Thursday, July 15, 2010
Author: Sean Cummings
Pages: 320 pages, paperback
Genre: urban fantasy
Standalone/Series: Series (Valerie Stevens, #1)
Release: Already out (March 2010)
Received for review from author
Author info: http://sean-cummings.ca Twitter: @saskatoonauthor
Spoiler Alert: In the clear.
GoodReads blurb: 'I fell into this job quite by accident, when I discovered that I possessed the ability to see the preternatural world. There are a handful of people with similar abilities, and part of my job is to locate them, since Government Services and Infrastructure Canada like to keep track of these things. Don't ask me why'. There's a malevolent force in town, and it's quite literally Valerie Steven's job to determine who's behind it and why they want to destroy the world, starting with Calgary. She'll have help, in the form of her best friend (now more or less a zombie, unfortunately), a powerful dwarf troll, and the ghost of former Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King (but he goes by 'Bill' these days). But that's not all - Valerie has some tricks up her sleeve and, she hopes, luck on her side. Oh, and her boyfriend, Dave. He drives a dump truck.
Valerie Stevens is an alchemist who works for a shadowy arm of the Canadian government (I know it is kind of hard to believe the Canadian government can have a shadow arm - but you know there has to be a darkside to all the Canadian niceness right?). Most the time Valerie's job involves tracking or capturing supernatural elements in Tupperware and sending them to her boss near the North Pole and to avoid attempts on her life by unhappy elements of the supernatural community. This time Valerie's job is alot tougher than trapping the supernatural element she finds herself up against a terrorist organization with dark magic at it's roots. Thankfully, Valerie has friends in the form of an ancient mage, a former Canadian prime minister now ghost, a zombie that has retained part of her soul, and her dump truck driving boyfriend Dave.
Although this book starts out a bit slow for me with much of the world building by way of Valerie's inner monologue - once the world and the players are established the book really starts to take off as Valerie rushes to find out who or what is behind the attempts on her life and stop them before they bring about more death. Valerie is a great character and has an interesting group of beings that she calls friends. She is the kind of no-nonsense heroine I can appreciate that doesn't do more than the usual amount of grumbling about the deck she has been dealt in life and she does some serious bad guy supernatural butt-kicking. Her friends also add some interesting spice to the mix with Fifty Dollar Bill being just how I would imagine the eccentric former Prime Minister William Mackenzie would behave with long winded speeches and antiquated views of how a woman should behave (though he does pop in on her in the shower), while her friend Caroline is a unique mix for a zombie - though she is one of the undead she retains her soul and therefore her sharp wit yet she has a zombie's strength and immunity to pain, and flesh eating habits as well (though she stays away from humans). Another great character, though we don't see enough of him, is her boyfriend Dave. Dave is a dump truck driver and is totally freaked out by the supernatural though he is sweet and cooks for Valerie, listens to opera, and sticks by her through all the craziness because he loves her so much.
And let's not forget the location - Calgary, Canada. Though I have read books that have been based in Canada before but they never made good use of the location and local flavor as Mr. Cumming's book did. Several of the locations used in the book actually exist in Calgary and he includes the all important Tim Hortons (if you ever meet a Canadian and are looking for things to discuss just bring up Tim Hortons and they'll be talking about how wonderful it is for a while..and then bring up hockey and they'll talk all night ;) Overall this was a good first entry into a new series that I am looking forward to reading.
3.5 out of 5 stars, some serious butt-kicking of dark forces by a tough Canadian heroine who has the best dump-truck driving boyfriend ever.