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Charming by Elliott James
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Charming

by Elliott James

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2503745,873 (3.82)17
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I was looking for something to fill in the wasteland before the next [a:Jim Butcher|10746|Jim Butcher|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1400640324p2/10746.jpg] book, and although Elliott James has a way to go before he reaches Butcher's standard, I congratulate myself on having made a good decision when I picked this one up.

Characters
John Charming, sort-of-werewolf and definite bartender, is the main character. He's on the run from the Knights, whose job it is to enforce the Pax Arcana, which is a spell enforced policy of leaving supernatural wotsits alone as long as they keep their heads down. Anyone sticking their head up gets it shot off. Being a werewolf is a career-ending state, and the knights would like it to be a life-ending state.

I liked John. He has a nice, self-deprecating sense of humour, and is tough without being an eye-rolling cliche. James puts him in quite a few situations, ranging from the embarrassing to the dangerous, and I enjoyed the way John reacted. Especially to the embarrassing ones. The man actually thinks with his brain rather than his... other parts. In some ways, that's a pretty courageous decision on the part of the author; it means James actually has to put actual plot in place instead of just have the MC commit hormone-fuelled stupidity to move things along.

Sig, female, is the secondary character. I really liked Sig. If it's rare to have a male MC who doesn't commit testosterone-fulled stupidity, it's even rarer to have a female character who manages to keep her brain operating all the way through the book and doesn't fall over backwards as soon as a hot guy shows up. There was a lot to like about Sig: she's intelligent, tough, and a leader.

There are other characters - Molly the episcopalian priest, Choo the exterminator and Man With Van, plus others - who all have their own personalities, backgrounds, and motivations. I seriously hope that James is building a team for keeps here, because I want to hear more about these people. It's also noteworthy that the MC doesn't immediately take over and start being better than every other character at what they do. The dynamics between all the characters felt reasonably realistic as a team.

The Plot
Was not terribly complicated. This is where James has a way to go before he reaches Jim Butcher's standards. Still, it kept moving, and it kept me interested. The pacing suffered somewhat from a lot of exposition in the early stages, but picked up after that. I would recommend, if you're a bit ambivalent about the first bits, that you carry on reading at least a third of the way through.

The World
James has some interesting ideas, and doesn't just follow the usual urban fantasy tropes. It's not as dark as The Dresden Files, but it's not rainbows and unicorns either.

The Bad Bits
There honestly weren't many. I could definitely have done without the heavy slugs of exposition, but hey, it's the first book in the series, and I survived. Hopefully, he won't see the need in future books.

And on the very, very last page, he did an irritating thing that actually appears on a couple of 'reader pet peeve' lists I've seen. But it was only one page and though it scraped across my mind like fingers across a blackboard, I survived that too.

The Verdict
This book didn't exactly knock my socks off (four out of five stars, but only just), but it's joined my list of good urban fantasy that I'm going to carry on with. Given the style of the book as a whole, I'm expecting that further books will improve as there is less need for exposition, and more room for plot. ( )
  T_K_Elliott | Mar 12, 2017 |
Wow! This is not my childhood's Prince Charming, but then I'm not a child anymore, either. We quickly find out that "The truth is that the world is under a spell called the Pax Arcana, a compulsion that makes people unable to see, believe, or even seriously consider any evidence of the supernatural that is not an immediate threat to their survival."

Our Prince John Charming's mother was bitten by a werewolf while she was pregnant with him. He is/was also a member of the Knights Templar who are supposed to hunt down the supernatural beings who threaten the Pax Arcana, mostly be being too obvious in their slaughter of humans. The one thing he isn't is a prince. Add in a Valkyrie named Sig who is quite capable in battle. This makes for a great story. John is telling the story, so he includes lots of tips for us normal people to use against some of the big baddie types encountered here.

I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. I think my favorite line out of the books was "Popular young adult novels notwithstanding, vampires only sparkle when they burn." I read it pretty quickly and wanted the next book immediately. (You are warned this is a four-book, soon to be five-book series as of the writing of this review.)

