Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Holy Avenger by Kenny Soward review

    I was a big fan of Kenny Soward's Galefire, which was a early example of grimdark urban fantasy. It was a story about a drug-addicted mind-twisted man named Lonnie as well as the colorful cast of weirdos he hung out with in Cincinnati. The ending of the book offered the promise of big change which I wasn't necessarily all that fond of since I was interested in the low-key storytelling that the first book excelled at.

    Holy Avengers makes a course correction so that we don't end up in a big plot to take over hell and, instead, focuses mostly on the protagonists trying to recover from their wounds in an underground hospital run by a demon who is (for all intents and purposes) Swamp Thing. I hope Kenny Soward continues to keep the adventures of his group of small as I think they work better that way.

    Even so, there's a broadening of the world which occurs in this book as a substantial part of the story takes place from the perspective of Bess the Holy Avenger. Despite the fact "hell" is clearly stated to be populated by humanoid and monstrous beings who know nothing of God or the Devil, closer to fairies than demons, the power of God is a real thing in this reality. The ECC is a demon-hunting organization which is determined to wipe them off the face of reality, not the least because most Fade-Rippers really are loathsome abominations.

    Sorry Isla, Ingrid.

    After narrowly losing her life to a vampire (whorcal), Bess ends up recovering in the hospital of the aforementioned Swamp Thing-like creature and gets a uncomfortable lesson in tolerance. Lonnie, Selix, and the sisters may not be the nicest people in the world but they're far from inhuman abominations. Really, they're about as dangerous as Jay and Silent Bob given the amount of drugs they regularly consume to replace their connection to Hell's energies. Which, personally, I think is just an excuse.

    There's not much to the story, actually, as the Galefire books are short adventure reads and I think that's to the book's credit. Events happen but one more step is taken on Lonnie's journey. That doesn't mean huge changes to the cast and their line-up aren't made but it's an easy action-filled romp I finished in about a day.

    Is the book grimdark? That's questionable as while the first book certainly was, this one moved away from Lonnie's addiction to drugs as well as his longing for the family he betrayed to something which felt more like a straight adventure. I mean, he's still a scumbag but a likable scumbag who is more pathetic than bad intentioned. I also liked Selix and Lonnie's romance despite it being something I felt was "no accounting for taste" in the previous book.

    I do think one of the characters who leaves the story in the book was a mistake on the author's part, though. A character dies who was really interesting and central to the narrative. I don't think this was for shock value but to highlight their presence was keeping everyone else from developing. Still, I considered them one of the most important elements of the book's formula so their absence will be missed.

    In conclusion, Holy Avengers is a fine fun book and I recommend the Galefire series for those who like their urban fantasy a bit off-kilter and tragic. They're very violent, cast members die left and right, while the protagonists are wastes of space--but in a good way. It's not about the heroes who want to change the world, Bess shows what that's like and Lonnie's crew is VERY MUCH not like her, but people trying to survive when they're not the top dogs of the supernatural food chain.


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