Dead Man's Hand: The Unorthodox Chronicles, Book 1 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
In the tradition of his renowned father, James J. Butcher’s debut novel is a brilliant urban fantasy about a young man who must throw out the magical rule book to solve the murder of his former mentor.
On the streets of Boston, the world is divided into the ordinary Usuals, and the paranormal Unorthodox. And in the Department of Unorthodox Affairs, the Auditors are the magical elite, government-sanctioned witches with spells at their command and all the power and prestige that comes with it. Grimshaw Griswald Grimsby is…not one of those witches.
After flunking out of the Auditor training program and being dismissed as “not Department material,” Grimsby tried to resign himself to life as a mediocre witch. But he can’t help hoping he’ll somehow, someway, get another chance to prove his skill. That opportunity comes with a price when his former mentor, aka the most dangerous witch alive, is murdered down the street from where he works, and Grimsby is the Auditors’ number one suspect.
Proving his innocence will require more than a little legwork, and after forming a strange alliance with the retired legend known as the Huntsman and a mysterious being from Elsewhere, Grimsby is abruptly thrown into a life of adventure, whether he wants it or not. Now all he has to do is find the real killer, avoid the Auditors on his trail, and most importantly, stay alive.
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|Listening Length||11 hours and 10 minutes|
|Author||James J. Butcher|
|Narrator||James Patrick Cronin|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||October 11, 2022|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #2,377 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#24 in Urban Fantasy
#35 in Supernatural Thrillers (Audible Books & Originals)
#82 in Supernatural Thrillers (Books)
Reviewed in the United States on October 17, 2022
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There are typical key elements you look for in a story if you are an avid reader, such as setting, character development, witty banter, heartwarming moments or gut wrenching emotions, insane challenges to further the plot, etc, and of course this book has that. What it delivers MORE of, in my opinion, is a refreshing shift in gears from your "atypical up and coming hero just so happening to have the necessary skills for the ongoing challenges, albeit weathering those hurdles gracefully in a quirky manner" to a character that feels just as raw and vividly real as you or I.
I felt drawn to the cover before anything else, as the character has glasses (sure, there is a legit magical reason for them and not due to poor eyesight, but still amazing to see); I have glasses, so I am biased in that regard.
Then, of course it was finding out it is an urban fantasy, so I was excited. And yes, I was shocked to find out a favorite author of mine had a son, who happened to also be a writer. After that, I just hoped the characters would be great. I love a good Harry Dresden novel, I do, but this isn't like that, and I couldn't be happier. (Is it sacrilege to say that out loud? I'm a fan of Jim Butcher, but I enjoyed this book more in some ways than all of the Dresden Files).
Maybe it was the way the main character was crafted. Having a character that is genuinely out of his depth, who doesn't know everything, is responding with the exact amount of fear and raw emotions you would see from just about anyone faced with what this character is having to deal with, and some dark or quirky humor thrown in along with unexpected alliances based solely on how he treats others? Yep, I was all in.
It sets the stage for character development, absolutely, when Grimsby starts the book going through a mundane lifestyle with a bit of annoyance at his circumstances from not being as magically gifted as the other Unorthodox; but it also shows a person who isn't entitled, who isn't secretly the top dog in an underdog position. Grimsby isn't without trauma or pain, but he is also out of his league in so many ways against the baddies he faces in this book from very nearly early on. He feels deeply, and at times he is ashamed of the emotions, yet he at least recognizes they EXIST.
I am far too tired of reading characters that just "push through" and don't FACE any of their emotions until well after they've triumphed, and even then, there is no actual closure. You might get a smattering of emotional upheaval or introspective thoughts as some action is occurring for those straight cookie cutter type heros, but with Grimsby, you get everything in real time. He is battered, beaten, frayed, and even gives up a few times, because he is so completely overwhelmed, and in reality, we wouldn't blame a person for not wanting to go further when they've hit their limit. Not everyone can get through something seemingly unscathed.
And that's where Grimsby also develops in the best, and most subtle of ways throughout the book. He makes mistakes, he gets beaten, he runs out of options often. And he is faced with incredibly difficult choices. Yet he slowly adapts, learns and becomes increasingly resourceful. He doesn't suddenly become more powerful magically than other characters, but he has a good heart, is willing to further his boundaries bit by slow bit, and by the end, is finally ready to take that single step forward.
It isnt easy on him, at all. And while I'm gushing over Grimsby, I have to say his interactions with the Huntsman remind me of a Millennial dealing with a grumpy, (violent) Boomer. It was like seeing an alternate reality version of my dad and I! Sans the violence on my dad's part, of course- The Huntsman sure goes looking for a fight around every corner.
The Huntsman is not one dimensional, even if it seems so on the surface. There are plenty of questions I have about the Huntsman's past and I'm finding patience difficult to latch onto, waiting for answers to be revealed in future books.
And let me just say, I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Wudge. That creature is hilarious. Sinister, completely uncanny and you should never underestimate them, but I REALLY hope Wudge makes a return in future books. (PLEASE tell me there will be other books).
I won't put any Spoilers in this review as far as the actual story with specific detail, though I'll say it is a great mystery thriller style speed chase from one scene to the next. Well worth a read (or two, I've already started re-reading it). I cannot recommend this book enough.