Who will like it? Fans of Harry Dresden, almost certainly. If you like urban fantasy, you'll probably enjoy this. ( )
  Jean_Sexton | Dec 23, 2016 |
Fun urban fantasy, reasonable well executed, but nothing particularly special.

The setting is a normal world, with the addition of a Pax Arcana spell, created by the Fae in the middle ages. It prevents 'normal' humans from noticing supernatural goings on, provided they aren't too explicit. At the same time they established groups of Knights to enforce the 'explicit' rule among the supernbatural community - vampires werewolves ghosts and the rest - by a geas and whatever force is necessary. John Charming is an ex-Knight, and half werewolf, and hence somewhat mentally unhappy. The Knights didn't take well to his werewolf side (quite fast and strong and regenerates, but he doesn't get furry), and so he fled. Currently he's working in a bar, and used to seeing the odd supernatural creature, providing they behave themselves. But he's never seen anything like the tall blond Valkyrie before, however he's seen plenty of vampires that she's apparently here to meet.

Sig the Valkerie apparently has a motley crew of humans who've managed to breach the Pax, and become aware of supernaturals, and so they go around investigating and dealing with those they come across. Some remain as allies, and some are dealt with. Vampires seem to exclusively fall in the latter category, which is never explained. There's also quite a lot of mixing of mythos, under the assumption that if it's true somewhere else it' s also true in the US, whilst simultaneously neglecting to worry about how such beings might cope with airports etc.

Fairly fast paced with some detailed action sequences, that work quite well - I'm not sure about all of the author's physics of bodies and momentum but it seemed allright. There is also quite a bit of soul searching as Sig and John come to terms with their respective pasts, and how perhaps they don't quite have everything under control that they thought they did. I'm less convinced by the throwing themselves at each other though.

Fun, worthy contribution to the genre, and I'll probably chance the sequels to see if any kind of coherent backstory can be established, or more likely and disappointingly whether it remains John in different locations facing ever bigger baddies but still getting away to fight another day. ( )
  reading_fox | Nov 24, 2016 |
With all the fantasy books out there featuring strong female protagonists, it is about time someone wrote a story about dear Prince Charming. But if you're looking for a sappy, old-fashioned "hero saves the damsel in distress and they live happily ever after" story, well.. you might wanna pick this up another day. Because this Charming is not a Prince but a Knight, and his love interest isn't a princess much less a damsel in distress. Elliott James has constructed a world with complex supernatural beings you might have heard of across the multitude of UF/PNR books read over the years and a dose of humour which makes the main characters attractive in a different way. I wouldn't say this is a light read, but rather something you would enjoy much better with a healthy amount of emotion and cognition invested.

I'll admit, I didn't fall head over heels with this book right away. It took some time for me to get use to the writing, as if John was speaking to the reader directly. It also took much struggle for me to accept that the vampires in this particular book isn't all swoon-worthy like all other fantasy fiction depict. Frankly it was quite disturbing to have to alter this schema but it's okay. I'm okay. Just give me a minute to mourn over the loss of all the yummy vamps I've known in my life T.T

Only after I've finished the book did I realise that there is a couple of novellas accompanying this series and I really wish I could have gotten my hands on those to understand John's character more thoroughly! Although it's true that those are not compulsory reads and would in no way interfere with the enjoyment of this book.

I loved how John's difficulty in adapting to working with a group after solo-ing for decades is shown as it brings depth to his life before this incident. His relationships forged with the supporting crew, albeit shallow, allows readers to see different sides to this supposedly ancient and formidable being and the parts where he let himself be vulnerable really pulled at my heartstrings. There are some parts of the story which I found confusing and somewhat too technical (too much explanation) but it also feels more completed and not found lacking in any aspect.

Charming is an intense narrative with strong characters who will pull you in and you can't even explain why. Just be charmed. ( )
  elena.midnight | Mar 2, 2016 |
2.5 Stars ( )
  Melissa_J | Jan 16, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316253391, Paperback)

John Charming isn't your average Prince...

He comes from a line of Charmings -- an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is-- until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn't change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar... Right?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:06 -0400)

"A fascinating twist on the Prince Charming fairy tale with a modern twist and a hunt for monsters -- both within and supernatural." --

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