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Shadow Hunter: An Urban Fantasy (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill Book 1) Kindle Edition
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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.
- 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
- Best Sellers Rank: #7,022 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Am I qualified to make this statement? I started with L. Frank Baum's novels when I was 5 years old (1943) and graduated to Asimov and Herbert.
I read from 2 to 3 supernatural books a week for the past 20 years. Many I just skim through entire chapters as they are again reiterating their childhoods as an orphan or some other such standard backgrounds. I also speed through a 30 page diatribe of descriptive sex. I'm 80, don't need a refresher course in the Kuma Sutra, and it usually has nothing to do with the plot. This writer held my total interest for the entire book (One night only).
Shadow Hunter kind of suffers from this. It is a book with a ton of potential that just needed to be fleshed out a little more before print. What it turned into is a lot of action scenes cobbled together very loosely by threads of a plot and worldbuilding.
Erin was raised by the Illuminate and trained to be an assassin. She is a little special Susie snowflake from the beginning but I will usually forgive that if the story is good. After finding out everything she believed is a lie Erin has gone into hiding and found Rosie’s O’Grady’s Paranormal Bar to get lost in.
The good points of the story:
The potential world this is set in is interesting with Paranormals and Supernatural creatures. There is a decent scooby squad building and I’m liking a few of the side characters and the potential they could bring to future stories.
There is enough humor in the book. Erin does say some funny things at times since she doesn’t really understand real relationships between people and has never slept with someone she didn’t need to kill.
***Was I supposed to be in love to go on a date? Did it automatically mean sex? What did you do in the morning when the man was still alive? You’d probably have to talk to him. What would you talk about? ***
The story has potential overall. I’m left wondering if this is just first book jitters and the author will figure out how to do some plotting and character development a little better in future installments.
The bad points of the story:
The plot is a hot mess at times. It jumps from one ambush of the characters to another without a lot of plot in between. Erin is supposed to be this famed hunter with a bunch of skills from her past, but for most of the book she is just stumbling into bodies, being ambushed by vampires and trying to hide from the hunter in town. It just didn’t seem like she was the badass the prologue in the book told us she was.
There are some plot holes and a few times when Erin did things that just didn’t seem like they would be in her character. Plus, I hate it when things seem too easy. There is one point where they know where the bad guy is due to a vision someone else sees off page.
This book needed some help with fleshing out the plot and details. Still it was interesting enough with enough potential that I will give this author one more shot and try the next one to see if she is improving with the problems seen in this installment of the series. There are some cool bones in the story that have a lot of potential so this reader just hopes that in the future the fleshy parts look more like a cherub and less like the walking dead.
My biggest issue is that the author doesn't build the world or characters in any way. There is no indication of where Rosie is, geographically, or mentally. What she found out about the organization she works for should have rocked her world, but she doesn't seem to be fazed by it at all. She did something to the people who tricked her but its only vaguely mentioned through out the book. You don't even find out until the middle of the book that supernaturals are undercover in the human world. The author jokes/mentions that there are some other supernaturals, but doesn't really explain who or what exists. The other supernaturals just keep randomly popping up through the story.
There are relationships between the characters but there isn't any character building or relationship plot builds. People are either nice or mean, with no real reasoning behind their behaviors. They don't ask questions or care to ask, there isn't any dilemma about Rosie's past, or anything. Everyone is just fascinated with her, without real reason.
The story is interesting enough to want to read through, since i paid for it, but not enough to read the next book.
Top reviews from other countries
I must read for those that enjoy books filled with mages, witches, shifters, vampires (clansmen) and cops. Fun and quirky.