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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Author Appreciation: Craig Schaefer (by Lukasz Przywoski)

It doesn’t happen often that I read series of books one immediately after the other. And yet, that’s precisely what happened with Craig Schaefer’s bibliography. I devoured all of his books in one month. It’s embarrassing. The author has spent thousands of hours to craft the books, develop characters and wrap-up plotlines and I consumed them in few weeks.

And what a ride it was!

Now, It has to be said upfront that Craig Schaefer won’t win a Pulitzer, but he’ll sure as hell entertain you. In a loud and violent way.

His world, you see, is not happy. Hell is a concrete, real place. Heaven, as far as anyone knows, is not. The few angelic beings anyone recalls seeing are violently insane, and if there’s any higher power out there, it’s utterly silent.

All Schaefer’s books are interconnected and happen in the same world, although there’s a considerable time gap between events presented in the Revanche Cycle and his urban-fantasy series.

It’s not necessary to read all of them to enjoy others thoroughly.

Schafer debuted in 2014 with The Long Way Down, and he continues to publish three-four books a year since then. The man is a machine. In interviews, he admits that writing is his career of choice and he approaches it seriously. He works at least eight hours every day, Every single day. This may be because he started to publish later in his life – he was forty when he published The Long Way Down. I appreciate this kind of work ethics. It's also worth noting that he develops as a writer and tries new things (by writing in slightly different genres).

Reading order

Schaefer’s series can be read independently of each other. However, having in mind many FBC readers’ genre of choice is high/low-fantasy, I’d like to suggest reading his series in the following order:

Revanche Cycle:

Number - Title - Date of publication

1) Winter’s Reach - November 2014

2)  The Instruments of Control - April 2015

3) Terms of Surrender - November 2015

4) Queen of the Night - June 2016

What a fun read! Heroes win, villains die, everybody gets a cake.

Oh, wait.

I’ve mistaken books.

Let’s try again.

The Revanche Cycle is an epic fantasy with multiple viewpoint characters, set in a world reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance. The series deals with conspiracies, political intrigue, the relationship between church and state, how religion is used (and abused) to shape policy. It's also about faith and culture, and overcoming the obstacles society throws in your path. It's a story about women. It is also, as the title hints, a story about revenge. And how a single violent act, buried in the past, can have devastating global consequences.

The story is fast-paced, character-driven and well plotted. The ending of the series is bold and satisfying. Also, heart-wrenching. The only drawback I can see is the fact that none of the books works well as a standalone. As a completed series, though, it’s criminally underread and underrated.

The story is already finished and can be bought in a kindle bundle for $8. Frankly, it’s a steal.

Daniel Faust series:

Number  Title Publication date

1)    The Long Way DownJuly 2014

1.5)   The White Gold Score - February 2016

2)    Redemption Song - June 2014

3)    The Living End - August 2014

4)    A Plain-Dealing Villain - January 2015

5)    The Killing Floor Blues -  July 2015

6)    The Castle Doctrine - September 2016

7)    Double or Nothing - June 2017

8)    The Neon Boneyard - April 2018

Daniel Faust is the main character of the series. He’s a con artist, thief and former gangster living in the shadows of Las Vegas. Daniel uses black magic and bullets to get what he wants. He’s not really a good guy. Because the story is told from his perspective and his voice is enjoyable, it’s easy to forget that he can be stone cold killer with little mercy in his heart. He lives in a noirish world filled with characters whose morality is black or grey. He’s helped by his chosen family – a group of rogues and outlaws. Each of them possesses different magical talents, and their strength lies in cooperation and planning.

Daniel isn’t a powerhouse wizard. He has some tricks up his sleeve, but if you like comparisons, Harry Dresden would destroy him in a fraction of a second (him and half of Las Vegas, the way Harry does). And yet due to his wit, Daniel’s able to win in impossible fights.

