Charming by Elliott James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Let's get this out of the way. I really enjoy urban fantasy, but lately I seem to be stuck in a run of UF books that were good, but not great. I don't know if this is a reflection of the genre right now, my own tastes adjusting or just the books I've picked up. Again, this was a book with a unique and interesting concept but the characters and storytelling just didn't hold up.
I'm not going to get into the specifics of the plot, save to say that the set up is very interesting as far as using the Knights Templar and the Pax itself, but the big antagonist of this book is more of a mcguffin for exploring the relationship drama than an actual threat to anyone. Yeah, she was kinda creepy, but for being a 'smart' vampire she really wasn't that smart, and none of the baddies our heroes faced were actually that tough. It was kinda like watching James Bond. The old ones where he gets the girl and the baddy dies stupidly after not taking a chance to just kill the idiot in the first place. Even the much older vampire is killed in less than a paragraph. John and Sig chew through vampires multiple times rarely taking so much as a black eye and whatever damage they do take is gone by the next scene so it's not like it actually matters. And I know that some of that is an aspect of urban fantasy, but it makes the danger feel less real when the biggest inconvenience of a fight is that you have to change your shirt.
As for the characters there were things that were well done and others not so much. Some of the little supernatural hunting squad were well developed with their own balanced personalities and quirks, but at least the two nephews were cardboard cut outs based on extra firepower. I loved Molly and Choo and I loved aspects of John and Sig, but I got tired of everyone being in love with Sig, even John who's known her for about five minutes and that being the biggest drive for the story. It was interesting that she was the center of the group and the reason they stayed together, but I would have liked to see aspects of real friendship and non sexual love driving some of that group cohesion too.
Also, holy exposition Batman. I know it's hard to introduce the specifics of a different take on the supernatural thing, but every time John would spend several paragraphs explaining things either to another character or as an aside to the reader I wanted to slap the author. This was huge and consistent. Oh, woe, I'm a part wolf and let me explain to you why that's significant and why I'm doing all the things I'm doing and remind you that my old friends the knights are hunting me for this. 14 paragraphs later we arrive at the meeting. Ye gads.
So...all in all the world is interesting enough that I'll likely pick up the other books sooner or later, but I'm not in a rush. Maybe with the big relationship issue mostly out of the way and some of the world building set the other books will give us a better glimpse into who these people really are and what they can be.
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