Dog Days: No soul, no personality, no style

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsurban fantasy book review John Levitt Dog DaysDog Days by John Levitt

I’ve been eyeing Dog Days curiously for a while now (insert obvious feline joke here), mainly intrigued by the blurb’s promise of a magical dog. Yes, that’s right, I freely admit it — my inner three-year-old wanted to see the magical doggie.

The magical dog is an Ifrit, which I found kind of intriguing. Besides that, though, Dog Days has little to offer. I don’t like the main character, Mason, one bit. To avoid making him a Gary Stu, Levitt makes him pretty much incompetent (which means the villains have to be even more incompetent), lazy about mastering his magic, and constantly has him blundering stupidly into traps even when he knows the likelihood of them being there is high. Not that Mason is ever really scared or fazed by any of this, which puts the tension level through the floor. Also, like many of his ilk, he has an attitude problem for no good reason. His issues with authority don’t even come from some sort of perceived slights that could become interesting challenges to his character development.

The supporting cast is largely uninteresting. It seems as though any male character Levitt wants you to dislike will be short, no more than five foot six (Mason is, notably, rather taller than that, and “broody” to boot). This includes Victor, one of the good guys, but a character I nonetheless get the impression that I’m supposed to revile as much as Mason does. As Victor is way more competent and awesome than Mason, this backfires; I love Victor. Victor should have been the main character here. Female characters seem to exist largely for the purpose of having been in a relationship with Mason (Sherwood) or having an obligatory sex scene with Mason (Campbell). (And by “obligatory” I mean of the characters-with-no-chemistry, straight-out-of-left-field variety.) Or being stupid tween twits who get killed.

The plot is a series of events loosely strung together by the common thread of being perpetrated by the same obvious, utterly incompetent caricature of a villain. The bad guy is a sledgehammer to the face, easily recognizable by his evil countenance, the fact that his Ifrit is supposedly a crow, his constant sneer and, of course, his short stature. He’s not scary — he’s just an idiot (he has to be, for Mason to stop him). The other incompetent bad guy hangs around pointlessly for a chapter or two before ignominiously breaking his neck falling down the stairs in the dark.

Unfortunately, Dog Days doesn’t feel like a novel so much as text going through the motions. It has no soul, no personality, no style.

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BETH JOHNSON, one of our guest reviewers, discovered fantasy books at age nine, when a love of horses spurred her to pick up Bruce Coville’s Into the Land of the Unicorns. Beth lives in Sweden with her husband. She writes short stories and has been working on a novel.

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One comment

  1. I loved this book and the whole series. There was one book in there that had a bit of a weak plot point, but in general I found the mysteries to be very strong and entertaining. I like that Mason is so very ordinary and even when he resorts to using magic, he isn’t all that good at it. I like the tie-in with music and, of course, I really enjoyed Lou, the dog! There were some other very well-drawn side characters too.

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