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Thursday, September 23, 2010

"A Devil in the Details" by K.A. Stewart (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Kari A. Stewart Website
Order "A Devil in the Details" HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Kari A. Stewart seems to have taken the J.K. Rowling route when it came to the publication of her debut. She lives in Kansas City with her family. She's currently contracted for two further installments in the same series, of which the second one is complete & she is working on the third.

BOOK BLURB: Jesse James Dawson was an ordinary guy (well, an ordinary guy with a black belt in karate), until the day he learned his brother had made a bargain with a demon. Jesse discovered there was only one way to save his brother: put up his own soul as collateral, and fight the demon to the death.

Jesse lived to free his brother--and became part of a loose organization of Champions who put their own souls on the line to help those who get in over their heads with demons. But now experienced Champions are losing battles at a much higher rate than usual. Someone has changed the game. And if Jesse can't figure out the new rules, his next battle may be his last...

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 307 pages divided over twenty-three chapters with no prologue or epilogue. Narration is in the first person done exclusively by the main hero Jesse James Dawson. The plot is a self contained one however this is book 1 in a series and the series is contracted for 3 books at the moment.

ANALYSIS: "A Devil in the Details" is Kari Stewart's debut but it really doesn't feel so. The novel begins with Jesse battling off a crab demon for the soul of perhaps the country's numero uno citizen. Jesse manages to save his skin and win the battle as well, but not without some significant injuries to himself. Thus with such an action packed beginning the reader is welcomed into the world of Jesse James Dawson.

He's your average person but with a difference: he's the guy you might have to turn to when you strike up a Faustian bargain and aren't ready to live up to your end of the bargain. That's where he and his ilk come in as they try to fight off the specific demon that comes to claim the soul as per the bargain struck before. Life isn't exactly a bed of roses for Jesse but he manages to get by with the help of his wife Mira and his daughter Annabelle. Also there's a broad informal network of champions [Warriors akin to Jesse] who communicate with each other and help to keep track of what's happening on the astral side.

The story begins when a famous baseball pitcher approaches Jesse detailing his problem. What differentiates this case is a referral from one of Jesse's past clients and the fact that Jesse believes in the client's repentance. Jesse's odyssey begins here as the reader gets a window into the mundane aspect of his life. He works at a clothing store and also helps his wife out at her store whenever possible. Amidst all of this he also tries to stay away from temptation as a demon named Axel has formed quite a "Frenemy" relationship with him. Almost every other day he comes by and tries to trick Jesse into signing over his soul - due to his Champion status, he's become quite a catch for any demon to reel in.

When Jesse accepts this case he doesn't realize where it will lead to. Adding to the confusion is the disappearance of Mexico's champion Miguel. On conferring with the overseer amongst the Champions, a Russian man named Ivan Zelenko, it dawns upon both of them that there might be other missing champions which could potentially signal a whole new level of trouble. Ivan is also trying to find out more about this spate of disappearances. Jesse also has to deal with his Mom's birthday present which he cannot forget to buy under any circumstances and there is his scheduled fight with the demon as well. All of the action occurs within the span of a few days.

So the main story begins and we will see Jesse fight demons, find out the mystery of Miguel's absence, and possibly not forget his mother's birthday gift. There's a lot more to this than the aforementioned events, namely Jesse's laconic & dry wit which gives us an honest view of his life and his thoughts. Kari Stewart needs to commended for writing such a terrific debut involving such a character. She has established a wonderful voice in Jesse James Dawson who is funny, evocative and human at the same time.

He's the stereotypical hero model but he's presented in such a way that you empathize with his life, life which isn't easy due to his routine demon battles which have left him with more scars than he would like. And he's frequently getting dropped by Insurance companies which I thought was a wonderful way to highlight the inadequacies in our current medical system. The only drawback to "A Devil in the Details" is the predictability that has set within this genre and it is in evidence here too. You easily see what will happen in the end, but the author has made the journey as pleasant a read as possible and this very quality makes this book one of the excellent UF debuts of 2010.

In the world of Urban Fantasy thrillers, currently "The Dresden files" by Jim Butcher is the standard against which series are measured & Kari Stewart can rest easy as her novel can stand quite well against her idol. With such an enticing setup and with the promise of more mayhem to follow, courtesy Axel's revelation in the end, Kari Stewart has made sure that readers bookmark her debut series as one to be followed in the future too.


Bastard said...

Read this when it came out, and really enjoyed it. I'm certain that the book description might be putting off plenty of people who might actually enjoy this. In all it was a fun read with a good narrative voice.

Anonymous said...

I know a friend of the authors... he recommended it to me... I loved it... great read to just relax and enjoy! For a first book... I would have to say amazing. I can't wait for the second book!

Violett said...

Great book! I am looking forward the the second one. My son (one of your former High School classmates) introduced me to the book.

Anonymous said...

I just bought all three Jesse James books. My only question is Who is Axel. I know he is a demon but where does he fit in?

The Reader said...

Hi Anon.

I believe there are clues strewn about Axel's true identity and demon status in books II & III.



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