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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Novella Review: Devil's Due by Andrew Warren & The White Gold Score by Craig Schaefer


Official Author Website
Order Devil’s Due HERE

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I’m always on the lookout for exciting thrillers and new writers in this genre. So recently when I came across Devil’s Due by Andrew Warren thanks to Amazon’s amazing algorithm for suggesting books that you might like. I read the blurb and immediately bought it as managed to hook my interest instantaneously.

This was a novella and supposedly a prequel so I was glad that it wouldn’t take up much of my ever-decreasing reading time. Also this would be a good introduction to the Thomas Caine series which seemed a tad alike to the John Rain series by Barry Eisler. The novella is of twenty chapter only and gives us a decent idea about who Thomas Caine is and the world which he inhabits. The main story opens up in the second chapter as we meet Thomas in a small, rundown bar in Pattaya, Thailand as well as Naiyana a prostitute/stripper. Things get a tad hairy for Naiyana due to Alexi a Russian and Thomas has to get involved. From there we get to see how Thomas operates and why he strikes up a friendship with Naiyana. Due to the events occurring in the bar, things unravel as they do and Thomas will have to retrieve his previous skills if he has any hope of helping Naiyana.

This is a brutal punch of a story and doesn’t take at any time at all to ramp up the action. It sets up all of the characters quickly and gives them believable personas. I liked reading about Thomas and his mysterious past which gets highlighted nicely and there are some pointers given about the future direction of the books. The author also makes sure that his secondary characters like Satra, Naiyana, Anna, etc are three dimensional as well. Case in point is the main antagonist as well as Anna who while not being very friendly but are mysterious and deadly at the same time. The action sequences are quick and will make the readers zip along for the ride. What made the story stand out from its inherent darkness vis-à-vis the bombings, human trafficking & mafia, was the depth the author added to the story via the characters and the world showed within.

We get a dark but strong look into the underbelly of Thailand, it’s made up of folks that will make your stomach churn but also honorable characters who are striving to do the right thing. The character cast is suitably intriguing and a special tip of the hat to author for not sticking to the prostitute with the gold heart stereotype. Naiyana is a fine character who tries to make the best of her circumstances but she’s no fool and she’s no coward either. You will have to read till the end of the novella to see why I say that. Thomas Caine who is the main focus of the story is intriguing to say the least and we get enough hints about his past that readers will want to know more about this dark knight.

Devil’s Due is a very good thrill ride that does exactly what it promises, it delivers a bunch load of action in noir settings of Thailand while also peeling back the curtain on the enigma that is Thomas Caine. I very much enjoyed it and upon finishing it immediately bought Tokyo Black (book 1 of the Thomas Caine series). Oh and so far it’s wildly different from the John Rain books while sharing a similarity that the main character is a loner who chooses to be that way.


Official Author Website
Order The White Gold Score HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Winter's Reach
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Instruments Of Control
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Craig Schaefer

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The White Gold Score by Craig Schaefer is not a prequel novella however serves as an exciting introduction to the crazy world of Daniel Faust. This novella is actually set between the events of The Wrong Way Down (book 1) & Redemption Song (book 2) however is a good starting point (because of the standalone nature of its plot) for those readers who want to dip their toes before jumping all in this exciting series.

For me this novella was just perfect, as I wasn’t all too thrilled by The Long Way Down, the first Daniel Faust book but this novella completely changed my mind about this series and boy am I glad for that. The Long Way Down was an interesting introduction to Daniel and his world however suffered from many of the foibles that cling to introductory works. The White Gold Score doesn’t share any of those and focuses on Daniel Faust, sorcerer and low-level conman who gets asked to rid a top class hotel suite of its resident ghost. Thinking that this ghost exorcism will be the easy kind, leads Daniel to underestimate the seriousness of the extra-corporal inhabitant (I’m being vague about the gist of the story as that way lie spoilers). Daniel quickly learns what exactly happened for the ghost’s raison d'être and soon gets sucked in to the Hollywood music scene and the crazy shenanigans that this job unravels. This novella neatly showcases the dark side of the music industry while also getting you hooked on to Daniel Faust.

I have to thank Craig Schaefer for writing this novella, because if I hadn’t read it. I most certainly wouldn’t have entered the darkly alluring world that he has created. The story setting is a bit different from the regular series books as majority of the plot unfolds in Hollywood and showcases the power trappings & underhand dealings of the music industry. This being an urban fantasy story we get a proper eyeful of the craziness that the Daniel Faust's life entails. Also while most of the books (except book 4) are centered around Las Vegas, this short provides a nice side-angle view out in the world beyond the deserts of Nevada. Daniel Faust is a fascinating narrator as the first person voice hooks us in with his rogue-ish charm and moral ambiguous choices. He makes us believe that not only is his action plan the correct way but also the only way to do such things. However amidst all of this grey narrative, there is a heroic streak to him as well as a loyal core which makes him that much more conflicting as a character to root for.

Overall I liked how this novella introduced some major plot twists (with some nifty hat tips to classic hardboiled stories) and had a grim but fascinating take on Slavic/Russian mythology. I can’t wait to see if the mythological character introduced in this story, shows up in the main DF books (mini-spoiler: after reading further in the series, he does). The plot is smoothly paced and some terrific action packed into it, this is especially true of the climax. Also kudos to the author for giving us such well-developed characters and a fascinating magic system within this 46K-plus word novella.

The White Gold Score is an absolute blast to read and serves as an excellent stepping stone to the world of Daniel Faust. I heavily recommend that you read this novella and also the rest of the series to see how crazy good it is. I devoured the six books (that have been released so far) in rapid succession & now I strongly believe that Craig Scahefer’s books are a serious contender to the granddaddy of urban fantasy Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. DO NOT MISS this book or any other ones by Craig Schaefer, I’m hooked and will be reading anything and everything that the man writes in the future.

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