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Shadow Hunter: An Urban Fantasy (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill Book 1) by [BR Kingsolver]
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Shadow Hunter: An Urban Fantasy (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill Book 1) Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 1,204 ratings
Book 1 of 5: Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine

Books To Look For
by Charles de Lint


I can't remember how I first ran across BR Kingsolver's Shadow Hunter, but I know that the series title was what intrigued me enough to give the book a try: Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill. It immediately put me in mind of Spider Robinson's classic Callahan's Crosstime Saloon stories, or the wonderful Jorkens stories by Lord Dunsany that were set in a London gentleman's club.

Alas, as I began the first chapter, I soon discovered that neither could be touchstones for Kingsolver's book.

A sidebar here: We all have our pet peeves when it comes to the books we read. A couple of mine are the use of prologues or first chapters that are basically info dumps.

I understand how handy they can be from a writer's standpoint. If your book is going to have a slow build before things start happening. a great way to lay down some tension is to have a prologue where the reader is given a hint of the terrible things to come. That way, no matter how innocuous events appear to be, one has an anticipation of the thrills and chills to come. In other words, it creates tension where there is none.

The info-dump first chapter (or one which outlines the protagonist's life from birth to where the story actually begins) lets the writer get all sorts of (possibly) necessary background things out of the way without having to fill readers in as they go along. But what it actually does is just make for a dull opening that many readers won't get past.

For me, either just seem like laziness. Give us the story and fill things in as needed. If the story's good enough, it will stand on its own. We'll figure things out and read on. Follow the advice of the mystery writer Lawrence Block: Write your book, then throw away the first chapter. Because it's usually not necessary.



Shadow Hunter has a first chapter that's actually a prologue and also an info dump. Our protagonist Erin McLane is a grown woman, but the prologue opens with: "I was almost fourteen and had just started my menses when my parents sold me to the Illuminati" and goes on to relate how Erin ends up being trained and then used as an Illuminati assassin until a task her Masters give her ends up backfiring on them.

When the dust clears, they and their hidden city are gone and only Erin is left standing in the ruins. Being sensible, she immediately takes off and goes into hiding because, while the secret society itself has been destroyed, there are still a small number of Illuminati loose in the world. If they ever figure out what she's done, they will destroy her.

Now the thing about rules--or pet peeves--is that they exist to be broken. What made me keep reading the first chapter was that it was interesting and I really enjoyed the protagonist's voice. And I understand why Kingsolver stuffed so much backstory into it, because otherwise she would have needed to write an entire other novel just to show us everything that happened to Erin and made her as she is.
And that wasn't the novel she wanted to write, apparently.

A longer version of the events, or having them seeded through the book as bits of backstory, simply wouldn't have given Shadow Hunter the same tone.

When the novel properly starts (sorry, I couldn't help a last little dig), Erin finds herself in the seaside city of Westport, which is as far as she can get from the hidden city of the Illuminati. It's late, and as she goes looking for someplace to eat and sleep, she finds herself in an Irish pub, the afore-mentioned Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill. The "paranormal" isn't a part of its actual name, but she soon realizes that this is a hangout for magical types.

She goes in to eat and comes out with a job as a bartender, courtesy of the owner Sam O'Grady.
In many ways this is a typical urban fantasy. The main plot centers around a serial killer targeting the magical community and how Erin becomes a prime suspect because of her mysterious past and the fact that she keeps finding herself embroiled in various nefarious goings on, but it's not why you'll want to read it. I was very taken with Erin and her interactions with the staff of the bar and its patrons (which feel a bit like the cast of a supernatural Cheers, to some degree). We've seen some of the character types before, but there are also fresh takes such as the autistic bartender Liam, who is handled with respect.

But Erin, as the viewpoint character, is the main focus, and she's a fascinating mix of badness capabilities (from her years with the Illuminati) and naïvete (ditto). She has no problem dealing with the action elements of the story but is flummoxed by simple things such as friendship, and the author does a terrific job of juxtaposing the one part of Erin's personality with the other.

Kingsolver wraps things up by the end of Shadow Hunter (no cliffhangers!), but if you have as much fun with the book as I did, you can start right in on its sequel, Night Stalker, with a third book promised for later in the year (and it might already be out by the time you're reading this).

In Night Stalker, Erin gets caught up in a war between the city's various vampire lords, each of whom goes back and forth between thinking she's their particular savior or that she's come to town to destroy them. As in the first book, the plot and the action are utterly satisfying, but not as much as the interactions between the characters and Erin's late-start coming of age.

While waiting for the third and final book I decided to explore some of Kingsolver's other series, and for the most part I enjoyed them just as much.

The Dark Streets series features an elvin landscaper named Kellana and probably comes the closest in tone to the Rosie O'Grady books, with another great ensemble cast. This time the supernatural beings have been outed, which is a frustration for Kellana, since she's been happily living a quiet, unassuming life for the past seventy years.

The Chameleon Assassin series is set a little in the future and features a burglar/assassin named Libby who, ironically, also runs a security company.

As happened with the Rosie O'Grady series, I really enjoyed the voices of the two viewpoint characters. My only quibble--and it's a small one--is that, having read these books all in a row, the protagonists'' voices all seemed somewhat the same. But since I liked that voice, that wasn't a real problem.

But I often seem a little out of step with the rest of the parade.

Do try the Rosie O'Grady series.

Product details

  • ASIN : B07PZ47VQV
  • Publication date : April 7, 2019
  • Language : English
  • File size : 386 KB
  • Simultaneous device usage : Unlimited
  • Text-to-Speech : Enabled
  • Screen Reader : Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
  • X-Ray : Enabled
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • Print length : 276 pages
  • Lending : Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,204 ratings

Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5
1,204 global ratings
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Reviewed in the United States on September 15, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on May 6, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on December 10, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on April 11, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on April 14, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on January 28, 2020
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Reviewed in the United States on April 12, 2019
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Top reviews from other countries

Katherine Morland
5.0 out of 5 stars Spell-binding!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 16, 2019
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Vallene
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 27, 2020
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Alimac
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommend
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 3, 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars Erin really needs a mobile phone!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 28, 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars Totally believable.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 14, 2020
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