Book Review: A Devil in the Details by K.A. Stewart

Hey there…

These days I’m always on the hunt for good urban fantasy. The gold standard for urban fantasy for me is The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. Magic and sarcasm make a heady mix for Harry Dresden, wizard-for-hire, and it’s a tough combination to beat.

That doesn’t stop me from looking however. And a few months ago I saw a review of K.A. Stewart’s A Devil in the Details on the Fantasy Book Critic blog. I immediately ordered a copy and threw it into my “read when I get a chance” pile.

Thankfully I had a chance to read it a couple of weeks ago and it was both a quick read and a lot of fun. Jesse James Dawson has an interesting worldview and a unique set of skills that come in handy when you act as a proxy in a deal with a demon. Demons don’t look too kindly on breaking contracts it seems and it tends to get messy. That’s when Dawson’s katana comes out to play…

Dawson is a member of a loose network of Champions around the globe focused on helping people get out of their contracts with demons. And he won’t just take on anybody. If you’ve made a deal with a demon, you knew what you were doing even if you didn’t think through all the consequences. You really have to have reformed in some serious ways if you expect Dawson to take your case. Yes, he gets paid well by the people he helps, but that’s just so that his wife and daughter are taken care of in the event that he dies on the job. He knows eventually his luck will run out and his family must be safe and secure in his absence.

What is this job exactly? He intercedes on behalf of people who have sold their souls to a demon for something. It can be something as giving as asking for a cure for your dying child or as selfish as wanting a few more years in the limelight before you fade away for good. In this story, it’s a famous old baseball pitcher who approaches Dawson to help him out. He wasn’t getting any playing time as younger players were pitching better than he was and he wanted to go out on top… Well, he paid for the sudden turnaround with his soul. And now he wants out of the deal.

Once Dawson is involved, he discovers that other things are afoot and that some of his fellow Champions have gone missing. Is it all related? Can he keep his family safe and still fulfill his obligations to the pitcher? You’ll have to read it and find out, but A Devil in the Details sets the groundwork for a great new realm in urban fantasy I look forward to exploring further.

Though this is the first book in a series and Stewart’s debut, it really doesn’t feel like one. Her writing style was fluid enough that Dawson’s quests never felt forced or rushed. When a character was introduced, it was there for a reason and that reason was resolved by the end. And though all the loose ends were neatly tied up, this story left me wanting to know more about Dawson and his network of Champions in the next book.

Be sure to check out A Devil in the Details from K.A. Stewart at your favorite bookseller and check out her blog at Literary Intent.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up the book from Barnes & Noble below:

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Book Review: Supernatural: War of the Sons by Rebecca Dessertine & David Reed

Hi again!

Supernatural is regular viewing at my house. My two daughters can probably tell you more about Sam and Dean Winchester than I can. And we’ve enjoyed watching the storyline develop since the series began in 2005. I have to admit that Season 5 got a little dark for my tastes as the battle between Heaven and Hell waged on Earth, but Season 6 has found the spark again. (The episode “Clap Your Hands If You Believe…” about the faerie invasion had some great moments!)

If you’re not familiar with the series, Supernatural focuses on the lives of the Winchester brothers – Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) – and their quest to save good people from bad things. Though it started with the monster of the week format, over the last few seasons it developed its own world where Angels, Demons, and various things that go bump in the dark try to find their own niche in the world by taking out a few mortals along the way. But it’s really the relationship between the brothers – the dialog dripping with sarcasm and sharp wit – that keeps us tuning in season after season.

That said, I tend to avoid books associated with movies and television for the most part. Yes, occasionally I’ll pick up an art book or a behind the scenes book here and there, but not regularly. And fiction associated with such properties I usually ignore. That started for me back in the 1980s when I read the novelizations of a few movies like Star Wars and found them lacking the magic of the original form.

So how did I end up reading Supernatural: War of the Sons? I honestly don’t know. But my daughters probably had something to do with it.

The book takes place before the end of Season 5 when Sam and Dean are frantically trying to find a way to put Lucifer back in his cage. Desperate to avoid becoming “meat suits” for the Archangel Michael (Dean’s “destiny”) and Lucifer (Sam’s “destiny”), the pair hunt all over trying to find something – anything to help them out. This quest leads them to a small town in South Dakota where they meat Don, an angel with a possible solution to get out of the mess they’re in. Though angels usually try to screw them over, Sam gives in to his desperation and the boys find themselves on a mission through time…

Yes, you read that right. Time travel. It’s not the first time it’s come up in Supernatural. Dean’s made a few trips back in time to when his parents were just starting out. But this trip is more than a few years – Don sends them back to 1954 on a quest to find the last few pages of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Scrolls may offer a battle plan to defeat the Devil. All they had to do was get them and return back to 2010.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Of course it’s not. Along the way they run into some friends – Walter and Julie – who alternate between wanting to kill them or help them. They also run into the demon who wanted to be the wife of Lucifer instead of Lilith – Eisheth. She’s a real treat with a few secrets of her own concerning Don, the angel who put everything into motion.

Really this was a fun tale in true Supernatural fashion. Not only do you get the usual sarcasm, wit, and hunting with the Winchesters, but you learn a bit about the Dead Sea Scrolls and take a deeper dive into the world of angels and demons.

Included in the fiction were a few comments on life today from the boys’ perspective in 1954. When Sam is forced to visit a library instead of surfing the net for his research, he notes: “Rows of shelves lined every inch of the room; thousands upon thousands of books, and not an Internet connection in sight. Sam didn’t mind doing the research, but Google had become his crutch, and he felt handicapped without it.” I wonder how many of us would want to give up some of today’s nicer benefits in favor of heading to a technologically-simpler time in America?

Maybe I’ve been wrong to skip TV-and-movie tie-in fiction this long, because Supernatural: War of the Sons was a fun read. If you want to learn a bit more about the world of Supernatural and take a tour of the 1950s with the Winchesters, I highly recommend you give it a whirl!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out these Supernatural books!

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