May 31, 2017

[Books] Drake (The Burned Man #1)

Getting back to my book review queue I decided to get started on a new series of books to really push me along. It's never easy to get into a new series after all and it takes a certain amount of open-mindedness and patience as you get into a new author and the world he has created.

Drake is the first novel in the Burned Man series of novels. It's another spin on the urban fantasy genre that tries to take a someone darker slant to things given the literal demonic focus. But of course our titular Drake character isn't 100% evil or else we wouldn't able to able to survive reading about him for more than a single book, what more a whole series.

The book initially reminded me of a bunch of other books that deal with the paranormal encroaching into these mundane times, and I suppose that's unavoidable for the genre. The biggest shift that helped me beyond the involvement of demons is the fact that the story takes place in London. Nothing like a location shift to shake things up a bit.

Synopsis: Drake is the first book in The Burned Man series of novels by Peter McLean. Note: I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion of the work via NetGalley.

Don Drake is a different sort of hit man. While is office door claims he reads entrails to tell the future, he is in fact a diabolist who has an archdemon know as the Burned Man at his command. The Burned Man has been responsible for his education in magic and has aided him in his source of livelihood - summoning other lesson demons to kill people for money. But his proclivity for drinking and gambling puts him in debt to another demonic entity on Earth and thus he's forced to perform a series of hits.

But things go wrong when one of his hits ends up killing an innocent not part of his targets and this bothers Don. Around the same time, he encounters a beautiful woman with a white aura and Don doesn't know what that's supposed to mean. But he doesn't have time to think about it as he'snow being pursued by some very dangerous women and he doesn't know why. And he can't even balance things out with his sometimes girlfriend Debbie, who knows he's up to no good but doesn't know the specifics.

What I Liked: These Burned Man books are shaping out to be an interesting spin on the urban fantasy tale. You have the elements of a classic noir story like a down on his luck guy, a mysterious beautiful woman and a sort of mob boss figure. But then you have the whole demonic angle to things that turns things on its head and makes it unique.

Don is a weird character that's not always great and someone that you can root for but that's the character that he's designed to be. He starts out bad but not quite terrible and the book is the roundabout effort to give him a path to (partial?) redemption. And that's the value of the book and where the story does well.

What Could Have Been Better: In the beginning the book feels too close to stories like The Dresden Files, except Don is less knowledgeable about magic and lives in London. He's a hit man and not a detective but in time you figure that he'll end up doing detective-like work given the noir-style setting of the story.

The main magic part of the story is actually very magic light as their sense of demonic summoning relies more on ritual. There's some references to Don having a rather strong will, this is only really mentioned (or stressed) towards the end of the book and even then it wasn't a big plot point. So maybe future books will do more with the potential magic arc in the story but for now it doesn't feel all that magical. And it's not like the Burned Man does all that much as he performs a role  similar to what Bob the spirit does for Dresden - magical reference character.

TL;DR: Drake is an interesting attempt to start something new for this genre and I think it could go places as a franchise. This first book felt rather rough and still has a bit of a ways to grow before it becomes something solid. And so this first book gets 3 demonic creatures that Don manages to summon out of a possible 5.

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