FEARLESS by Elliott James has been out for nearly a year, which means it’s been sitting on my “to read” shelf for that long, and I’ve been avoiding it because the cover is dumb. Go ahead, take a look at the cover again, and maybe at CHARMING and DARING, too (the first two books), and see if you don’t assume it’s another lameo Urban Fantasy series to take up shelf space.
I was so wrong. I love it when a book surprises me, and FEARLESS is the kind of book where I will eagerly go buy the first two so I can get more of this series. Should you have read the first books before reading this one? Probably, but I doubt that lack made me enjoy this book any less.
John Charming comes from a long line of monster hunters. Of course, not all monsters are bad, but when you have abilities that make you able to squash mortals without any effort, you tend to not care for the weaker of the species. That’s where the Knights Templar comes in, and the Pax Arcana, which gives hunters the authority to fight the bad guys. But John is different than any other knight: he’s also a werewolf.
John is called in on a case that seems pretty straightforward at first: a girl is killed and eaten by some kind of supernatural horse. But John has been hunting nasties for a long time, and suspects that the girl wasn’t the real target. And once he figures out who the real target is and why, he discovers that he’s been sucked into a story that’s bigger than he bargained for.
Kevin Kichida is the grandson of a wizard who has spent generations ensuring his immortality by taking the lives of his own progeny, and Kevin is his grandfather’s last chance to continue living. I don’t see how John isn’t scared off by a guy who not only kills his posterity in order to guarantee his immortality, but after living that long, Kevin’s grandfather has collected not only items of power, but has enslaved clever and powerful beings to protect and help him. On the outset it seems like John and the people he works with have been set up for an impossible task. But John knows that even the most powerful beings have a weakness, he just needs to put the pieces together and solve the puzzle.
Along for the ride is John’s girlfriend, Sig, a half-Valkyrie who’s hunted with him before. Even though John has been used to working alone in the past, Sig doesn’t have that limitation and comes with her own team, including the tech guru Parth (a naga), Choo who helps with logistics (human), and Molly (also human) who recently left the Episcopalian priesthood and has some serious holy mojo. Then there’s Ted Cahill (dhampir) who is the sheriff in upstate New York who called them in on the case in the first place. They’re all great characters, all burdened with their own baggage, faults, and strengths. They make a great team, even if they don’t always get along. When they discover early on that Kevin is a psychic, they seek the help of the witch Sarah White, who turns out to be an important addition if they want to take down Kevin’s gradfather.
The book takes place in present-day New York, most of it in New York City. We see the city as a place where supernatural beings come and go, and in particular participate in the Crucible, where they fight each other for money. FEARLESS is filled with folklore creatures, as well as your more familiar supernaturals such as vampires and witches. John knows he doesn’t know everything, so isn’t above research, especially when foreign folklore is involved. The great thing about this is that knowing the abilities of the different creatures flavors the fights. Having recently finished another Urban Fantasy with bland and repetitive fights, it was refreshing to watch John, Sig, and the others as they worked around abilities that sometimes seemed impossible to counter. The fights were seriously fun to read.
FEARLESS is well written and entertaining, the pacing quick and exciting clear until the end; there are a few issues with continuity, but they’re minor. The prose in particular is great, with hilarious metaphors and turn of phrase. John has a smart mouth and even though he would probably drive me crazy in real life, it’s cathartic to watch him deal with idiots. For those who love Hearne (EBR review), Butcher (EBR review), and Briggs (EBR review), this is the series for you.
- Recommended Age: 16+
- Language: Yeah, quite a bit actually
- Violence: Lots
- Sex: Referenced