Damian Valdis Vesik is a necromancer in St. Louis. His shop, Death's Door, provides spell-craft supplies, crystals, and other artifacts that sorcerers and Wiccans might be interested in. His sister, Sam, is a vampire - as far as I could figure out, Damian met his teacher, Zola, in the aftermath of his sister being attacked. Since then, he's also acquired several fairy lodgers and their annoyingly bitey cu sith puppies.
The book starts with a wedding invitation. Sam's ex-boyfriend is getting married, and she's pissed. Damian isn't 100% sure about her self-control, so, in order to appease her, he offers to attend the wedding and somehow make it horrible. Meanwhile, Zola is back, with news that there's something worrisome going on involving demons.
That's the story as I understood it. One of this book's problems (it had several) was that it didn't feel particularly focused. I generally understood that the primary storyline was supposed to be about the demons (demon?), but I couldn't get a handle on whether the author was setting it up to the the overarching storyline of the series, with something else as the true focus of this particular book, or whether it was actually this book's story. Or both.
Everything kicked off with the wedding invitation. Even though this was one of my Book Bonanza purchases and the author himself told me that this was the first book in the series, I still found myself wondering whether I'd actually started with the first book. Damian kept mentioning a bunch of characters like I should know them already - his vampire sister probably threw me the most. After a flurry of character introductions, the story fell into a frustrating pattern: the characters would eat junk food and/or spend some time joking around, something serious would happen, and then the characters would go back to eating junk food and/or joking around. This pattern held even as the characters were attempting to escape a zombie horde - during a brief quiet moment, Damian managed to find some expired Moon Pies and chowed down.
At some point during all the joking, chimichanga/pizza/beef jerky eating, and violent but largely forgettable vampire/demon/zombie scenes, Damian remembered that there was a wedding he was supposed to go to. He went, and then a scene occurred that utterly ruined the book and main character for me, and left me regretting that I'd purchased both Book 1 and Book 2 together because, hey, why not? (This is why not.) Warning: it involves animal abuse.
Just prior to the wedding, Damian learned how to do a bit of fairy magic. In particular, he learned a growth spell that could cause plants to grow extremely quickly. While at the wedding, he recalled a pet parrot of his who'd died from eating rice, and who he'd then raised from the dead. After scaring off a flower girl in a contrived little scene (based on what little I know of small children, I think she'd have been more fascinated by his story than terrified), Damian took her bag of rice and scattered it for the pigeons outside to eat. He then used his new growth spell to cause all of the pigeons in the area who'd eaten the rice to suddenly explode. Both he, his sister Sam, and Ashley, a Wiccan priestess and wedding attendee, thought this was hilarious. Any and all goodwill I had for Damian evaporated.
At a later point in the book, the characters found themselves caught in a trap that had required a massacre to set. Zola commented: "The power and disregard for life it would require are unthinkable." (189) I imagine she meant human life, because not one person had a negative thing to say about Damian blowing up a bunch of pigeons essentially for giggles. I was similarly stony-faced about all the "feeding ferrets to vampires" jokes. Damian didn't like pigeons, so it was okay for him to kill a bunch of them just to ruin a wedding.
Damian also didn't like ferrets, so it was hilarious that one of Sam's vampire friends bought a pet ferret each week and ate it.
The ferret thing didn't even make sense. If vampires could feed off of animals and did so in order to avoid harming humans and drawing attention to themselves, why spend so much money on ferrets and run the risk of the pet store owner (the ferrets were always purchased from the same store) finally becoming suspicious? Why not keep, say, a few large dogs around, and bleed them on a rotating basis?
This book had an editor, but I suspect she only did copyediting. This needed more than that. I liked Asher's "voice," for the most part, and I think there was a decent story in here somewhere. Unfortunately, it was buried under a bunch of crap: a large cast of characters I had difficulty remembering and keeping straight, an "everything but the kitchen sink" list of fantasy/paranormal beings, and lots of eating and jokes that tended to fall flat. Nothing seemed to matter. One of the character died, but I could barely remember why I should care. Damian was frequently injured in ways that should have either resulted in his death or extended hospitalization, but someone would always show up to heal him in a matter of hours or days.
There were a couple characters I sort of liked: Zola, Damian's teacher, and Happy the ghost panda. I'm still disappointed that not even Zola told Damian off for what he did to those birds, though, and Happy felt emotionally manipulative, the author's way of making sure that there would be at least one appealing thing in the book. Even Damian admitted that Happy didn't behave like an actual panda. He was more like a cross between a teddy bear and a giant breed puppy.
I will probably read the second book at some point, since I foolishly already purchased it, but I'm not really looking forward to it. It's disappointing, because Asher was one of the handful of Book Bonanza authors I was convinced would be a good fit for me.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)