by James A. Hunter
“I didn’t want to throw him in any ol’ piranha tank, I wanted to throw him into a tank filled with genetically modified super-piranhas carrying tasers and bullwhips. Asshole.”―
James A. Hunter, Srange Magic
Yancy Lazarus is having a bad day: there’s a bullet lodged in his butt cheek, his face looks like the site of a demolition derby, and he’s been saran-wrapped to a banquet table. He never should have answered the phone. Stupid bleeding heart—helping others in his circles is a good way to get dead.
Just ask the gang members ripped to pieces by some kind of demonic nightmare in LA. As a favor to a friend, Yancy agrees to take a little looksee into the massacre and boom, he’s stuck in a turf war between two rival gangs, which both think he’s pinch-hitting for the other side. Oh, and there’s also a secretive ass-hat with some mean ol’ magical chops and a small army of hyena-faced, body- snatching baddies. It might be time to seriously reconsider some of his life choices.
Yancy is a bluesman, a rambler, a gambler, but not much more. Sure, he can do a little magic—maybe even more than just a little magic—but he knows enough to keep his head down and stay clear of freaky-deaky hoodoo like this business in LA. Somehow though, he’s been set up to take a real bad fall—the kind of very permanent fall that leaves a guy with a toe tag. Unless, of course, he can find out who is responsible for the gangland murders, make peace in the midst of the gang feud, and take out said magical ass-hat before he hexes Yancy into an early retirement. Easy right? Stupid. Bleeding. Heart.
In Strange Magic, Yancy Lazarus, a drifter bluesman card player, has a secret. He’s also a mage. Basically the Mister Fix-it of the supernatural world, he’s known as the guy to see if you have supernatural problems. In fact, an old buddy of his from the Marines just called him about a supernatural problem in LA. As he is getting ready to leave to check it out, he is ambushed outside a bar in New Orleans by some mobsters. Well, that’s not going to happen. After Yancy deals with the hoods, he heads out to LA in his cherry 1986 Chevy El Camino, which is basically his house and workshop on wheels.
After surviving another ambush on the way, he arrives in LA and discovers the situation is even worse than his friend made it out to be. There is someone killing off members of two gangs in an effort to take over the underworld in LA. This is being done by sending a mysterious entity after the various gang members and their families. This starts Yancy on dangerous path, as he has to determine who is sending the demons out, and how can he stop this? This leads to an epic confrontation with the person behind it all, and Yancy will have to use all the skills at his disposal to stop the threat in a climactic ending.
This was one of those books I had in my to read pile and just never got to. If I had known what I was missing, I would have moved it to the top of the pile. Yancy is a great character. Cynical, world weary, but still cares enough to help out an old buddy even though life has kicked him in the teeth a few times. Yancy would rather smoke, play the blues and play cards than get into fights, but once the fight begins he’s all in. The supporting characters are good as well, and the villains motivations were actually fairly unique. You just don’t see that kind of limited motivation too often.
The settings are as real as it gets in an urban fantasy book, and you get a real feeling of being in the action. Yancy was a marine in Vietnam (he’s 65 but looks 40. Magic slows the aging down), so the flashbacks he has to those days have a visceral feel to them. The author is a marine veteran, in a more recent combat zone, but the marine experience hasn’t changed much. Better equipment, same attitude. Semper FI. The times he brings the Marines up, you can tell his experience helps lend that portion realism.
Charlie Kevin did an outstanding job in his narration, bringing this book to life. He really gave the whole thing a world weary feel. The way he plays Yancy as a cynical, kind of laid back burn out really plays well. His narration is steady, and never falls into a monotone. He just does a good job of keeping the story moving along at a good pace.
All in all, this is one of the fresher and original Urban Fantasy books I’ve listened to lately. So much so, In fact, I am going to get signed copies at some point. This is definitely an author to watch!
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Where to find it?
I read this from my personal library
I have literally been a fan of fantasy/magic my whole life, with some of the earliest memories I have being my mother stories of brujas and spirits in the town in Puerto Rico where she was born. What really flipped the fantasy switch on full, though, was discovering a battered copy of the Sword of Shannara that cost me 25 cents at the local used book store when I was 11. Its been a long journey since that day almost 40 years ago, and thousands of books later, here we are.
Living with my wife, our two non-adult kids, four cats and a vicious attack beast Chihuahua about an hour south of Seattle, I’m glad to be able to share my love of fantasy and science fiction, especially Indie and small press, with anyone who’s interested.