“Broker of the Damned” by E. Nathan Sisk

First off, I should make clear that this is a short story set in the universe of the author’s first full-length novel, “Sorcerer Rising.” Why didn’t I take the more sensible option of reviewing that instead? Well, I came across “Broker of the Damned” first whilst perusing that day’s published titles, and it was under a dollar.

"Please send your self-published fantasy and sci-fi Kindle titles. Will review for free,"

“Please send your self-published fantasy and sci-fi Kindle titles. Will review for free.”

Having established that I may not have appreciated certain nods and references to his previous title set in the same world due to my miserly nature, let’s get on with the show!

Surprisingly decent cover art for a self-published book

Surprisingly decent cover art for a self-published book

Set in a parallel version of our Earth, Deputy Magistrate Matt Ewing is a Witch licensed by the U.S. government to track and police rogue Wizards and Sorcerers using their powers for nefarious means. First of all, let me just say that I always get a funny little kick out of male characters being referred to as witches. I’ve come across it a couple of times in video games and literature and it just always makes me grin. I don’t know why.

Hee hee.

Hee hee.

The short story begins with out hard-boiled protagonist (“I’ve heard the sizzle, give me the steak”) taking over the interrogation of a possessed low-life apprehended by the regular/Muggle? police. Someone in the city has been illicitly selling souls and the onus is on Ewing to track this supernatural criminal down.

Dealing with angels and demons and all other manner of supernatural foe requires some sort of magic or power–when doesn’t it?–and The Craft used in the book is interesting. This magic system is one of sacrifice and power (it reminded me of a fantasy book I read years ago about a magician who awakes at a monastery but I can’t remember the name of it) and to that end Ewing has a demonic familiar, Eleazar, entwined around his soul. Eleazar is a demonic, black cat. I’ll be honest, I was hoping for a slightly more original form.

All magic cats live in Salem's glorious shadow!

All magic cats live in Salem’s glorious shadow!

One aspect which did rub me a little the wrong way was the statement that the pieces of his soul Ewing sacrifices, he can grow back. Makes the whole process seem pretty trite, doesn’t it? I’d always imagined the human soul to be a finite thing. If it’s that easy for someone to sell half their soul and then have it grow back in the week, we’d all have demon butlers, wouldn’t we?

"Your brandy, sir."

“Your brandy, sir.”

I did find the breadth of the story a shame though considering the magical diversity touched upon in this universe. Ewing’s colleagues at the Magistrate’s office use entirely different magical means and service is paid to the differing mythical traditions throughout Europe and Africa: Shamanism, Druidism and Ifrit magic, etc. It certainly was a breath of fresh air considering the typically homogeneous magic systems you typically find in the fantasy genre.

Now, to briefly be a pedant, Mr. Sisk did twice commit a grammatical sin which seriously grates on me. It is: “We’d have,” not “We’d of.” Grrrrrr. There are a few typos here and there as you might expect from a self-published title–I imagine most self-published authors proofread their own work–but nothing major.

All in all, an enjoyable urban fantasy which doesn’t feel the need to be too gritty or comical as so many do. This short story is short, only a little over 40 pages, but for just under a dollar it’s worth the price of entry. It’s a shame I hadn’t read “Sorcerer Rising” beforehand but I now may do so in the near future.

I suck at Photoshop, OK?

I suck at Photoshop, OK?

Advertisements

“Bigfoot And Santa Get Trashed In Vegas” by Raven Blackbird

Having decided to embark upon this noble course of discovering the secret treasures nestled amongst the hordes of self-published fantasy and sci-fi books in the Kindle store, I had a general idea of what to expect. The typical clichés we’ve come to expect of your run-of-the-mill elves and dwarves; the humble blacksmith’s son/suburban teenager destined for far greater things; and even the odd vampire or two.

Scrolling through the most recently published books in the Kindle store, I soon came across half-a-dozen titles which conformed to my expectations. I needed to be selective though. The story I chose would have to serve as a measure for what is to come from Creepy or Cool? This would let readers know what to expect in the future. I needed to find a title that would ensnare your average blog-surfer, make him ask, “What is that book all about?”

Then my eyes alighted upon one title and I knew that I had found what I was looking for: Bigfoot And Santa Get Trashed In Vegas.

