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Desdaemona, by Ben Macallan Book Review | SFReader.com
Desdaemona, by Ben Macallan Genre: Modern/Urban Fantasy Publisher: Solaris Published: 2011 Review Posted: 7/23/2013 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated
Desdaemona, by Ben Macallan
Book Review by Joshua Palmatier
Have you read this book?
Desdaemona is the debut novel (here in the US) for Ben Macallan. It's an urban fantasy, and most of you know that I generally don't read urban fantasy. I just don't get caught up in it. I received this book as an eARC before it was published and read at least half of it then. I bought the book when it came out and finished it up just now. Out of the urban fantasies I've read, I'd say that this one has a few qualities that will make it stick out in the urban fantasy field.
Here's the idea behind the book: Jordan is on the run from his parents who intend, when he comes of age, to kill him and make him immortal. They are immortals, and as you've probably guessed, all of the immortals (and nearly all of the legends and folklore characters and myths) are alive and well and living among us, as with most urban fantasies.
Jordan has managed to elude them for years, time for him suspended by an amulet he wears around his neck so that he will not come of age (and thus be easier to find). Most of the immortal world is on the hunt for him, since his parents have offered an award for his capture. While on the run, Jordan finds himself helping other runaways, mostly helping them out of trouble (usually the paranormal kind) and getting them back home where they belong.
That's how the book starts--with Jordan helping a young girl escape from some werewolves--and then Jordan meets Desdaemona, a woman who's made a deal with daemons and so possesses some exceptional powers and who also needs Jordan's help finding her lost sister, Fay.The rest of the novel is filled with Jordan and Desi searching for Fay, following the trail, all while attempting to escape all of the people looking for Jordan . . . and it turns out, for Desi as well. They're both mixed up with some pretty bad people in the immortal world, and everyone is out to get the reward for both their heads. So what makes this novel stick out in the urban fantasy field?
First and foremost is the voice of the main character. This is, of course, written in first person and so you get a strong sense of the main character, Jordan. For the US readers out there, this is set in England, and the characters are all, thus, English, which means that the text is (rightfully) written with all of the English idioms and such. This certainly gives it a unique tone in the US market. For the most part, it's easily read and I didn't have any issues with this style, except in one or two places where the phrasing was just enough off that I had to pause briefly while reading to parse out the sentence. But overall it's not intrusive to the experience and it does keep you firmly in the appropriate setting.
We also get a slew of bad creatures in this novel that you don't find in many other urban fantasies out there. And when I say a slew, I mean a slew. We start off with werewolves and vampires, but I think the author mostly put these in to get them out of the way, and to provide an easy entrance into the novel for the typical urban fantasy reader out there. After that, we get a mix of other creatures--harpies, undine, Morrismen, etc. And the final Big Bad that I can't reveal without spoiling things. These creatures were interesting because they were different and because the author puts his own slant on them, but I will say that in the end there were so many, none of them really tied to the others, that I felt somewhat scattered. I also wonder what the author intends to use in the NEXT novel, since it seems so much was used in this one. But I suppose I'll find out.
Overall, it's a solid venture into the urban fantasy field, definitely a good debut novel. The voice is distinct, and after an initial rockiness at the beginning of the book, it settles into a strong story. It really is about Desdaemona, so the title is appropriate, and yet it is more about Jordan and his own plight as the runaway. And the best thing about the book is the ending. Initially I thought it would end as most urban fantasies end--it heads in that direction--but then there's a twist that sets this urban fantasy above most of the others I've read. The twist kicks it to a higher level, one where the main character is forced to change. I hope that Ben Macallan continues this is his future novels, since one of the things I don't like about urban fantasies is that the main character never seems to change from book to book, only meeting bigger and badder bad guys.
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