Premonitions by Jamie Schultz
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Release date: July 2014
Source: Paperback from author
The nitty-gritty: A high-octane urban fantasy, full of guns a-blazin’ and dark magic, with plenty of flawed and damaged characters, not to mention a two-hundred-year-old crime lord with a lethal and magical sword.
Something pale shifted, flashed in the water ahead of her, and was gone. Was that actually there? she wondered. The water wasn’t deep enough to harbor much of anything beyond a few frogs and odd billion or so mosquito larvae, or at least she didn’t think so. But if it wasn’t really there, what was the message? What was it trying to tell her?
One way I can tell that a book has really worked for me is that I get so wrapped up in the story, I forget to take notes. This can be a problem when it’s time to write the review, of course, as I tend to forget story details if I don’t write them down. Premonitions was one such book for me. I’m looking over the very sparse notes that I took while reading it, and I’m wondering if I’ll be able to remember everything I want to say. Hey, I’ll do my best! I knew immediately that I was going to enjoy it after reading this self-deprecating statement from the author’s acknowledgement pages:
“…Their input and encouragement helped give me the momentum I needed to spin first-draft straw into final-draft, um, spun straw.”
Schultz’s characters are on the edge. His motley band of thieves—Karyn, Anna, Tommy, Nail and Genevieve—are more or less living paycheck to paycheck. They are paid to steal magical artifacts, a very dangerous occupation, especially when they have to deal with demons and sorcerers. Karyn is the leader of the crew, and she usually keeps them out of trouble by being able to see glimpses of the future, and thus avoid danger. But Karyn’s “gift” is also her fatal flaw. Without a very rare and expensive drug called “blind,” she is barely able to function, since the visions threaten her sanity if they aren’t kept under control with the drug.
Karyn’s supply of blind is dwindling when the gang is offered the job of a lifetime—one that comes with a two-million-dollar paycheck: infiltrate and steal a jawbone from a group called the Brotherhood of Zagam, a jawbone that is supposedly a piece of a dead god. Crime lord Enoch Sobell wants it for his macabre collection, but Karyn knows that doing business with Sobell could be a huge mistake. But the money is too good to turn down, especially since Karyn desperately needs more blind, and they begin to make plans to steal it. But it turns out that crime lords and folks who worship jawbones are unpredictable, and things don’t go quite as planned. When the bullets start flying, Karyn and her gang will need all their skills to stay alive. And that jawbone? Well, there’s something a little strange about it…
I had so much fun reading Premonitions, and I was thrilled to find out that a sequel called Splintered is coming out next summer (although I couldn’t find it on Goodreads). Jamie Schultz has a great ear for snappy dialog, and his pacing was really good. I especially loved the relationships between his characters, and this is one of those rare books where the relationships are so awkward and uncomfortable that I found myself actually cringing at times. Karyn and Anna are close friends and have worked jobs together for the past ten years. But when things go horribly wrong during a heist, Anna blames Karyn for the mistake, and the two stop talking. Not only is Karyn barely functioning, because she needs her drugs so badly, but she’s also lost her best friend and confidant, at a time when they need to pull together to survive some very bad shit. Schultz doesn’t shy away from these moments, and I thought they felt very real and personal.
Premonitions takes place in Los Angeles, mostly in the seedy and abandoned parts of town where danger lurks in the shadows. In order for Karyn to score blind, she must visit the worst of these places, and I loved the author’s descriptions of the dank, water-filled basement where her drug dealer Adelaide lives. Most of the characters in this book are desperate and nearly broke, and the Los Angeles they live in mirrors their situations.
It wouldn’t be a heist story without lots of violence and double-crossing, and Schultz gives the reader plenty of both. At times I was so caught up in the action, that I forgot I was reading a fantasy. But then the author hits you with characters who use blood magic to cast spells and humans who make deals with demons, and you remember: these characters are not your ordinary criminals packing heat. They are far more dangerous.
Schultz leaves a few threads dangling to entice the reader to come back for more, but the story ends on a satisfactory—and even emotional—note. I rooted for Karyn and her team from page one, and I can’t wait to see what trouble they get into next.
Big thanks to Jamie Schultz for providing a review copy.