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Friday, February 27, 2015

Book Review: Black Dog Blues (Kai Gracen #1) by Rhys Ford

Black Dog Blues (Kai Gracen #1)
by Rhys Ford
246 pages
February 3rd 2015
Ever since he’d been part of the pot in a high-stakes poker game, elfin outcast Kai Gracen figured he’d used up any good karma he had when Dempsey, a human Stalker, won the hand and took him in. Following the violent merge of Earth and Underhill, the human and elfin races were left with a messy, monster-ridden world and Stalkers were often the only cavalry willing to ride to someone’s rescue when something shadowy and dark moved into the neighbourhood.
There certainly were no shortage of monsters or people stupidly willing to become lunch for one.

It was a hard life but one Kai liked. And he was good at it. Killing monsters was easy. Especially since he was one himself.

After an accident retired Dempsey out, Kai set up permanent shop in San Diego, contracting out to the local SoCalGov depot. It was a decent life, filled with bounty, a few friends and most importantly, no other elfin around to remind him he wasn’t really human.

That was until a sidhe lord named Ryder arrives in San Diego and Kai is conscripted to do a job for Ryder’s fledgling Dawn Court. It was supposed to a simple run; head up the coast during dragon-mating season to retrieve a pregnant human woman seeking sanctuary with the new Court then back to San Diego. Easy, quick and best of all, profitable. But Ryder’s “simple” run leads to massive trouble and Kai ends up being caught in the middle of a deadly bloodline feud he has no hope of escaping.

No one ever got rich by being a Stalker. But then hardly any of them got old either. The way things were looking, it didn’t look like Kai was going to be the exception.

First books in an urban fantasy series are exciting and frustrating. You get to experience a new world with (hopefully) characters you love or love to hate. It's a great feeling. But authors need to set up complicated worlds and introduce characters that they aren't quite comfortable with yet. What you tend to get is info dumps and clunky writing. I give first books a lot of leeway if I find elements that rock my world one way or another. You know, a sexy hero, a kick ass heroine or a unique world that makes me stop and go "Whoa...that's cool". Black Dog Blues has rocked enough of my world that I want to keep it on my radar.

I love the Fae, and in Black Dog Blues the Fae's world, Underhill, has literally Merged with the human world. There was a massive and deadly war between the humans and Fae which left the world in ruins and a strained truce between the races as well as a lot of prejudice. The main character, Kai, was born fae, but you slowly learn was brutalized as a child in unimaginable ways by his family. Kai escaped that fate and ended up being raised by a human, and as a result knows nothing about being Fae, not even their language. Kai is a survior, but his emotional scars run deep. I loved him as soon as I met him. Yeah, he has the tortured soul, but even he has no ideas of just how bad because he has buried that part of him. 

The story is full of action, violence and dark intentions. What else would you expect from the Fae? The author created a post-apocalyptic world combining Fae and human elements. This is a dark urban fantasy so the emphasis is on how Kai tries to avoid his past while being dragged kicking and screaming into a future he's not sure he wants. 

There is a slow simmering romance with a Fae lord named Ryder. Ryder is sexy, with noble ideas of bringing peace between the Fae and humans. His courtly manners run up against Kai's uncultured ways with humorous results. Technically there will be a gay romance...eventually. There is no sex in this book. Just two kissing scenes with Kai and Ryder and one with Kai and Ryder's female guard. There was even a hint of Ryder and his guard sharing Kai... Kia likes women and men but refuses to have committed relationships. It seems like fate might have other plans. Whenever Kai is near Ryder there is a connection he doesn't understand, but Ryder seems to. It will be a slow tension filled romance between the two that could take many books (hopefully not too many!) to become anything more. If you've stayed away from stories with gay romance because of all the sex, then this is one you can try, without that.

I was hooked by the world building and the characters, and as the author becomes more comfortable with both, tighter writing will also follow. 

3 1/2 Sheep


About the Author:
Rhys Ford is a firm believer in love and let love, short walks to a coffee shop and having a spare cat or two. Most days she can be found swearing at her laptop and trying to come up with new ways to kill off perfectly good random characters.

Rhys Ford was born and raised in Hawaii then wandered off to see the world. After chewing through a pile of books, a lot of odd food, and a stray boyfriend or two, Rhys eventually landed in San Diego, which is a very nice place but seriously needs more rain.

Rhys admits to sharing the house with three cats of varying degrees of black fur, a black Pomeranian puffball and a ginger cairn terrorist. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird, a Toshiba laptop, and a purple Bella coffee maker.

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