Daring: John Charming meets his makers

Daring by Elliott James urban fantasy book reviewsDaring by Elliott JamesDaring by Elliott James

This second novel in Elliott JamesPAX ARCANA saga begins with an amusing top-ten list of things that people who didn’t read the first book, Charming, “really ought to know” (it’s a great way to do a re-cap), then jumps into the story.

Half-werewolf John Charming gets involved with both halves of his heritage in Daring (2014). One part is the Knights who raised and trained him, have been hunting him for years, and are now a threat to John’s new friends. The other part is a werewolf clan that wants to teach John their ways and initiate him into the pack. As he learns more about both groups, he uncovers a plot that endangers the Pax Arcana and, actually, the entire world.

With its focus on the Knights and werewolves, Daring feels different from the first book, Charming, and I suspect that some readers will be disappointed with that. The characters from Charming, such as Sig, are mentioned, but not seen for most of the story. A new cast of characters joins John in this novel, and they’re not as likable as those in Charming. In fact, they’re totally unlikeable.

Another issue is that the plot of Daring is not as exciting as the plot of Charming because it focuses less on monster hunting and more on John learning about himself and his heritage. Sometimes the plot is pretty hard to believe in, too. John figures stuff out with very little evidence, and the plans that are hatched by bad guys seem unnecessarily dangerous and not very clever. The romantic tension feels contrived.Pax Arcana by Elliott James urban fantasy book reviews

On the other hand, John is a great hero and we learn a lot about his history in Daring, making this an essential book for PAX ARCANA fans. I’ve decided that I like Elliott James’s sense of humor which features wordplay, understatement, and a love of irony. One chapter was playfully written in verse, and I loved that. Perhaps Daring isn’t quite as amusing as Charming, but that’s due to the darkness of the plot and, probably, the unlikable characters.

Tantor Audio’s edition of Daring is terrific, thanks to a spectacular performance by Roger Wayne. The next book is Fearless, which I’ve already started.

Published in 2014. Something is rotten in the state of Wisconsin. Werewolf packs are being united and absorbed into an army of super soldiers by a mysterious figure who speaks like an angel and fights like a demon. And every Knight Templar — keepers of the magical peace between mankind and magickind — who tries to get close to this big bad wolf winds up dead. No knight can infiltrate a group whose members can smell a human from a mile away…no knight except one. John Charming. Ex knight. Current werewolf. Hunted by the men who trained him, he now might be their only salvation. But animal instincts are rising up to claim John more powerfully than ever before, and he must decide if this new leader of wolves is a madman…or a messiah.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. I really like the idea of a “top ten” list to catch readers up on the previous book — I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.

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