Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Review: Into the Fire by Patrick Hester

When I first met Patrick Hester, it was across a very crowded table at a pub in Downtown Denver. Gail Carriger introduced him and said we should get together. Fast forward a couple of years, and now Patrick is a great friend to have. He's supported us by bringing us on SF Signal, talking me through a VERY stressful job situation, and generally just goofing off with us at cons. So when he said he had a book coming out, I KNEW I had to read it. And review it, since it's SO GOOD!

Into the Fire is Patrick's debut novel, out through Wordfire Press. It's an urban fantasy that takes place in Denver (my home town), and it breaks a lot of the common tropes of the genre in the best possible ways.

Samantha Kane is a detective in her mid-thirties who suddenly discovers that she's a wizard. And unlike most wizards, who, at a very young age, learn from other wizards how to use their magic, she's completely clueless. Enter Jack Mayfair, local wizard with a "special department" of DPD who has the chops to teach an out-of-control Samantha how not to blow up the planet.

I went into this story expecting a lot of similarities to Jim Butcher, but like I said, Patrick Hester broke away from a lot of the urban fantasy tropes. The story arc hits a couple of "typical" waypoints for the genre, but rather than sticking with the gritty cop story, this feels more like Charlaine Harris' take on the noir/magic genre. Samantha's voice and personality are unique, and she stands out as a great character, and rather than compare this story to the other UF books I've read, I think this one deserves to be talked about on its own merit. It doesn't NEED the comparison.

One of the great things about this story is it felt like it really takes place IN Denver. More than that, the descriptions, character depth, and fun use of magic made me LONG to jump into a new role playing campaign, both as a player and a GM.

My only "complaint" is that I never got a sense of HOW magic works in this world. As a roleplaying nerd and consumer of fantasy, I often want to see a lot of the rules in a fantasy world's magic system. A "science" with internal logic and consistency. While I'm sure it exists in the author's notes and mind, I didn't see enough of that for my personal taste. With that being said, I strongly recommend this book, and I think the publisher needs to push for a sequel as soon as possible.

Giles is excited about the chance to read and review this book, especially because he thinks his friend deserves this success. He's also excited about his own writing, which is coming along nicely, if he does say so himself.

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