June 16, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Geek Lit: Charming (Pax Arcana Book 1)

John Charming is on the run from the monster hunting organization he used to belong to. Then a Valkyrie and a Vampire walk into where he's tending bar...

Urban fantasy loves the modern setting where all manner of supernatural agents are real but hidden from the general public.

For John Charming, that’s something of a gift and a curse.

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John, as his name suggests, is descended from a line of heroic knights that were often mistaken for princes.  He used to belong to the knights himself, an organization charged with protecting regular people from supernatural monsters that violate the Pax Arcana, a supernatural spell that basically means humans will ignore any supernatural that isn’t directly threatening them.  Why is John no longer a member of the knights?  Well, for one thing, they want him dead.  Why?  Well, he seems to be part-werewolf, a manner of creature no one has ever seen before.

As it is, John has been on the run for years (he is no where near as young as he looks).  While tending a small out-of-the-way bar in Clayburg, Virginia, a gorgeous Valkyrie walks in.  Shortly thereafter, a vampire does as well.  They aren’t friends.  In fact, even as a former knight, John feels compelled to protect the innocent thanks to the geas placed on him during his knights days.  Having the two supernaturals in the bar at the same time soon has John doing what he can but would rather not do thanks to his own sense of right and wrong to say nothing of the supernatural agency placed on him to do so.

This was a fun first book in the Pax Arcana series.  Elliot James has a nice set-up, and his world is an intriguing place to look into.  The sudden shift towards the end, when John-the-first-person-narrator explains why he is “writing” the book seems to come out of nowhere, but the biggest problem is John himself.  He isn’t much of a lead character.  The world around him is interesting, but he seems very run-of-the-mill compared to other characters within the genre.  Compared to, say, Harry Dresden’s wisecracking empathy, or Alex Verus’ methodical calm, or even Daniel Faust’s conman instincts playing at all times, and there’s not much special about John as a person.  Perhaps that changes with subsequent books, but so far there isn’t much to go on.

Let’s say this one gets eight out of ten pacifist naga.