Series: Pax Arcana #1
Published by Orbit on September 24, 2013
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Sexual Content: Kissing, references to sex
Reviewed by: Kate
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?
CHARMING, the first book in the Pax Arcana series, is one of those books I have some mixed feelings about. Starting out with an action packed vampire fight scene almost immediately is something that certainly grabs a reader’s attention, and the humor and good pacing of the rest of the action kept me involved, but I had issues with the narration and the main character. The fact that I managed to look past those two things and finish (and enjoy!) the book does show, however, that good writing and plotting will almost always win even if the rest of the book isn’t perfect.
There were a few things I didn’t enjoy about CHARMING. I would normally never comment on narrative, but the first person narrative in this case was a bit....off-putting. John frequently addressed the reader in his narration, and while I’m not sure I normally notice it, in this case it was very obvious. Part of this was my original dislike of John as a character. He comes across as arrogant and not just a little obnoxious. While this changes over the course of the book, and we see different aspects of his personality, to begin with, he rubbed me the wrong way, and it was hard to get over.
However, there are redeeming qualities of CHARMING. The cast of secondary characters that make up the “monster-hunting” team that John finds himself a part of is awesome. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite from Molly, the lapsed Episcopal priest who has such faith in God that when she carries a cross it can knock a vampire back ten feet, Cahill, the rather discontented detective who even without special abilities is part of the team, or Choo, the exterminator with an exorcism business on the side, and who despite being ordained by multiple churches over the internet is still unable to make actual holy water. We’ve even got vampire villains who speak in such thick Southern accents that it was almost hard to read their dialogue. The diversity of characters and backstories gave CHARMING a much richer feel than had we just been focused on John the entire time.
CHARMING put a new spin on the whole typical urban fantasy mythology with the Pax Arcana, the magical spell the series is named after. In CHARMING’s world, humans don’t know about the supernatural because of the spell the fae put on the world during the time of the Black Death in Europe. John himself is part of that, destined to hunt monsters his entire life. Despite my original problems with him, he started to grow on me near the end (even if he did a few things I didn’t necessarily approve of) and I am curious about his further adventures. While it doesn’t seem there’s information about a second book out yet, James has a series of short stories starring the illustrious John Charming, taking place before the events of CHARMING, and I will definitely be checking those out.Series Titles:
0.5 Charmed I'm Sure
0.6 Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls
0.7 Chasing Luck
0.8 Surreal Estate