Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Early (Book) Review: "Blood and Silver" By James R. Tuck (No Spoilers)

Today's your lucky day, folks, because I'm reviewing a book that won't even be out for two more weeks.  It's Blood and Silver, the second novel in James R. Tuck's "Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty Hunter" series.  Let the record state that I critiqued an early draft of this in my Kennesaw writing group (and am listed in the Acknowledgements section for that reason) and that James gave me a signed advance copy.

The Plot

A few months after the first Deacon Chalk novel Blood and Bullets,Deacon gets involved in the internal and very bloody politics of the lycanthropic community. 

The Good

*For starters, it's a very quick read.  It only took me a couple hours to finish, and that included taking the time to write much of this blog post and make dinner last night.

*Since this is a sequel, James needs to retell the back-story and reintroduce the characters for anyone who hasn't read the first book.  And he does this without being info-dumpy.  On the first page, Deacon reveals the death of his family using a metaphor involving pet rattlesnakes that I liked.

*Although the beginning isn't as immediately grabby as Blood and Bullets(which begins with Deacon pointing a gun in the face of a vampire in a parking lot), the mayhem starts pretty quickly when Deacon comes across a man beating a dog.

*Blood and Silver, like Blood and Bullets, has some very good descriptive language.  One particularly good passage is when Deacon has to sneak into a house that's quiet--too quiet.  The whole scene takes several pages and the diction is very ominous, including corpse metaphors.

*When I first read the story in my writing group last year, one of the things that most impressed me was the variety of lycanthropes James wrote about.  Most fiction dealing with lycanthropes focuses on werewolves.  Not this book.  A trio of the main lycanthropes are were-lions, there's a very heavily-armed community of were-rabbits, and some were-critters I'm not going to describe because actually meeting them is an awesome surprise.  Actual werewolves play only a very minor role.

*The narrative is really funny.  Deacon's responses to meeting particularly powerful and dangerous lycanthropes (two different scenes) are amusing, as is the verbal bomb he drops on an odious moralistic were-lion later in the story.  His threat to make a rug out of a traitorous were-creature was amusing.  And I laughed at Deacon's recounting of how an evil vampire wanted her to do his "doing" her.

The Bad

*There're several instances of repetition in here.  I recall at two different lengthy descriptions of Deacon's car and two fairly similar descriptions of firearms (the thing about them being the standard weapon for American soldiers for a certain length of time).  A character's past as a prostitute for vampires is described twice.

*One character is a were-predator who preaches against were-predators mistreating were-prey.  I would expect him to be more conflicted--he is basically going against his nature.  There's a reference to him using his "predator dominance" to coerce another character into having sex with him and he seems ashamed of that, but this could be elaborated more. 

*This may be a personal quirk of mine, but I like my flashbacks self-contained.  Deacon's flashback to when he first had to deal with lycanthropes begins in the middle of one chapter and ends pretty close to the end of another.  I enjoyed the fight scene, but it would have been better to contain it within one chapter.

*Not all of the dialogue works, especially Kat's "laugh and smile" comments re: Larson.

*Early in the story, we learn Deacon's associate Larson has been practicing ritual magic.  Deacon HATES ritual magic, to the point he pulls a gun on Larson when he starts reciting a spell.  However, given the reasons Deacon hates magic, I would have included references to that incident later in the book.  Given his severe dislike for magic, it seems like something that would make Deacon suspicious of Larson for awhile afterward.

*Lycanthropy is transmitted through bodily fluids and is compared to HIV, necessitating the cast wear biohazard gear to the final battle against some evil lycanthropes.  However, they don't bother with this for the first battle.  If there were some reference to how they'd ordered biohazard gear but they hadn't arrived yet and they didn't have time to wait, that would have been better.

*There're some editing problems, including a sentence broken up and indented halfway through on page 246 and words mashed together at least twice.

The Verdict

A worthy sequel to Blood and Bullets.  8 out of 10.

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