Charming by Elliott James
Published by Orbit: September, 2013 (Urban Fantasy)
My Rating: Outstanding Adventure!
John Charming is half werewolf, half Knight Templar. During a supernaturally long lifespan, he has been a knight-in-training, an orphan, a despised werewolf, and a fugitive (from the same knights who raised and trained him). He’s become apathetic about his life, tending bar in a small town in Appalachia, when a vampire and a blonde walk into his bar. That’s how it starts, and it doesn’t end until he’s been co-opted into a band of vampire hunters, nearly killed at least twice, stalked and ambushed, and visited by his fiancee’s ghost.
The action never stops, with tension, distrust, and attraction between the main characters; a sociopathic teenage vampire with delusions of world domination and a hatred of everyone; and jealousy among the vampire hunting cohort. Which doesn’t stop at turning green, but involves some ambushing and hand-to-hand combat, among other exciting things.
I liked the worldbuilding, too. Lots of layers, good foundation. It makes sense, which is the most important thing. I think the underlying idea (humans can’t see the supernatural because there’s some ancient agreement among supernaturals that has been enchanting humans and turning their minds from encounters with and visions of the supernatural community) is interesting, and plausible, because we do that anyway, don’t we? Only see what we want to, ignore possibly pertinent details that don’t fit into our own personal worldviews. The Knights Templar was an interesting component, and while it kept surprising me, I enjoyed the idea that they’re not supposed to kill all supernatural beings, only those who are indiscreet enough to overcome the enchantment (thereby revealing themselves, and others in the community, to humanity).
John’s being a werewolf, with senses based in smell as well as sight, gave the narration and description an additional dimension that brought the world to life. His nose is valuable to his team because it can sniff out vampires, but it also helps the reader appreciate, really feel, the environment.
Yes, there is insta-love. That didn’t bother me. I enjoyed the emotional exploration and baggage and the figuring things out. A slower romantic arc over the series (because it’s going to be a series) would have been more convincing, but for me, the way Charming thought about and addressed his emotions convinced me that he was mostly just attracted to Sig. Their circling around each other and the tension between them convinced me, until near the end it’s all wrapped up in a neat convenient bow, and Charming has the “I’m not in love – am I” thought, and then they talk about the future. But even then, I respected Charming’s need to sort out his past, and Sig needing some time to empty her own personal baggage as well. I think that’s why it felt believable to me – there were caveats on the “love” thing, and at most they discuss working things out so they can see if they work out together.
There are informational paragraphs scattered throughout the story, but I enjoyed them – they felt like detours of thought that I, at least, travel down. They were relevant and entertaining, and for me, didn’t slow down the pace at all. The immediacy of the narration did not distance the action or characters.
So. The REAL reason I love this book? The reason I gave it five stars, instead of the four it probably deserves? The narrator’s tone. It is just the sort of thing I find hilarious and entertaining. I loved Charming’s sardonic, sarcastic outlook. His witty expression of his thoughts and feelings, and his wry description of events and places.
My FAVORITE series about werewolves has the same dry, witty sense of humor and playfulness about it, with some of the same dark and dangerous feel. Lots of different supernaturals in this one, too: fey, weres, shapeshifters, vampires.
Not as funny, or as well-written, but if you’re hankering after another funny contemporary story about werewolves, you might try this one.
Stay tuned for more! This Saturday, in the second installment of our Haloween Season series, I post my top ten favorite werewolf stories!