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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Living End by Craig Schaefer (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order The Living End HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The White Gold Score
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Redemption Song
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

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Craig Schaefer was born in Chicago and wanted to be a writer since a very young age. His writing was inspired by Elmore Leonard, Richard Stark, Clive Barker & H. P. Lovecraft. After reaching his 40th birthday he decided to give in to his passion and since then has released twelve novels in the last three years. He currently lives in Joliet, Illinois and loves visiting museums and libraries for inspiration.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: As the FBI closes in on the Las Vegas underworld, Daniel Faust -- grifter, thief, and sorcerer -- isn't the only one feeling the heat. Half-demon racket boss Nicky Agnelli is fighting to hang onto his empire, leaving a trail of dead informants in his wake, while Daniel's ex-girlfriend Jennifer rallies her forces on the street and aims her sights at Nicky's crown.

Meanwhile, homeless people are vanishing by the dozens. Daniel has bigger problems to worry about, but a plea from an old friend sends him on a search for answers. What he finds is a conspiracy twenty years in the making, involving a power-hungry senator, occult experiments, murderous British mercenaries...and Lauren Carmichael, Daniel's nemesis.

From a gunfight in the Arizona badlands to unearthing buried secrets in a New York laboratory, the hunt is on. With Lauren's deadly plan revealed and time running out, Daniel and his crew will stop at nothing to take her down. She's got the law in her pocket and a hired army at her back. He's got black magic, bullets, and the art of the con. It's high noon in Vegas and when the dust settles, only one side will be left standing.

May the best villain win.

FORMAT/INFO: The Living End is 381 pages long divided over forty-five chapters and a prologue and an epilogue. Narration is in the first-person, via Daniel Faust solely and different third-person narratives for the prologue and epilogue. This is the third book in The Daniel Faust series.

August 27, 2014 marked the North American paperback and e-book publication of The Living End and it was self-published by the author. Cover art and design is by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design.

CLASSIFICATION: Featuring a cast of anti-heroes and with a magician con-man as the protagonist, the Daniel Faust series is Richard Stark's Parker crossed with The Dresden Files and set in Las Vegas.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Living End is the third volume in the Daniel Faust series and brings to a close to the first arc of the series (Lauren Carmichael trilogy). This book like its predecessors has a host of plot threads that are set into play. In reviewing this book, I'll have to discuss some plot points from the previous titles so be warned those who detest even mild spoilers or haven't read the previous titles.

The previous titles have had Faust clash with both Lauren Carmichael and Harmony Black, due to his meddling, they both have felt repercussions in their plans. So they both are trying to get back at him albeit in completely different ways. Lauren has her sights set on her grand plan that Daniel disrupted so bitterly in The Long Way Down. She also has her personal psychopath Meadow Brand who hates Faust for reasons that are cosmetic but are important to her nonetheless. Lauren's new plan that's set into motion, is the culmination of her efforts from the past two decades.

Harmony on the other hand is a law-abiding officer who is simply doing her job and is the Ahab to Faust's Moby. She might not be as vehement as Ahab was but she's dedicated to putting behind bars, folks who operate on the other side of the law. Daniel is set in her sights because of the events in Redemption Song due to which an honest man's life was upended and ruined. She begrudges his cavalier attitude and wants an end to his nefarious activities. Due to the actions of both these ladies, the law is coming down hard on the gangs in Las Vegas and it has Nicky Angelli in its sights because of his position as the Cosa Nostra head. This sets off a survival mechanism in many players' minds and foremost is Jennifer whose drug enterprise has been taking some serious hits due to all the legal issues.

All of these plot threads are set into motion and there's a lot more happening which will bring to a close the first arc in this highly absorbing series. I very much enjoyed this book as it's action packed (even much more than Redemption Song) and it builds up on the events from the last two books, bringing to a successful conclusion all of the stories that have been set up. In this aspect, Craig Schaefer really shows off his storytelling & plotting skills as the readers get the big payoff that has been in the making from the first book. I like it when authors really plot things well and it seems that Craig Schaefer really has all of his ducks in a row. There's also minor things introduced in the book which I believe will fuel the next arc. This is highly indicated in the epilogue which has been the case in all the books so far.

It was fun to read Daniel fight against both Harmony and Lauren, though they both are on different ends of the moral spectrum. Harmony Black is such a terrific character and even though she's an antagonist to Faust (from a plot perspective), you have to admire her tenacity and moral strength. I'm glad she's got her own spinoff series as I can't wait to read about the world & Faust from her POV. Daniel Faust as always is the solo narrator and he's back to his amoral self. This book though is a bit better now that his relationship with Caitlin is strengthened. He also wants to bring to an end to Lauren Carmichael for her murderous actions but to truly end her, he needs to find out her history and her source of powers. All of this is very fascinatingly revealed in this volume and I hope the author further explores some of the concepts, worlds & history that he introduces within.

This book is one of the most action-packed ones of the series. The climax deals with some pretty major sequences and also has some tinges of horror to it. I loved how the author really dug into the main antagonist's past as well as show some fascinating world-building bits. After reading the next couple of books, I realize how crucial these bits are and how much they go into the overall picture. Another plus point of this series is the gorgeous cover art and this book has one that specifically ties into one crucial plot point and adds to the creepiness factor. As far as any drawbacks, I didn't find any besides major ones.  This book draws on a lot of threads from the past two books and while giving them a resounding climax, it also makes sure that the epilogue lays the groundwork for the forthcoming sequels.

CONCLUSION: All in all this book is a superb read and brings to a throughly solid conclusion to the Lauren Carmichael arc of the Daniel Faust series and it just highlights how well plotted and written this series is (so far). In this regards, it fares much better than the Dresden Files if you directly compare the first 3 books. This series is shaping up to a fascinating read and each book just seems to up the ante. Craig Schaefer is rapidly becoming my favorite author and so far he hasn't disappointed me in the least. The Living End has a fantastic conclusion and is a book that will resonate with its readers for its dark storyline, action-packed plot & a morally loose protagonist who will do his best to accomplish what he thinks is right.



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