D.G.’s Rating – 4 skulls: B+
If I were to follow this author’s penchant for naming chapters, I would call this review ‘Between a rock and a hard place”. Because that’s exactly where John Charming finds himself in this book. Daring had everything that was missing from the first book: a main character that was clearly in charge, a worthy villain with a horrible plan (which you don’t know until almost the end), lots of interesting new characters and a maelstrom of internal conflicts on John’s end. Oh and not too much of Sig (this is the love interest from the first book…I just didn’t like her that much.) Add to that the mix of humor and new mythology, and you have us a winner.
After the end of a successful vampire hunt in “Charming”, the first book in the series, John learns that his friends are a target for the Knights Templar. The whole purpose of the Knights is to protect the Pax Arcana, the spell which keeps the supernatural world a secret from humans, and they feel that John, an ex-knight and werewolf, is a threat to the Pax. They’ve been hunting him for decades and get their chance to apprehend him by threatening his friends. Through a string of events, John finds himself among werewolves for the first time ever, and confronting the tragedy of his life:
“Maybe I’m upset because I spent my whole life being raised by a brotherhood that woldn’t accept me and wouldn’t let me go, and now I’ve been kidnapped by another so-called family with the same attitude. Maybe I’m frustrated because the knights who I grew up with could never trust me because I was a werewolf, and you werewolves will never be able to really trust me because I was knight.”
The knights and the werewolves are in a collission course against one another and as a pariah who belongs to both groups but is accepted by none, John is in a difficult position. (Rock meet Hard Place, Hard Place meet Rock.) Both leaders are charismatic men who always seem to have the right word to persuade John, either with their knowledge of John’s weaknesses or the logic of their arguments.
“Most people never question the core beliefs they grow up with,” Emil confirmed. “You can look back on any culture five hundred years later and wonder how they could have ever believed some of the contradictory or flat-out insane things they accepted as law or common sense.”
Growing up with the knights and their hatred for all things supernatural made John very distrustful of his animal nature. He has been suppressing his wolf for a very long time but being around werewolves is bringing those instincts to the forefront. At times, John is confused and afraid to let himself go because he doesn’t trust that part of himself. He has never fully accepted who he is and he doesn’t get there in this book but towards the end, you feel that he’s a bit more comfortable in his own skin.
In this book, we also get glimpses of important events that shaped John’s life: his childhood and training, his loneliness and ostrasism, his drive to be better and prove others wrong, the event that triggered his werewolf nature and meeting Allison, the woman he loved and lost. I confess I liked her a lot better than Sig and I’m sorry she’s dead.
This series has some similarities to the Iron Druid Chronicles: wise-ass male main character with a smart mouth, kick ass fighting skills plus lots of knoweledge about the supernatural world. But I’m liking John Charming a lot better because I see his vulnerable side more often. It’s not all quips.
I’m loving the narration by Roger Wayne (again, I see similarities to Luke Daniels, the narrator of IDC) . He has that mix of irreverent charm and humor that just drips from his voice. He has adequate female voices, he has decent accents and good pacing. I’m definitely adding him to my list of narrators to watch out.
Although the world building is not completely new, I’ve enjoyed how Mr. James has interwoven fairy tale elements in this story. I’m definitely looking forward to the next in this series.
Series Reading Order: