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Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Castle Doctrine by Craig Schaefer (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order The Castle Doctrine 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 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: Out of prison and back on the streets, Daniel Faust returns home to a city on fire. The Chicago mob is making their play for control of Las Vegas, with an army of gunmen and a lethal shapeshifter on their side, while Daniel's friend Jennifer marshals the forces of the Vegas underworld. Staying on the sidelines isn't an option, especially when a Metro detective orders him to get the war under control -- and if he can't, he'll expose Daniel's secrets to the FBI.

It's a bad time for ghosts of the past to come calling, but Damien Ecko is on his way with a hit list and a legion of walking corpses. Marked for death by the courts of hell, the mad necromancer plans on making sure that everyone who framed him, Daniel first and foremost, dies along with him.

Hunted by the living and the dead, pushed to his limits, Daniel will have to be smarter, faster, and more ruthless than he's ever been. He'll need to call upon new, dark powers, and darker allies. His enemies thought they took everything he had. They couldn't take his hunger. When this war is over, Daniel Faust will rise like a phoenix...or go down in flames.

FORMAT/INFO: The Castle Doctrine is 310 pages long divided over forty-four 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 sixth volume of The Daniel Faust series. 

September 27, 2016 marked the North American paperback and e-book publication of The Castle Doctrine 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 Castle Doctrine is the sixth book and like The Living End brings to a solid conclusion one of the main plot arcs introduced in A Plain-Dealing Villain. With this being the sixth book, I'll have to discuss some plot and character details which will be spoiler-ific (in a mostly minor way) for the preceding volumes so be warned.

The plot opens after the events of The Killing Floor Blues when Daniel has returned to Las Vegas and is enjoying his newfound freedom. He plans to start with a new identity and is laying down the foundation for it when he finds out that Damien Ecko is gunning for him. Ecko has been slowly targeting those he believes to be special to Faust and he’s been making his way to Las Vegas. All of this while the Chicago mob is making moves on the Las Vegas scene and it's up to Jennifer and her fellow gang affiliates to thwart them. Faust is forced to take counter measures against Ecko, help out Jennifer and will have to finally take a stand and figure out what does he want to do with his life.

There's obviously a lot more going on but I can’t talk about it while spoiling the plot in a major way. What I can say is that this is the book that reveals so much more about background series arc that has only been hinted at so far. In fact I would say that this is the book that overwhelmingly ties together all of the author's published series so far (the Daniel Faust books, the Harmony Black series as well as The Revanche Cycle). Let’s start with the title: “The Castle Doctrine”, this specific precedent had been referenced in the earlier books and plays out grandly within this volume. So far within all of the previous books, Faust has been reacting to things and his failures have started adding up. This is the book wherein all of his mistakes comes to roost and Faust will have to determine what type of person he wishes to be. Whether he wishes to invoke the castle doctrine and defend those he loves and protect what he cherishes.

As always is the case, Danielis front and center of the story but we get to see him realize his mistakes. After five and half books worth of horrific shenanigans this book is ultimately about the first solid transformation that Daniel Faust takes. Sure it hasn’t been a smooth ride for Faust but as he hears from the Mourner Of The Red Rocks, he seems to be wasting his potential and this book heralds the beginnings of a new chapter in Daniel’s life. As a reader, it was exciting to read this and I can’t wait to see where the author takes Faust next. Characterization has been Craig’s forte and this volume also does the needful with us getting to meet new characters and older ones as well. The character cast is a suitably wide one and yet even with the singular, limited POV. The author is able to showcase a wide variety of folks with an equally wide variety of reasons for the things that they do. I thoroughly enjoy how the author is able to do this and it’s even better when we get to see the same characters from Harmony’s POV in her series. With this volume, the horror aspect is played down a little and considering how the author has been generous with this facet, this was a tad surprising.

This book also serves as the arc conclusion to the Damien Ecko plot introduced in book four (A Plain-Dealing Villain) and similar to the first three books, we get another trilogy ending that will sit right with most of the fans. This book is chronologically set after the events of Red Knight Falling and features a small clue about possible events occurring in Glass Predator (book 3 of the Harmony Black series) and it hints at further co-mingling of plots and characters down the line.  Another point of note, this book doesn't really bring to an end to the Cheshire Smile's plots  as I think he's going to be around for a longer while and possibly might be one of the ultimate big bad of the universe that the author is writing.

There's a subplot to this book that's very meta and is done splendidly. For me this part of the book was the best part as it revealed a lot of the future. I believe this section ties in to the whole grand plan for the series and so readers will have to be on the lookout for it. For most fans of this series, this book will be the big payoff as a lot of things get resolved while things are set into motion that will have plot ramifications further down the line. This book also features a nice tip of the hat to The White Gold Score which while chronologically being book# 1.5, was written along with this book. It reintroduces us to characters featured in the novella and readers who have read The White Gold Score will really love to the see the sequel to the fight featured in it.

Lastly this book brings to a grand conclusion to the events that have been in motion since A Plain-Dealing Villain. However one important plot thread regarding Caitlin is left hanging. This book also highlights an important point about a future trilogy that the author is planning and most readers of the Revanche Cycle should be able to spot it. This book though doesn’t work as a standalone as too many events, characters are referenced from previous books for it to be read on its own. That would be my only pseudo-complaint about the book. Truly though there’s nothing much to rant about this one.

CONCLUSION: The Castle Doctrine brings to a strong conclusion to the Damien Ecko trilogy and as for Faust, it heralds a new beginning for him. The Castle Doctrine is a slim volume which packs more of a punch than you might expect. It’s exactly what Faust would have planned in a fight so get ready and read this one ASAP. So like me you can then be hooked onto the wonderfully addictive universe that Craig Schaefer is crafting quietly and solidly.



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