Urban fantasy is replete with different, sometimes catchy, permutations of a standard bunch of mythological/fantastic beings who happen to turn up in our world. In The Calling, David Mack tries something pretty original by bringing us (instead of vampires and werewolves) guardian angels and their evil counterparts.
Tom Nash is your everyman who happens to have a mystical gift: he hears people’s prayers. And through the prayers of a little girl, he is Called to New York City to help the angels of Heaven fight the demons of Hell. When he set out, Tom certainly wasn’t expecting anything of this magnitude. In fact, his very nature is so set in opposition to all things fantastic that it sets up a powerful conflict between his need to stay in his life’s paradigm while struggling through a bizarre adventure into the fantastic. It’s refreshing to read an urban fantasy author who emphasizes how really difficult it would be to have your frame of reference thrown completely out of balance.
As Tom leads us on quite a chase back and forth through New York City trying to answer the little girl’s prayer, David Mack shows us how the story evolves through at least four different sets of eyes. (But this doesn’t give the reader an omniscient view, it just fills in some blanks.) For the most part, these characters are believable and, in this genre, that’s important for keeping a sense of realism.
Tom Nash is not terribly exciting as a hero, but that’s the point. The story is not so much about Tom as it is about anyone who might be faced with the supernatural. We witness how Tom reacts, his ability to apply real-world skills to the challenges he faces, and his willingness to adapt but not cave in to the temptation to toss aside his morality when faced with something he’s completely unprepared for.
For the first book in what appears to be a new series, I was extremely impressed. David Mack writes very well and gets the story moving at a pace that keeps you interested without blowing through too much too quickly. He also does a great job of creating the tension that a supernatural thriller needs. I strongly recommend The Calling as a quick read, and I hope that more from David Mack will soon be on its way.