Monday, December 26, 2016

Monsters and Sorcery in Seattle

Realms of Shadow

By Barry James

Publisher: After Hours Publishing 

Pub Date: March 11, 2014

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

When we last encountered Jordan Hanson, he has just finished defeating the evil Ackerman and the Mandragorans who were close to annihilating the human race. It is five years later and the battle has left many portals to other dimensions open. Jordan and his crew are patrolling and fighting the dangerous creatures who pass through the portals.. But recently, an alchemist and a rogue angel have presented a far greater danger that once again threaten to enslave humans and they may be far more powerful that Team Jordan.

This is the premise of Realms of Shadows the second book of Barry James' Mondragoran Chronicles. I have previously reviewed the first book, Dreams of Darkness and, while I enjoyed and recommended it, I found it had a number of common problems that appear in independently published first books. It was still strong enough for me to look forward to the second book. I am pleased to say any quibbles I had with the first book has dissipated with the second. Realms of Shadow is a tighter effort in all ways. The book is shorter at 336 pages than the first but it seems more detailed and complex in the depiction of both the action and the fantasy world. James has created a fully formed alternate reality Earth with lots of creatures, many taken from other mythologies, that serve as Jordan's enemies and allies. The dialog is also tighter and doesn't break up the action like it did before which is perhaps the best improvement for one who likes their urban fantasy to be action-packed. And as I predicted, Jordan has found himself a girl friend yet it is casually immersed enough within the story not to be paranormal romance. (Thank God!)

Jordan continues to be the focus and an interesting protagonist. He is perfecting control of the monster within him and seems to be less in conflict with it. There is still some brooding but it is smarter and more task-directed. The other members of his group are all essential to the plot. I am tempted to say there is a bit of "Buffy and the Scooby Gang" in this second novel due to their focus on mission and their camaraderie and that is a good thing which is essential to drive forward a series like this. My favorite addition is Lori, a child seer with a lot of spunk for someone whose fate is not promising. She has just the right amount of smart-assery for a gifted kid. "Which part of 'I can see the future' did you not get?" Another nice touch is that the more casual parts feel steeped in the culture of Seattle where the action takes palace. I mean where else can a group of demon fighters feel natural discussing sorcery, demons, and plans of attack while sipping Awake tea and a white chocolate mocha at a Starbucks. And knowing Seattle, I could envision that not one customer thought this was unusual until the blood wraith showed up!

Realms of Shadow ends up a very strong contender in the urban fantasy genre. It is a improvement on the already promising start of the first volume. James' story remains very dark but very readable. Its villains and monsters are well described and formidable but it is Jordan and his team that really make the book such a delight. It should be noted that this novel can be read without the first book since the author has combined a detailed synopsis of the first book in the second chapter to get the reader up to speed. But I do recommend reading them in order. I am looking forward to the next installment.

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