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Review: One Way Fare (Null City Book 1) by Barb Taub – New Favorite!

One Way Fare (Null City, #1)“Suppose neutral angels were able to talk Yahweh and Lucifer – God and Satan, to use their popular titles – into settling out of court. What would be the terms of the compromise? Specifically, how would they divide the assets of their early kingdom?” – Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates (2000)

I really only picked up the book as it was advertised on one of my “Free Today” book emails. You know the ones, and if you don’t, why not?  So anyway, there it was, and the cover caught my eye. It was the first in a series, free, written by an author I hadn’t heard of. Why not?

Now, here is the thing. One Way Fare had a fairly interesting blurb, though I was a bit leery of the whole “Angels and Demons” shtick. Honestly? The whole Hellhound/Poodle thing is what really caught my attention. And you know what? For all that the Angels/Demons/Time Travel thing is normally so not my thing, well, I was entranced. I mean, really, truly entranced. Taub’s writing is unique. She has shaken up a couple of genres, and written her characters, and her story, in ways that held me rapt from page one.

In the room made of light, they plan the end of Hell.

The thing is . . . I’m rooting for Hell in this one. No, really. I mean, Lucifer is The Morning Star – which the oldest Latin texts portray as either John the Baptist, or Jesus himself. After all, it isn’t until much later that texts were converted to the concept of The Morning Star as being “Satan,” an evil character. Let’s face it – the ideation of “God vs Lucifer” is based in the takeover of various Egyptian, Canaanite and Jewish tales of gods who fought fiercely amongst themselves for power. To the victor go the spoils – an the right to tell the tales in any way they see fit.

Taub’s Hell is a nightmare for anyone who considers intellectualism to be threatening (you know, Right Wing Republicans, that sort of thing). As Ray Williams, in Anti-Intellectualism and the “Dumbing Down” of America (Psychology Today, July 07, 2014), says,  “There is a growing and disturbing trend of anti-intellectual elitism in American culture. It’s the dismissal of science, the arts, and humanities and their replacement by entertainment, self-righteousness, ignorance, and deliberate gullibility.”

Ha! Send me to Hell, because this place is Interesting!  And a whole “Hell” of a lot more inclusive than “Heaven” could ever hope to be. Or even “Haven,” the place where the Fallen Angels who want to recreate the “Heaven” they were thrown from, exist. So, a bunch of pissy Angels want to destroy Hell – and they don’t care that, “Not only will that strategy lead to massive death and destruction for humans, but it could mean war between Fallen and Angels.” Wow, total narcissism really can be deadly! (I still wish I could remember the book I read, I think it was in the late 70’s or early 80’s, where ‘god’ is so busy staring into a mirror admiring himself – well, keep telling a guy he is handsome, you just know that spells spoiled rotten, self-centered ego maniac, right? – he allows the universe to go down in flames around him.)

Then, of course, there is the time travel aspect of the book. Honestly, I am not usually a time travel book lover. They never seem to get the continuity right. But Taub proved me wrong. Her writing makes sense. “I have a theory about time. Things can’t happen if they didn’t.” And what is even more crushing? Things still happen if they did. Taub holds all of the timelines tightly in her grasp, flowing backwards and forwards, building a gossamer web of linkages that never left me thinking “Huh? What just happened?”

This series is now at the top of my “Must Read New (to me) Series.” I already downloaded the second, DON’T TOUCH, Null City Book 2. There are some issues that weren’t tied up all the way in book 1, and I look forward with great eagerness to see how they carry forward through the series. One Way Fare is edgy, imaginative, and deeply unusual compared to my usual experience with this type of book. Highly recommended!

And remember this – “Why do they blame me for all their little failings? They use my name as if I spent my entire days sitting on their shoulders, forcing them to commits acts they would otherwise find repulsive. ‘The devil made me do it.’ I have never made one of them do anything. Never. They live their own tiny lives. I do not live their lives for them.”  ― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists

Review: Unshapely Things by Mark Del Franco – A New Favorite!

unshapely
Mark Del Franco’s Connor Grey gives both John and Harry a run for their money!
Click to order!

Detail. Some readers don’t really care about it – they simply want a book that they can pick up, breeze through, and go on to the next thing. Oh, that has its place, certainly. However, that has never been me. Rich details, complexity, and compelling story lines are what call to me as a reader, and del Franco offers these up in spades.

 Unshapely Things is an urban fantasy, to be sure, with fairies and elves, gargoyles and monsters, and a damaged Druid hero, Connor Grey. Connor puts me in mind of both Simon R. Green’s John Taylor and Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden. Like Harry, Connor pretty much lives hand-to-mouth, taking the jobs he can get from the police. With his brain damaged and his Druid powers pretty much non-existent, Connor has been fighting a losing battle against depression and ennui as he slides from a life of power and wealth into the “The Weird,” the fae neighborhood where the dregs of both the fae and human worlds reside. You won’t find vampires in this world, but you will find dirty politicians galore – isn’t it the same thing?

 When his human police partner, Leo Murdock calls him to the scene of a brutal murder of a male fairy prostitute, Connor has no idea that this murder could be a signpost to the end of the world – with Boston as the center of the maelstrom. What follows is a story that I found to be something quite special. This isn’t just an urban fantasy. Instead, it blends alternate history with suspense, mystery wit terror, and ties it all together with a huge dose of political intrigue.

 In 1900, on this alternative Earth, there was “Convergence” – an event which brought the world of Fairy and the Earth into alignment, pulling Fairy creatures onto this planet, effectively blocking them from their own. Battling between themselves, they drug the war between fairy and elf onto this world, battling it out through the World Wars, with some siding with Hitler while some sided with the Allies. The time of the story lands right into modern day, during the Fey Summit, an attempt by both sides to extend an uneasy peace and avoid all-out war. As the bodies pile up, is there a possibility that the deaths are connected to the Fey Summit? Or is there something even darker and more dangerous going on?

 Mark Del Franco writes exceptional characters. Connor was damaged during his work for “The Guild” the policing agency for the Fey on Earth. Broken, and with limited powers, he is living in poverty on a small disability check, pondering his losses and the wasteland he sees as the rest of his life. His partner, Murdock may be human, but with all of the bad feelings, jealousies, and hatred of most humans toward the Fey, he is curious and open to learning of the Fey and their ways. He cares what happens to them, and relies upon Connor as his instructor.

 Del Franco’s female characters are both strong and likable, with individual strengths and personalities that I am very much looking forward to learning more about. This isn’t by any means a “paranormal romance” but if you are a PR reader who likes strong, adept women characters who still follow their hearts as well as their minds, these women will be right up your alley. The story is rich in detail, both in the world building and the characterizations, and holds the attention until setting the book down and remembering you have to do things like eat and sleep will be impossible to accomplish.

 Overall, this is a series sure to appeal to a number of different genre readers, and a new-to-me author who goes immediately to the top of my “must” list.

I purchased this book on my own. My comments are my own opinion.

 Reading order for the series is:

delfranco
Mark Del Franco
Click to go to his website

UNSHAPELY THINGS

UNQUIET DREAMS
UNFALLEN DEAD
UNPERFECT SOULS
UNCERTAIN ALLIES
UNDONE DEEDS

 Mark Del Franco is also the author of the books:

SKIN DEEP

FACE OFF

Set in the Connor Gray alternative reality, these books feature the adventures of Laura Blackstone.

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