***Disclosure: Andrew's an ex-pat Brit who's been an online friend of mine for several years.***
PAGAN: An MPRD novel is the anti-emo of the Vampire/Urban Fantasy genre... and its about damn time! If I gotta hear about one more curly-haired, hemoglobin-challenged, eternally tortured soul who can seduce anything that breathes but somehow still can't find true love while wearing his religion-revealing ballet pants... I just had to get that out.
The premise is straight forward: vamps have been playing humans for the past 20+ years with all the Twilight/Interview crap, softening us up for the worldwide sucker punch known as Black Tuesday. Five years later, there's still some disparity as to how to deal with being at the top of the menu instead of the food chain, but not so much that governments aren't swinging back. Enter the Ministry of Paranormal Research & Defense and their best bloke- Jack 'Pagan' Henderson- a former SAS turned fangbuster who also possesses a unique trait that prevents him from being controlled by vampires. The other fearless vampire killers comprise his team- as both comrades in arms and friends for life. Two are a bit of a surprise: Anna, who was turned into a vampire after she'd been a hunter, and Marie- a full-blooded werewolf who also doubles as Jack's sweetie.
The antagonists are cruel, nasty, vicious and bloodthirsty- in short, they're vampires! This one adds new flavor to the stale recipe of vampires and werewolves, introducing some intriguing sub-classes into each group. And in this world the lycanthropes are out in the open and siding with humanity, making for a nice twist. And there are a few vamps working for the Ministry itself, setting the stage for current and future intrigues. After our boys and girls finish clearing out a rural area, Pagan is brought to HQ for a Special Ops assignment: a hit on one of the most powerful vampires in England. Though it struck me as a little too easily accomplished, the aftermath of the mission leads to some unexpected developments whose ripples are felt all the way into the finale.
There's a wealth of detail- maybe a little too much- about guns and ammo; someone else joking referred to it as 'gun porn'. Ordnance fetishes aside, it's a fun read with lots of depth and humor. Jack's a likable enough guy but I kinda found myself more interested in the other team members as things progressed. Being former military I appreciated the jabs and snaps aimed at the upper ranks and bureaucratic types, as well as the crude and crass tension-breakers just before a fight.
PAGAN is a worthy first effort, nicely crafted with a few dull spots; the ending was too neat and pat, and there were parts of it I'd already seen coming. But I'm expecting the spit shine in the sequel.