CREDIBLE THREATS by Daniel Meyer
Review by Luke Winch
Sam Adams, sixteen-year-old wizard, has zero interest in saving the world—but staying out of the line of fire isn’t an option for wizards.
When a new designer drug hits the streets, giving ordinary humans magical powers and leaving a trail of bodies in its wake, it threatens to turn his city of Williamsport’s long-simmering conflict between the haves and the have-nots into a full-scale war.
The only one with the skills to protect the city, Sam finds himself thrust into a conspiracy far darker and more dangerous than he ever imagined, with tentacles stretching into the criminal underworld and the wealthy elite—and into the spirit world. Fighting for his life, surrounded by enemies, Sam has to dig deeper than ever before to keep Williamsport from going up in flames.
But even magic has its limits.
Credible Threats is a fast paced, urban fantasy with a thoroughly engaging protagonist thrust into a situation well above his pay grade. The debut novel in the Sam Adams series, Meyer invites us into a world where high school and magic collide, demons and spirits battle alongside deep-seated urban conflict between the two sides of Williamsport and the question of whether school will still be standing by the end of term is a never-ending question Sam as to contend with.
I had so much fun with this book. On the surface this may appear to be a Dresden Files clone, but peel back the basic premise of ‘wizard in an urban environment getting in way over his head’ and there are plenty of differences and original ideas here.
Let’s talk about Sam Adams, our young protagonist dealing with a new year at high school, his burgeoning magical powers and a street war brewing that may escalate to all out war. Sam has a lot to contend with for a 16-year-old teenager and his snarky, sarcastic humour and recklessness is often how he deals with, or hides from, the predicaments he finds himself in. I loved getting to know Sam. The author does a great job of building up the character and one of the ways he does that, is writing the book in the first person. Much like in The Dresden Files, this provides an immediate gateway into Sam’s psyche and emotional journey, whilst allowing for the fast pace this story needs. Sam’s humour resonated with me so well and I found myself laughing out loud many times. Humour is so subjective, so I can see this not hitting the mark for some readers. Sam is also dealing with a huge amount of grief throughout the story as one of his best friends died of a drug overdose, and this provides a surprising amount of depth to the character and only enriched my reading experience.
Sam is surrounded by a huge supporting cast, some fleshed out such as his best friend Jason, the Shal’Gasa Eressen and Alexandra, a girl from high school who becomes embroiled in the evil machinations of Williamsport. Also, keep an eye out for Catrick Swayze, one of the stars of this novel and a stalwart companion of Sam. I am really looking forward to being reacquainted with these characters in future books.
The world-building itself, has the just the right amount of depth and information to introduce us to the town of Williamsport, the school of Archibald J. Keller and the various political institutions and law enforcement agencies. We also get introduced to a ubiquitous urban fantasy cast of vampires, werewolves, spirits, demons, but also Meyers’ own creation,the Shal’Gasa, whom I am itching to know more about. The most important aspect of the town we are presented with is the divide between North Side and South Side, respectively the wealthy ‘haves’ with their pillared porches and Mercedes, versus the poverty stricken ‘have-nots’ with vacant buildings and gang affiliation. What appears to be a superficial and somewhat trite divide, is engrained in the history of the town and its people and culture. I found myself thinking about the intrenched hatred between the Jets and Sharks in West Side Story or the conflict in A Tale of Two Cities. There is an intrenched inevitability to the escalation between North Side and South Side and this sets up a huge tapestry for not only this novel, but the future of the series that I found incredibly exciting.
The pacing of Credible Threats is impressively consistent. The action is wonderfully interspersed with calmer, more introspective moments of character development and plot progression. Meyer writes action incredibly well. What could have become a little repetitive, given the small amount of spells Sam is able to utilise, is uplifted by imaginative usage and fresh twists and turns to the action, keeping the combat scenes kinetic and inventive.
I, for one, was really impressed with Daniel Meyers debut novel. It’s polished, punchy, fast paced and full of snarky humour. Also, I would like to add, this might be seen as a YA novel, and I did not get that vibe at all. Despite having a 16-year-old protagonist, this, in my opinion, is an adult urban fantasy book.
The author doesn’t do anything particularly new here, it’s not a book you would ponder over thematic content or study the literary values of, but what the author does, he does very well. This is the kind of pulpy, fun adventure I crave in between my chonky, heavy themed fantasy books, and if you are looking for that, then look no further. I want to see this book do well and be read by a lot more readers. If you are a fan of The Dresden Files, Rivers of London series, I think you will dig Credible Threats.
Congratulations to Credible Threats, you are a semi-finalist for SPFBO9!
If Luke sold you on Credible Threats, check out the Goodreads or, better yet, jump over to Amazon to grab your copy!