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Monday, June 26, 2017

Double Or Nothing by Craig Schaefer (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order Double Or Nothing 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 The Living End 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of A Plain-Dealing Villain
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Killing Floor Blues
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Castle Doctrine
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 review of Harmony Black
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Red Knight Falling
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Glass Predator

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: Daniel Faust – sorcerer, thief, and newly-minted Las Vegas crime boss – has debts to pay. One of those debts has just come due, an IOU to be paid in the form of a high-risk heist, and it’s a job he can’t refuse. The mark? Daniel’s arch-nemesis, a man with a Cheshire smile and the powers of a living god. The score? A sacrificial dagger buried under layers of electronic, occult, and human security, snug on the far side of a custom-built deathtrap.

Normally, a heist like that would be the end of Daniel’s problems. This time, it’s only the beginning.

Caitlin, Daniel’s lover and the right hand of a demon prince, faces her own threat. She’s adept at navigating the politics of Hell, keeping the peace with diplomatic grace and a whip, but a plan years in the making has left a ticking time bomb under her feet. When it explodes, it will send shockwaves through the infernal courts – and expose one of Caitlin’s darkest secrets. A hidden enemy has targeted Caitlin and Daniel for destruction, and aims to lure them into an impossible snare. For one of them to escape, the other must die.

The only way out is through a maze of demonic bounty hunters, psychic assassins, unlikely enemies and even more unlikely allies. Daniel Faust has spent his life as a trickster, defeating his enemies with the art of the con. He may have finally met his match. Las Vegas is the ultimate chessboard, and his opponent is already two moves ahead..

FORMAT/INFO: Double Or Nothing is 307 pages long divided over forty-three chapters with a prologue, an epilogue and an afterword. Narration is in the first-person, via Daniel Faust solely and different third-person narratives for the prologue and epilogue. This is the seventh volume of The Daniel Faust series. 

June 27, 2017 marks the North American paperback and e-book publication of Double Or Nothing and it will be 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: Double Or Nothing is the seventh book of the Daniel Faust series and the potentially the first book of the third arc of the series. It's also the first book that has so many nods and set-up for future books that at this point it would be highly unadvisable to jump into this series with this volume. What I mean to say is that if you really should start from the beginning/book 1 of the Daniel Faust series (The Long Way Down) or even The White Gold Score which is book 1.5 of the Daniel Faust series (it is a novella and also acts as a good starting point for the series).

Double Or Nothing basically opens up after the events of The Castle Doctrine and we find Faust now in control of his life for the first time after the events showcased in the past six books. He however has been called up on the first of the two favors he owes to a certain baron from the Court of Night Blooming Flowers. The first task being re-acquiring the knife that Faust stole in the events showcased within A Plain-Dealing Villain which lead to the start of all his troubles with Damien Ecko. Things are never simple as the knife is now with a person who's under the control of Ms. Fleiss & by extension the Cheshire Smile. Knowing what a dangerous mission this can be, Faust has to enlist his gang but also has to plan accordingly as they are dealing with the Cheshire Smile after all. This is the main thread that kicks off the story, another dangling thread which has been present from the past couple of books has been the whole situation with Caitlin's past lovers. This book brings the plot thread to a solid conclusion. Whether the readers will feel the same remains to seem, as for me I feel that there might be more to this angle, even after this conclusion.

This book also focuses the Cheshire Smile but not in the way you would expect. There's a smart nod to Glass Predator (the scene where Daniel finds out what happened to his Hemi' Cuda is quite funny) as well as some nods to the happenings in the Harmony Black series. There's also some intriguing plot happenings for the future trilogy that the author is planning and while this book isn't the first to lay out these tracts (There's a partial but clear nod in The Castle Doctrine and Glass Predator even introduces a character who most likely will be a POV protagonist for that trilogy). Lastly what this book does gloriously is give us the first physical appearance of not one but two princes of hell. The characters also make some trips to Albuquerque, Denver, Chicago and a place that hasn't been featured so far in the series at all.

This book has all the trappings of its wonderful predecessors, it’s action-packed, has a lot of plot twists, revelations and the climax is definitely out of this world (quite literally). Primarily this series has always been about characters and this book continues to highlight them. While we only get Faust’s POV, the secondary character cast is so well-developed that while many fav-favorite characters don’t get that much screen time, newer ones that do more than make up for it. A well-liked secondary character from the Harmony Black books graces Daniel Faust’s world however the way he makes an appearance, Faust is none too happy about it. The best part for me was that this book focused on one of my favorite grey side characters, one who is possibly craftier than Faust and kudos to the author as the book’s epilogue will leave most readers astounded. Lastly I would like to highlight Corman & Bentley's (Faust's foster parents and mentors) exploits which are often mentioned in several books. This one however mentions a very exciting chapter in their past and I hope the author can explore their past in novellas or short stories or even novels.

Talking about the action, as always with the Faust volumes, action is more so on a personal level rather than big action scenes. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t fun to read. The pace of the book is such that along with our protagonist, we are constantly shepherded along by the author. It’s fun to try to anticipate the twists and try to predict where the story is going. The book does manage to keep readers on tenterhooks with all the plot twists and manages to put Faust through another wringer but this time Caitlin also has to face the music.

With this book though while I had an idea where the story might end up, the climax and all the plot twists were a nice surprise. There's some terrific cameo appearances of new characters who I believe will have significant roles to play in the future books. This series has also never shied away from the horror genre aspects and this book takes things a few notches further. What I’m referring to has to deal with the lower levels of winter and pathway connecting it to Prince Sitri’s realm. The author has a gruesome imagination and kudos for coming up with that particular sequence (combining claustrophobia & revulsion).

The author also spoke to us in this interview about the various intricacies involved in the book and hints about the various things (read Qs. 3, 4, & 5) that can be expected. He also mentions the brilliant cover design and what it points towards. This book has a particular connection to the events of A Plain-Dealing Villain and while it’s not necessary to re-read that book before this one, it can be helpful to at least know a strong summary of it. Lastly this book is also the start of the proper binding of the two series (Daniel Faust & Harmony Black), we get so many nods and hints about the world and the happenings that I can't wait to read Cold Spectrum (Harmony Black# 4) when it releases on Halloween later this year. For those readers who haven’t read the Harmony Black series yet, I would implore you to do so as then only can you get a hint of the sinister plan that Craig Schaefer seems to be hatching across these different series.

CONCLUSION: Double Or Nothing is exactly what the author promised it would be, a crackerjack bomb of a story that once lit up, burns rapidly towards its mind-shattering climax. This book just makes this series that much more stronger and is a rapid indicator of how soon the Daniel Faust series will be challenging the Harry Dresden files for being the best thing that urban fantasy has to offer us readers.


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