I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Drake by Peter McLean
Series: The Burned Man #1
Published by Angry Robot on January 5 2016
Genres: Adult, Urban fantasy
The nitty-gritty: A darkly funny and violent tale with black magic, fallen angels, demons and angry girlfriends, complete with some loathsome characters you will love to hate.
Trixie’s eyes widened as she took in the crimson and grey splatter all over the wall of my office, and then the corpse lying in a pool of blood on the floor on the other side of the desk.
“Ah,” she said. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Actually, no. I’m half dead from heroin comedown, and I’ve been paralyzed with borrowed magic. There’s a dead body on my office floor, brains and bits of head all up my wall, and apparently you’re mates with a fallen angel. I am a pretty long way from fucking all right as it goes, Trixie.”
I have to admit it was the incredible book cover that drew my attention to Drake in the first place, but after reading McLean’s debut, I have to say I’m also a big fan of what’s inside. And as I’m trying to do more of these days, I went into reading Drake nearly blind, before reading any reviews. This method certainly makes the story feel fresh, since I didn’t have any expectations. McLean’s story of a down-on-his-luck necromancer (or actually, Don Drake is a Hieromancer) who owes a big debt to an evil archdemon named Wormwood wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Don isn’t your typical leading man, by a long shot. He’s a desperate guy whose biggest asset just happens to be the fetish of a demon called the Burned Man, through which he is able to call forth demons from Hell to kill for him. Oh, did I mention Don is also a hit man? Well, that’s his unofficial job description. Don’s story starts out on a low note and things only get worse as the story unfolds, which makes Drake completely entertaining.
The story begins as Don Drake has just lost at cards and now owes club owner Wormwood even more debt than he did before. Wormwood needs someone killed, and Don can help pay off his debt by doing the deed himself. But things don’t go as planned, and a young child is accidentally killed. Suddenly, Don finds himself mixed up with the three Furies, a nearly fallen angel named Meselandrarasatrixiel (“Trixie” for short), and one imprisoned demon fetish called the Burned Man, not to mention a stranger named Adam who is trying to corrupt Trixie, as well as his ex-girlfriend Debbie. Don’s in a heap of trouble, and it only gets worse when the Burned Man tries to trick him into taking a trip to Hell, promising he’ll take care of Don’s Wormwood problem once and for all.
But it’s hard to know who to trust. Is Trixie really trying not to fall all the way? What is the Burned Man’s real agenda? And who the hell is Adam anyway? There are plenty of questions that need answering, and Don’s going to need some strong magic to stay on top of it all.
I won’t lie, this story is filled with some very unpleasant characters. Don is mostly just pathetic, although he does manage to do some things right by the end of the story. But I mostly felt sorry for him. He’s the owner of the Burned Man, which may seem cool, since the demon can amplify Don’s magic and even heal him when he gets hurt. But he’s a disgusting little thing, a nine-inch high living statue of a man with burned skin, chained to a wooden altar until someone sets him free. And believe me, that’s not going to happen any time soon. The Burned Man has a filthy mouth and treats Don like shit, and I kept waiting for his character to take a turn for the better, but unfortunately that never happened. I guess some characters are just bad.
Not to be outdone by the Burned Man, most of the female characters are pretty hard-core, and I loved that McLean didn’t shy away from making some of them extremely unlikable as well. The three Furies—Ally, Meg and Tess—make an appearance after Don kills the child, in order to punish him, I suppose. All three give poor Don the beating of his life, and despite all the trouble he’s gotten himself into, I really felt bad for the poor guy. Squeamish readers beware: Ally in particular does such terrible things to Don that I almost wanted to skip some parts.
And then there’s Trixie, the not-quite-fallen angel, who was probably my favorite character. She’s the kind of girl you can sympathize with, so it makes her much easier to like. In order for Trixie to get back home, she must first destroy the Furies, a nearly impossible task, but one she’s determined to accomplish. I think she and Don together brought out the best in each other, two tragic people who simply need to focus on something other than themselves.
Americans may have a hard time with some of the dialog, as it’s very British. Angry Robot doesn’t usually edit for their American editions, so you may run into some unfamiliar phrases. But since the story takes place in South London, I thought the wording added an authentic flavor, and honestly, the dialog is so funny that I wouldn’t change a word.
McLean shows his readers the seedy side of magic, the bad parts and the nasty demons from Hell. This isn’t Harry Potter, that’s for sure! But if you’re looking for something grittier than standard urban fantasy, you might be surprised by Drake. I sure was.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.
Hey, I have an interview with Peter McLean this Thursday! Don’t forget to check back, and you can also enter to win a copy of Drake!