Could this be the kind of bizarre and brilliant oddity for which this blog was created for? Below is the synopsis found on the Amazon page:

When the Easter Bunny finally decides to settle down with a Playboy bunny, his best buds Bigfoot, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy decide to throw him a bachelor party in Vegas. They get a swank hotel suite on the strip and proceed to party like there’s no tomorrow. Just before they’re about to go hit the clubs and casinos, the four friends decide to try the new cocktail the Tooth Fairy has just concocted. And that’s the last thing Bigfoot and Santa remember before they wake up in their demolished hotel room the next morning, covered in their own vomit.

What do you think?

At the time it sounded horrendously brilliant, like car-crash literature. You shouldn’t be reading it, you know it’s wrong, but you just can’t bring yourself to look away. I immediately purchased it.

Penned by Raven Blackbird*, the author of such classics as “Big Bad Booty Bitch Whoops Some Ass (The World’s First Pornstar Superhero)” and “I Banged A Vampire And He Didn’t Sparkle Like The Bitches In Twilight”, he even mentions in the disclaimer that: “No one is going to write a review about this shit.” Au contraire!

Orgazmo might disagree with you over who the whole World’s First Pornstar Superhero is, Mr. Blackbird...

Orgazmo might disagree with you over who the whole World’s First Pornstar Superhero is, Mr. Blackbird…

You’d imagine that a story involving Bigfoot, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy–The Fairytale Gang–going on a hedonistic and wild road trip to be fairly unique. How couldn’t it? Unfortunately though, a lot of the time it just feels like a poor derivative of the Hangover films.

  • A gang of best friends wake up in a trashed Vegas hotel room with no memory of the night before? Check
  • Their soon-to-be-married friend has gone missing and a villainous mobster demands a large cash payment for his return? Check
  • Idiot friend uses his card-counting skills to win the money they need? Check
  • The sensible and uptight friends gets hitched to a stripper? Check

There should be no way that these characters, who are soon joined by a fat chick-obsessed Bill Clinton, should be able to have an adventure that resembles pretty much anything else out there. Sadly, despite the utterly bizarre premise, that is pretty much the extent of imagination used.

The vast majority of the novel is taken up by Bigfoot, a bleeding heart liberal, and Santa, a racist and homophobic conservative, bickering about politics with one another (I smell a sitcom!), every main character receiving repeated and extended physical beatings, penis references, gay “jokes” and copious amounts of drugs and alcohol being consumed. Less is more, a pinch of these illicit and perverse activities placed here and there could elicit a wry chuckle but the story is simply oversaturated with them.

That’s not to say the book doesn’t have its moments. Some of the banter between Santa and Bigfoot is amusing at times, even if their crude political caricatures can get grating at points, as are Santa’s reflections on his marriage to Mrs. Claus, and the Tooth Fairy’s attempt to break into a pawn store had me laughing out loud.

As for the quality of writing, it’s certainly not the worst thing I’ve read. (There are quite a lot of parentheses) Blackbird keeps the action ticking along at least, even if identical phrases and descriptions pop up time and time again, even in the same paragraph. (The most parentheses I’ve ever seen in a book) While Santa does experience some measure of personal growth towards the end, that’s about it; what do you expect though? (Seriously, it’s like the parentheses never end) In fairness, you get to know each of the characters well, even if they may not be written in that elegant of a manner:

“The Tooth Fairy is a short, fat, vulgar old man who bears an uncanny resemblance to Danny DeVito… The Tooth Fairy suddenly pulls out a crack pipe and, speaking in his raspy, Danny DeVito-esque voice…”

You can almost imagine him in the room with you...

You can almost imagine him in the room with you…

At just $0.99 and clocking in at just over 100 pages, it’s a modest commitment that you can finish within a couple of hours. Unfortunately though, the book cannot live up to the lofty potential of its utterly ludicrous premise. A strange re-hashing of ideas which have already been done better, the characters deserve a far more outlandish adventure to sink their teeth (and crack pipes) into.

Creepy or Cool? scale

*His novels are attributed to JK Jackson on Goodreads so I think it’s safe to say that Raven Blackbird is a pen name. Either that or he’s a Native American pornstar/ornithologist.