Monday, December 6, 2010

The ‘IT’ Factor – Debut Author Cameron Haley

Mob Rules
September, 2010

Book Blurb:
As LA plunges into an occult gang war, mob sorceress Domino Riley must unravel a conspiracy that reaches beyond the magic-soaked mean streets into a world of myth and legend.

Domino investigates the ritual execution of a mob associate, a graffiti magician named Jamal. The kid isn’t just dead, he’s been squeezed — the killer stole his magical power or “juice.” Domino summons Jamal’s shade, and the ghost points to Adan Rashan as his killer. This is tricky, because Adan is the favored son of Domino’s boss, Shanar Rashan, a six-thousand-year-old Sumerian wizard. It’s even trickier because only a mobbed-up sorcerer could have squeezed Jamal and Adan isn’t a sorcerer.

As the corpses pile up, Domino must confront the killer and unmask an otherworldly kingpin with designs on her gang’s magic-rich turf.

One of the main reasons I was eager to read this one is because the author is a man, writing a paranormal romance – or at least it’s been popping up on the paranormal romance radar. No, I'm not prejudiced. I just can't recall reading a good paranormal romance by a guy lately and I wanted to see how he’d do.

The Paranormal:
The mob in Domino Riley’s world is made up of sorcerers, dealing in underworld magic beneath the cover of crime, gambling and prostitution. Graffiti tags channel all this magic (or juice, as they call it), keeping it flowing where it needs to go so the sorcerers can tap into it for power. Domino even uses sites like Wikipedia and FriendTrace (similar to FaceBook) to research and communicate with the other side. And the human world hasn’t got a clue. Very original and sometimes quite graphic and violent. I could see shades of early Laurell K. Hamilton here.

The Romance:
What romance there is, takes a big backseat. It’s definitely a subplot and not very well developed. I never really felt the chemistry between the characters and their time together was quite boring compared to the rest of the book.
“Let’s dance.”
“I’d like to date you.”
“I’d like to date you too.”
“Your dad isn’t going to like it.”
“So what?”
Very high school for a cougar (she’s 35 and he’s in his mid-twenties).

The Humor:
While the overall tone of this book is dark and a bit gritty, Domino has some good zingers in the sarcasm department. But the real gem is Honey, her piskie side-kick. Once these two get going at each other, it’s hilarious.

The Twist:
The author throws in a great twist that neither I nor the heroine saw coming. I love it when an author can surprise me this way. And no, I’m not going to give it away.

The Problem Areas:
1) Being the first book in a series, a certain amount of world-building is to be expected. However, the heroine often went off on tangents of mob/sorcerer history and backstory that were not needed and dragged the pace.
2) Domino has a lot of power even though she thinks she doesn’t. She has a spell for everything from finding a great parking spot to levitating to erecting a force field around herself when the bullets start flying. She can wield a spell to heal a broken nose, clean her house, and make herself virtually invisible. Many of the spells were just too convenient, allowing the heroine to get in and out of scrapes without much trouble. I would have liked to see her challenged more magically. Give her some flaws and limitations. As it was, the only real problems arose when she ran out of juice to power the spells. With hundreds of nifty spells at her disposal, I had to wonder why she wasn’t top dog in the mob outfit. This is explained a bit in the end, but I still thought she had it too easy with all her various spells.

The ‘IT’ Factor:
This Urban Fantasy stands out because of its originality. I loved the use of graffiti tags and the mob as the underpinnings for this paranormal world. While the main threat is headed off at the end, the war is not over by far. And there’s a hint at more romance to come, so we’ll see if the author can improve in that area.