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A Great Fantasy Ride

By Linda Schoales, editor

Jan 7, 2009: Darkside is a really fun read with non-stop action, fast dialogue and characters you want to spend time with.

James Decker, Our Hero and narrator, is a middle manager and all-around nice guy who gets shot while rescuing a teenager from her attackers. He dies but isn’t “dead-dead”. He’s still a part of this world. Plus, he can now see ghosts, trolls, and all sorts of other supernatural beasties. In fact, the ghosts of his father and grandfather soon appear to tell him that he must protect Alex, the young girl he rescued. She’s an Innocent and the forces of Evil are trying to get their hands on her. This, of course, starts the adventure and the road trip. Decker finds himself gathering an interesting assortment of companions and enemies along the way.

What starts out as urban fantasy soon moves into more pure fantasy but it’s not your typical “an elf, a dwarf and a human go on a quest” story. It reminds me a bit of Robert Aspirin’s M.Y.T.H. series with a bit of the Dresden Files thrown in. The dialogue is snappy and modern, with lots of one-liners and references to pop culture. There are a lot of characters by the tenth chapter, but the ones that need to be are distinct and memorable. This is partially because the author takes the usual fantasy stereotypes and turns them sideways. I was surprised several times by the characters. Some of the things those ghosts do and say. . . .  And as a dog-person I really appreciated Bear’s appearances.

I smiled a lot as I read Darkside and laughed out loud a few times. The author conjures up some great images and spouts some great lines. The action comes fast—and sometimes furious—but it’s mostly PG, with some blood splatter. It all works up to a satisfying conclusion with enough of that “what next” feeling to make me curious about the sequel.

All that isn’t to say the story has no flaws. The story is written as if the narrator dictated it into a tape recorder. The problem is that every once in a while, the narrator “steps out” of his story to talk about fiddling with the device. It didn’t really add anything, and broke the flow of the narrative at least once. Also, there were a few times I found myself wondering why something happened the way it did or why somebody didn’t just do something different. The main problem for me was that the lead character takes everything in stride (so does the damsel in distress) and things often seem to work out a bit too neatly and too quickly. Actually it’s not a huge problem for me. It makes for a breezy style and a fast pace. However, there’s may not always be as much tension as some readers would like.

All in all, it’s not great literature but it was a fun read and it made me smile. If you’re in the mood for a great ride with lots of banter and an interesting cast of characters, it’s definitely worth your time.

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