Elliott James – Charming

elliottjames-charmingJohn 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?   

Ever wondered why the prince in all the fairy tales is always called Charming? It’s because it’s not their first name and they’re all part of the same monster-hunting, heroic family. It’s a fun and interesting premise, rather reminiscent of that of the TV show Grimm – though the book was long finished before that series was announced – a show I enjoy watching, so when this title popped up in the Read Now-section of Netgalley, I thought I’d take a look. And I’m glad I did, as it was a fun read.

Charming has a clear tone of voice and sense of humour; it’s not as dark and grim in tone as some other urban fantasy out there, such as Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series or Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series. One thing I had to adjust to were the groan-worthy puns and jokes – chapter titles such as The Norse Whisperer, Blood, Bath, and Beyond, and Geas, That’s too Bad and lines like “All the good Valkyries are taken.” or “Well, get over your pre-moon syndrome,” while talking to a half-werewolf – which would put this in a definite subsection of urban fantasy together with titles such as Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, Nina Post’s Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse, and Martin Millar’s The Good Fairies of New York.

The world building is quite good. I really liked the concept of the Pax Arcana and I loved the whole Templar link, with its alternate explanation why they suddenly disappeared from view (other than Friday the Thirteenth). There are several enforcer societies other than the Knights Templar, such as the Eastern European Kreskin and I appreciated the fact that James acknowledged that the world consists of more than Western Europe and had the Fae select societies in different parts of the world that were appropriate to whichever part of the world they belong to. James has obviously thought his world through well and while many of the supernatural creatures are familiar, many of them have a slight twist in their make-up.

The main cast of characters is relatively limited. It consists of John, Sig, Dvornik, his two nephews, Choo, Molly and their main nemesis, the new vampire mastermind that has come to their area to hunt. There are plenty of entertaining bit parts but these are the most important ones. John and Sig make for an interesting set of protagonists and I liked the twist at the end. The Scooby gang was fun too, but I particularly loved Molly and Choo. There seemed a lot of interesting back story there and they seem the perfect subjects for a spin-off prequel story. There are already some e-novella’s planned, one of them already out, which are only available digitally to US readers, but they all seem to be about John, so hopefully there’ll be one about Choo and Molly in the future. What I liked about Choo and Molly was that they were full-fledged characters with stories of their own and that they were heroic despite those stories. And in addition, they were just very funny.

John Charming is one of the scions of the family that spawned all those fairy-tale enshrined Prince Charmings, so unsurprisingly the story is rather heavy on the romance. But while sparks fly between John and Sig, the resolution of the story isn’t what you’d expect. It’s not a happy ending as such; it certainly is a good one. I really thought that the interaction between John and Sig was fun, and while they definitely have shades of a One True Pairing vibe going on, I liked that the story didn’t go down the expected route.

Charming was a fun read and solid first book in a series, but it isn’t a love at first sight affair and time will tell whether this series becomes a Prince Charming or a Prince Charmless. Still, I have good hopes and I’m looking forward to seeing how John survives his next adventure, because from the set up at the end of the book it’ll be interesting to say the least.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.


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