It's a cracking good book, entertaining and clever, moving and wise. Not only does it display excellent narrative skills and vivid characterization, the story itself is an observant young man's take on the drama of maturation; a young magician's partnering with an older experienced one, transcending fear and insecurity to arrive at adult choice and the wisdom of making one's choices count. The lesson is perhaps the best one possible for anyone on the cusp of full adulthood-- that this is your life to make worthwhile, there is no one right decision to make or fail, only a series of judgments to call and then live with, afterwards. Becoming a grownup isn't a test you pass by getting the right answers, it's the real damn process of living the best life you can.
I couldn't help reading the magic in this story as somewhat of a metaphor for storytelling, especially the portrayal of the protagonist's self-doubt and fear of failing to measure up; anyone entering a field of endeavor where his parent is a well known success will know this well, even if the field of endeavor is as general as being a good person, or making something of oneself. I recall sadly the excellent musical career of Steve Earle's son Townes, cut short by demons of ill-luck and addiction; there ought to be a Townes Memorial Prize given out by someone, somewhere, for sons who build on their own parents' success and defeat the fears and temptations of "great man shadow".
I can't help admiring the bravura performance of writing one's first novel in the same genre your father has helped define-- and making your story center around the challenge you're coming to grips with and so decisively meeting. It's an excellent book with characters I love, telling a story that works about things that matter-- and to make it even better, VERY clearly the introduction to a series! The semi-cliffhanger denouement promises further drama, while expertly teased further mysteries beckoning in the characters' backstories. Hell, yes, sir, please and thank you! I'd sign up today for a lifetime subscription and pay in advance never to miss a tale :)
Top reviews from other countries
This book and its author should be rated and reviewed on its own merit. So, let's get to it!
Great Main Characters
Grimsby and Mayflower are a fantastic pair of main characters. A lot of the humour of this book comes from their interactions and I couldn't get enough of it!
Grimsby's character arc is fascinating, and he is the main point of view for the majority of Dead Man's Hand. He's witty, smart, and cares deeply about doing the right thing, even if he makes mistakes sometimes. And it's him learning from those mistakes, taking those lessons on board and adapting, changing and improving that make me love him.
“You can’t have pride and appropriately handle kids at the same time. It was some kind of universal, or perhaps cosmic, rule.”
Mayflower is an older, grittier character, which balances out the messy, sometimes silly nature of Grimsby. He is driven and loyal, but a little bitter. The small number of times we read from his point of view are fascinating and I kind of wish we had a little more of it.
For a story that is essentially an urban fantasy crime novel, there didn't seem to be much crime. There is the inciting incident which drives our characters together and puts them on a path they can't get off, but not much else.
As negative as that seems to sound, I think it works really well.
Because the story wasn't always focused on the next exciting clue or whatever, we instead got to see the characters and the world. As the first book in the series, it made for a great introduction to how things work in the urban fantasy setting.
I'm sure that in later entries, when we don't need such a learning curve with the world and characters, the plot will be more heavily littered with action etc, and I'm looking forward to it!
Easy Writing Style
For a debut novel, the writing quality was pretty good. Sure, it could be improved, but if you stop comparing the book to works written by authors with over 20 years of experience, you will realise that it's actually pretty good!
I found the writing to be engaging and very easy to read. I flew through this book, and by the end of every chapter I was dying to read the next - that is all you want from a book like this!
Dead Man's Hand is the start of the next big thing in urban fantasy. There. I said it.
If you want to laugh your ass off while simultaneously being really creeped out by creatures of nightmares, read this book.
It's the first book, so I'm hoping that it improves in the next one.
Das ist natürlich ein schweres Päckchen, dass er da trägt. Und das merkt man dem Roman auch an. Er schreibt im gleichen Genre, aber will’s anders machen. Und da fangen die Probleme an.
Das erste Kapitel holte mich überhaupt nicht ab. Es stellt sich dann heraus, dass die Figur im ersten Kapitel gar nicht die Hauptfigur ist, sondern eine Nebenrolle, der Weise Mentor oder in diesem Falle besser: der gut bewaffnete und schießwütige Mentor.
Die Hauptfigur kommt erst später und wurde von mir als Nebenfigur identifiziert und kam auch nicht so spannend oder sympathisch rüber. Läuft das so ab, dann ist beim Schreiben etwas schief gegangen - Und es ist auch etwas beim editieren schief gegangen.
Im weiteren Verlauf wird das dann besser, aber ich drang nie tief ein in die Geschichte. Vielleicht ist das ganze eher etwas für die Fans von Larry Correa, Monster Hunter, der ja sehr erfolgreich ist, aber auch nicht ganz meine Wellenlänge hat, bei dem ähnlich viel rumst und kracht.
Zur Handlung: die ist nicht schlecht, zur Welt: sie hat absolut Potenzial.
Es sind die Personen, denen die Tiefe fehlt, das „echte“ und auch der Humor, den ich an den Büchern des Vaters besonders mag.
Das Buch ist ein erstes Buch, also würde ich ihm eine neue Chance geben und hoffe, dass er sich von dem Schatten des Vaters befreit und seine eigene Stimme findet, insbesondere es in der weiteren Entwicklung schafft eine Verbindung zwischen mir und den Personen aufzubauen.
The world is nicely crafted and relatable. The story follows the life of a protagonist with an unfortunate past who gradually overcomes his deficits when destiny pushes him headfirst into a sequence of rather unfortunate events. It is impossible to not like Grimsby and the Hunter keeps reminding you of Dresden.
The storyline is somewhat linear though and at times it seems like fortune favors Grimsby rather too much, notwithstanding past misfortunes.