take hold of the guide's arm directly above the elbow. Then the guide should walk along at a moderate pace, in effect leading the blind person but also giving him or her some control. Please Mr. Nassise, click HERE to read "Being a Sighted Guide" (published by the American Federation for the Blind) and teach those lessons to Hunt's friends, Denise and Dmitri, so that they can learn to be more considerate of Hunt in future books.
Click HERE to go to the Eyes to See page on amazon.com, where you can read an excerpt by clicking on the cover at top left.
In the first chapter, the author recapitulates the events of the previous book and summarizes each character's back-story. Usually an author will rephrase that type of information, but Nassise takes the easy way out by copying whole paragraphs from book 1 and pasting them into book 2 verbatim. (Check out the matching paragraphs about Berserkers on p. 16 in book 2 and p. 252 in book 1; also, see the matching paragraphs about ghosts on p. 40 in book 2 and p. 50 in book 1.)
The rest of the story follows Hunt, Denise, Dmitri, and Gallagher as they attempt to track down and destroy the Sorrows and the person or creature that is commanding them. Agent Robertson and his sidekick also come into play as they arrive in the midst of the requisite climactic showdown and nearly gum up the works. The book ends in a cliffhanger as Hunt once again finds himself alone in the world.
Hunt takes a number of implausible actions as the story advances. For example, early in the story, he checks into a motel, playing up the fact that he is blind, while his companions stay out of sight. Hunt explains to Dmitri, "No one is looking for a blind guy." (p. 58) Several chapters later, he hangs back from the registration procedure at another motel because he doesn't want the desk clerk to see that he is blind. He explains, "I didn't want to make it obvious that I was blind. We were a long way from Boston, but the proliferation of shows like America's Most Wanted meant it was best if we kept as low a profile as possible." (p. 70) Why is Hunt waffling like this? There seems to be no rhyme or reason to this change in his behavior.
The point of view switches back and forth from first-person Hunt to third-person Denise Clearwater. In an off-putting mannerism, Hunt and Dmitri frequently refer to their female companion as "Clearwater," but other times they call her "Denise." Hunt has an obvious crush on Denise, so it's jarring to hear him call her "Clearwater" when he's speaking to her. (Hunt began doing this in book 1 and continues it here.)
Once again, there is a continuity error when, in one scene (p. 203), Hunt and Dmitri raid an armory for weapons, and then a few pages later (p. 209) Hunt says that he and Gallagher gathered the weapons. Surely a good editor should have caught this.