- Title: Charming
- Author: Elliott James
- Series: Pax Arcana #1
- Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal
- Format: ebook
- Source: Review copy
- Reviewed by: DarthVal
- Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Description: John Charming isn’t your average Prince…
He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is — until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.
That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn’t change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar… Right?
Review: At first glance, this books looks like a clear-cut paranormal romance. The cover is a little on the cheesy side, featuring a handsome and surely dashing hero staring intently at the reader beneath a suitably fancy font. But wait, is that a male author’s name blazoned across the bottom? I can’t remember ever having read a romance by a male author. Hmm. So, I take a closer look and the book description reads much more urban fantasy, than PNR. Now, my interest is peaked, the hook is set, reel me in.
The book has an interesting concept, fairy tales about “Prince Charming” are really an amalgamation of stories about various members of the Charming family, a long line of Knights Templar. Yes, those Knights Templar, except they still exist, but rather than going on holy crusades they protect the balance between magic and mundane. Our hero of this tale, John Charming, is a tarnished descendant of this illustrious line. Once upon a time, a Valkyrie walk into his bar (er, pub) and mayhem ensues.
The first person narrative of the story allows the author to effectively contribute bits of detail and lore to flesh out the urban fantasy world being created. James takes it a little far at the end, having John tell the reader why he is documenting what has happened. I found this offensive as a reader, I am smart enough not to need a convenient explanation as to why the narrator is telling his/her story.
Make no mistake, our hero uses his droll wit to tell quite a story of adventure and intrigue. I love the humorous tone of this book. Even the chapter titles are chuckle inducing. John is quite charming, in a sarcastic and messed up kind of way, unless he has been provoked. Then, foes beware, he is a tough cookie and ready to rumble.
Being that the story is about a bad-ass protector-type, there is plenty of action in the story. John is inspired by Sig, a Valkyrie, to join forces with her merry band of misfits to eradicate a vampire threat to that magical balance. Whether or not he can trust all of the Scooby gang to have his back remains to be seen, as suspicion and mistrust is rife among them.
Between bloody battle scenes, there are a LOT of interpersonal dynamics going on in this book, a little too much for my taste. Mid-way through the book, the author gets so caught up in the romance sub-plot that it almost loses the SUB and becomes the plot. It is not that it is badly written, I just prefer UF to PNR.
Regardless, this was a really fun book. James seems to channel a couple of my favorite authors: Ilona Andrews and Jim Butcher with his blend of magical conflict and snarky humor. The result is not quite as well executed as the aforementioned UF icons, but I have hope that this series can turn into something fun.
*Disclaimer: A free advance copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher through Net Galley.