December 1, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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Geek Lit: The Castle Doctrine (Daniel Faust Book 6)

Vegas con-man/magician Daniel Faust is back, this time looking to win a mob war for control of the Las Vegas underworld.

Craig Schaefer’s Daniel Faust series has become one of my go-to favorites for urban fantasy.  Faust, more a con man than a powerhouse wizard, often has adventures full of good cliffhangers, humor, and character work as Faust and his magical friends (or family as he knows them) take on all comers, often preferring to use wits over muscle.

The sixth book in the series, The Castle Doctrine, ends the second trilogy as Faust deals with an attempt by the Chicago mob to take over the Vegas underworld he knows and loves so much, as well as deal with a loose end he left lying around.

The “loose end” is a man named Damien Ecko, a necromancer of great power.  Faust framed the guy for theft and a few other crimes while robbing him, getting Damien a place on the “Most Wanted” list for two different Hell Courts.  The things is, Damien has a lot of secrets and power, so these sorts of threats don’t really bother him.  He is absolutely the one guy that could come after Faust that gives zero fig newtons who he pisses off if it will get him the vengeance he wants so badly.

That’s a big deal in Faust’s universe.  Ecko may be the one guy that would willingly mess with a casino.  Faust and his friends and allies know you don’t mess with casinos and the large corporations that own them.

It also doesn’t help that, just as Ecko is coming to town, Faust has to go underground.  He’s believed dead by law enforcement, killed in a prison riot from the previous book.  The fact that the Enemy, the nameless entity that has vague plans for all of creation, sent Faust there as a means of changing some sort of cosmic script with a curse powerful enough to make people believe a trial and conviction that never happened took place, is a minor footnote this time around.  Faust and the reader learn more about that ongoing plot, but this book is dedicated almost completely to the mob war caused by Chicago moving in just as former crime boss (and Faust’s former employer) Nicky Angelli disappeared, and Faust’s friend Jennifer is barely holding together a crime syndicate made up of all the smaller local gangs.

By this point, the fun for a Faust book comes down to finding out how Faust outthinks his opponents.  Schaefer sets up clever cons and plots, and given how often these books come out, well, I don’t think I’d ever want to play a game of poker with him.  As always, Faust has his usual back-up in the form of succubus girlfriend Caitlin and various other magical users in and around the city.  Schaefer does throw a couple nods to his new spin-off series about magical FBI agent Harmony Black, but overall, this was the usual fun from the author.  Nine and a half shapeshifting tiger men out of ten.

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