Did I mention that his girlfriend is a demon? You know, actual demon. From Hell. Because she is. Caitlin rocks. She can be sweet to Daniel, but she’s not the one to play with unless you like your heart to be broken. Quite literally – after it’s torn up from your ribcage. Also, Caitlin calls Daniel her pet so if you’re ultra-macho you may find this reversal of relationship dynamics unsettling.

The series is loud, fast and violent. It’s strongest part is characterisation. While characters aren’t as developed as the ones portrayed in the Revanche Cycle, they have enough charisma to truly like them and cheer for them.

It’s early in the series when Daniel stumbles on a "The End of the World as We Know It" plot and tries to take down the bad guys. The thing is bad guys are quite terrifying and their schemes remain a bit of mystery.

Harmony Black series:

Number Title Publication date

1)    Harmony Black - February 2016

2)    Red Knight Falling - April 2016

3)    Glass Predator - March 2017

4)    Cold Spectrum - October 2017

The Harmony Black series is a spinoff to the Daniel Faust novels. She was introduced as Daniel's “antagonist” (well, the thing is he’s the bad guy). While she collaborated with him on few occasions like saving the world, her pet project was to see him in prison. Harmony is an FBI agent and a witch. Her spinoff series follows her adventures with her new team, working to take down occult criminals and supernatural threats all over the United States.

I must confess it took me some time to get into the series. Harmony is just too damn straight. Which is funny as she's ready to wreak havoc and kill other people (also those close to her) to reach her team goals (to be fair saving a world is a good goal). The stories are usually fast-paced and each of the books focuses on a different Circus team member.

In Cold Spectrum they uncover a diabolical conspiracy in the highest ranks of the government, it appears that everything Harmony and her friends have worked for, fought for, and risked their lives for might be a lie. And it's the book in which I started to like Harmony as she has to deal not only with treason but also with kind of supernatural addiction that adds a little bent to her character.

In order to get all nuances and hints in the Faust and Harmony series, it's good to start Harmony Black after finishing A Plain-Dealing Villain and finish it before getting to Double or Nothing. By reading the series in this order you'll know what's the deal with one million dollar hat or why on earth would Harmony buy a flamethrower from Winslow.

Wisdom’s Grave trilogy:

Number Title Publication date

1)    Sworn to the Night - January 2018

2)   Detonation Boulevard (tentative title) - Fall 2018

The Wisdom’s Grave trilogy is Craig Schaefer 's new trilogy that’s supposed to reveal a lot of secrets about the universe and, above all, my favourite characters from the Revanche Cycle. They’re back in modern times to kick some ass. And I can’t wait to see where the story will go. Both Daniel Faust and Harmony Black make cameos here, and while it’s not necessary to know their series to understand what’s happening, it definitely helps and allows to savour nuances and hints.

Why do I appreciate the guy?

Outside the fact his book brought a lot of fun and entertainment to my life, I appreciate Craig Schaefer for:

* Work ethics - he treats his career and fans seriously and openly communicates his sales, writing progress and problems

* Playing a long game - you remember Lost and X-Files? It was apparent they had no idea where they were going. It was nice to follow them along the way, but none of these stories was wrapped up satisfyingly. So far, Schaefer connects his heroes and plots in satisfying ways.

* Creating intriguing, morally ambiguous characters that I like.

* Writing in different genres (so - he develops his skills as a writer)

* Refreshing urban fantasy scene


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lukasz Przywoski is an avid fiction reader from Poland. As a reviewer, he tries to be critical and thoroughly analyze books that he reads. As a result, he rarely gives 5 stars ratings - he reserves them to books that feel special. Apart from being keen on reading and inhabiting imaginary worlds, his biggest passion is the science of movement and movement in multiple forms. Life without sport and books wouldn't be worth living.

While fantasy is his favourite genre, he tends to read pretty broadly and is always eager to try new things.

Favourite authors: Terry Pratchett, Jim Butcher, Mark Lawrence, Craig Schaefer, Seth Skorkowsky, Matt Suddain and many others.. He's also active on r/fantasy as barb4ry1.


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