Saturday, December 26, 2015

Galefire by Kenny Soward Review

    I fully admit to being a huge fan of Kenny Soward’s GnomeSaga series. It was fun, quirky, oddball fantasy which didn’t take itself too seriously. As such, I was kind of off-put by the revelation his next series was not going to be in the fantasy genre but the somewhat over-saturated urban fantasy market. I say this as an urban fantasy author. Furthermore, it would be a dark and serious tale of a heroin-addicted slave to a gang of supernaturals living in Cincinnati.

    So what do I think?

    I like it.

    It helps Kenny Soward decides to open the book with a gunfight which lasts a quarter of the book and essentially works like opening the story with a good portion of the John Wick movie. Lonnie, our protagonist, is nowhere near as badass as John Wick but he makes the fight entertaining with how utterly out of depth he is as the battle starts with a gun fight only to escalate into a conflict with supernaturals before a sudden swerve back to normality.

    The premise of the books is Lonnie is an amnesiac junkie who is, as mentioned, the servant of a group of supernaturals. He vaguely remembers a wife and daughter but his brain has been completely fried by their leader Selix and he has only a scattered awareness of himself. This is kind of an interesting metaphor for drug-use when, well, he’s already on drugs. After years of being their gofer, both for dangerous and non-dangerous missions, he’s starting to regain his memory. Lonnie starts to discover who he was and what his relationship to the 8th Street Gang really is.

    Part of what I like about this book is Kenny Soward really goes into detail about the 8th Street Gang and manages to find a careful happy spot between the fact they’re a bunch of monsters with the fact they’re also a bunch of drugged-up criminals. They live in squalor, are practically bankrupt, and spend most of their time strung out or watching television because they don’t feel like doing anything else. Vampires, fairies, and werewolves or not, they’re a pretty accurate depiction of low-level criminals involved in the drug trade.

    What really makes this book work is the fact he manages to make the 8th Street Gang come alive as people you would probably find a lot of fun to hang out with once but would be dearly unfortunate to actually be friends with. I was especially fond of the twins who manage to be sexy as well as kind of pathetic at once. Selix is a character who doesn’t quite come off as the overpowering presence she’s supposed to but I still liked her.

    The mood of the book is unlike most urban fantasy storylines out there. It’s languid and surreal with Lonnie feeling very much out of step with his own life. He doesn’t have much control over himself because he is going through the motions of existence. Why? Because, he’s on drugs. Virtually any of his decisions not making any sense to himself or the audience make sense because he’s on drug and operating on autopilot. 

    The fact the drugs include mind-control, memory-alteration, and whatever other magic worked on him doesn’t change this fact. Contrary to hurting characterization, this actually helps it as we feel Lonnie struggle to regain some sense of control in his life.

    Urban fantasy and horror is full of mind-controlled servants to various supernaturals with very few of them really delving into their nature. The fact Lonnie isn’t precisely a character like Renfield makes the story somewhat more interesting and unpredictable but I actually enjoyed this walk on the lower end of the totem pole. About the only thing which rang false is, and this is a weird complaint, the group seemed oddly sexless for such a decadent and drugged-up group. While there’s a bit at the end, I was surprised as I half expected them to be crawling over each other as befitting the atmosphere. 

    But maybe that’s just me.

    In conclusion, Galefire is a very enjoyable urban fantasy novel which is different enough from others out there to be worth a look. I’m a bit worried about the ending but I hope the author will continue the dark, grimy, and trashy-sexy environment he’s created. It would be a shame to waste the book’s unique flavor.


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