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The Calling, by David Mack
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Pocket Books
Published: 2009
Review Posted: 8/8/2009
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 6 out of 10

The Calling, by David Mack

Book Review by Amy Sisson

Have you read this book?

In David Mack's The Calling, Tom Nash is a regular guy with a very pregnant wife; their first baby due is due to arrive any day. It's particularly inconvenient, then, that Tom's lifelong habit/talent/affliction of hearing others' prayers has suddenly just been turned up by several degrees. Tom's usual "cases" are small-time, much like Tom himself, such as a man with a drinking problem or a woman with marital woes. Small time or not, Tom always feel compelled to help, so when he hears a life-and-death prayer from a kidnapped girl named Phaedra, he rushes off to New York City to find her, even though he has no idea what he's doing and is completely out of his depth.

Before long, Tom's questions attract the wrong kind of attention, and just when he finds himself on the receiving end of an ugly four-on-one brawl, a leather-clad beauty named Erin Sanchez shows up in time to save his butt and explain that she, like Tom, is a Seeker, or a member of the Called that hears prayers. The Called also includes Sentinels, Sages, and Seers, who play different roles in the ongoing battle against the Scorned, the bad guys who possess corresponding talents. The action and the stakes accelerate steadily, but the book remains grounded in human responses. The anguish experienced by Phaedra's mother, as she hopes against hope to recover her daughter unharmed, is particularly well drawn.

Although David Mack is a veteran writer of tie-in fiction, The Calling represents his first novel in a universe of his own making, and it is indeed a fine debut. His world of angels and demons among us is timely given the popularity of urban fantasy these days, but it also feels fresh. Mack is particularly adept at action scenes, but he also achieves a fine balance of characterization by placing the everyday Tom into a hardboiled world, complete with dirty cops and a kick-ass femme fatale. There is a slightly excessive amount of collateral damage during a spectacular subway shootout, which might have been mitigated had Tom taken longer to reflect on his own role in those deaths, but overall Tom is extremely sympathetic, and this represents a minor quibble in an enjoyable and entertaining novel. The story is completely self-contained, yet hints at intriguing layers of complexity in this new universe that readers will look forward to exploring further.

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