And here's the unprofessional-professional, and here's where I check out of this series.
I don't understand Jericho or what Sherwood is doing with his characterization. She wants me to believe this dude survived eight years in the Marines, four tours in Afghanistan (acquiring a Purple Heart, a Silver Star and a bachelor's degree all in that time), and went on to be a beat cop for the LAPD and eventually made detective. But here's the thing: Jericho's in idiot. He has no balls, no backbone, no brains; he's constantly being shoved around in one direction or another by everyone around him, not just his ubercrush Wade, and he does nothing about it except dig himself in deeper. Oh, but he has authority issues. If that's the case, how did he make it through boot camp? He survived four tours and eight years as a Marine but can't figure out how to get a gun out of someone's hand whose standing a mere three feet away from him? Really? He has authority issues but willingly lets himself be manipulated by Wade even after Wade says straight to his face that's what he's going to do? Jay needs to grow a pair and grow up.
At least Hockley shows some flexibility here and doesn't just keep up the "I'm a fed so I'm a jerkface for no other reason than I'm a fed" nonsense that he's had going on in the last book, but frankly, I'm getting close to being over the "locals vs the feds" nonsense that fiction writers just love to drool all over. There is at least an explanation of sorts in this one about why they're being such major tools. Kayla's tough and decisive where she can be, but really, by the time the feds are done with this town, I doubt she'll have anything resembling respect from her subordinates the way things are going right now.
As for the biker wars story - please. Just...that was the most convoluted plotline I've seen in awhile. And Nikki and her kids - honestly, I don't understand why Jericho gives a crap about any of them, when Nikki is constantly taking advantage of him and the kids are so horrible. Clearly, the only conclusion I can draw at this point is that he's a masochist. Which brings us to:
Wade Granger. Why am I supposed to give a crap about this dipshirt and Jericho's star-crossed obsession with him? If it really is star-crossed since Jericho's just barely pretending to act like a cop at this point. And is Jericho serious about his "if they made drugs legal then they wouldn't be a problem" logic? I guess he's a-OK with elementary school kids being used as mules and pushers, and teens getting hooked on this stuff and people OD-ing left and right and throwing their lives away for a high. But hey, if they're legal, then his ex-boyfriend would have a legitimate business enterprise and it'd be all good for them. Well, except the illegal weapons running and whatnot. Shoot, I guess we're just going to have to make that legal too. (And even if Wade ends up being revealed as being undercover (unlikely) or an informant (somewhat more likely) that still doesn't excuse Jericho's behavior up to this point.)
Writing is still good, but I have get off this stupid train.
After finishing this book this morning and thinking it over for most of the day, I'm going to give this 3 "I liked it but..." stars. I think my opinion of this book is going to depend on where exactly Ms. Sherwood takes this series and these characters from here, as there is a lot left unresolved, so it's difficult to judge it on its own merits.
The "mystery," such as it was, was written pretty decently and was wrapped up in this book, so unlike my original impression of this so-called serial (these books are really too long to call this a serial) where I assumed it was going to be one mystery extended over all four books, but it's actually a different case in each book. Ok, I guess Eli's murder might be the over-arching mystery, but again, I'll have to see how the rest of this series unfolds. Considering how little Jericho seemed to care about that, I can't see it carrying the weight of a four-book series.
This book is fast-paced and the action is pretty well-written, and it doesn't keep you waiting to find out who is behind everything. Or rather, it doesn't keep the characters waiting the entire book to figure it what you figured out in the second chapter.
The writing in the establishing chapters that set up the premise and gives you most of the background on Jericho and the town is a bit clunky and info-dump-y. There's this bizarre scene where he's pulled into an interrogation room for absolutely no plausible reason right after he gets into town. It was head-scratch inducing, and the DEA agents are unreasonably hostile. There's some good humor here though, since Jericho is something of a wiseass.
I liked Jericho well enough despite his at-times confusing motives, and so far he hasn't crossed into unprofessional-professional territory with Wade, who was Jericho's teen love and now the town's main crook. Kayla seems nice and everything but we don't really get to see much of her. She's a tough sheriff but doesn't mind bending a few "minor" laws here and there. Wade is... well... a crook and it's questionable at this point just how cold-hearted or ruthless he is or isn't, though his criminal activity doesn't leave much wiggle room for me to form a good opinion of him. Nikki is a complicated character and I'm not sure what to make of her or her kids at this point either.
Journey to the land of the dead. All expenses paid!
Not my idea of an ideal vacation, but this was work. After all, even an assassin has to earn a living.
The trouble is, everyone knows that a living human cannot walk the Paths of the Dead, and return, alive, to the land of men.
But being an Easterner is not exactly like being human, by Dragaeran standards anyway. Thus, the rule doesn't apply to me... I hope.
Another prequel, as we learn both how Vlad came to the be ruthless assassin that he is and how he got involved in/survived one of his old war stories. Brust must not have figured out yet how to move on after book 3, in which Vlad and his wife, Cawti, find themselves in conflict over a resistance movement.
A return to the past gives us the old Vladimir, who is cheerfully amoral and who only experiences twinges of conscience from time to time. The wise-cracking Loiosh (his familiar, a flying lizard) provides some comic relief, as do Vlad’s wry comments. I am sure that Brust must have been familiar with Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat series—he created another charismatic criminal in Vlad, though maybe not quite so conscience-free as Slippery Jim DiGriz. Giving Vlad magical talents was an inspired addition.
Because there are two stories involved, there is a fair bit of shifting back and forth between the two. This can be a bit confusing until you get into the rhythm of it. Once you are aware of what to expect, things go smoothly.
Series like this one foreshadow the snarky, smart-cracking main characters that I currently enjoy in urban fantasy. Vlad’s weakness (teleportation makes him nauseous) humanizes him a bit. He also builds a group of people around himself—perhaps not friends, but at least co-operative allies. Those are perhaps some of the reasons why Vlad’s stories appeal to me as much as they do. I can see Vlad as the predecessor of characters like Harry Dresden (The Dresden Files) and Atticus O'Sullivan (The Iron Druid).
Book 234 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.