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Monday, April 9, 2018

The Neon Boneyard by Craig Schaefer (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order The Neon Boneyard 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 Double Or Nothing
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Sworn To The Night
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
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Cold Spectrum

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 North Carolina and loves visiting museums and libraries for inspiration. 

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Daniel Faust has clawed his way from the gutter to a penthouse suite, carving a bloody swath across the Las Vegas underworld. He's buried his enemies and more than a few friends along the way. If there's one thing a modern-day sorcerer knows for certain, though, it's that the past never stays buried forever.

Now he's running on ice, juggling his responsibilities as a mob boss with his dubious "gift" of a knighthood in the courts of hell, defending territory in two worlds at once. It's a bad time for unfinished business to come back and haunt him, forcing him to confront his tortured history and the family he left behind. An even worse time for his surviving foes to join forces and take deadly aim at Faust's throne.

Toss in a syndicate operative from a parallel world, a deranged half-demon assassin hungry for a duel, and the shadowy machinations of the King of Worms, and the stage is set for a showdown under the neon lights of Vegas. Vultures are circling, and only the magician with the quickest wits -- and the fastest trigger-finger -- will survive..

FORMAT/INFO: The Neon Boneyard is 305 pages long divided over forty-two chapters with a prologue, epilogue, “The Story So Far…” section & an afterword. Narration is in the first-person, via Daniel Faust solely for all the chapters and different third-person narratives for the prologue and epilogue. This is the eighth volume of The Daniel Faust series. 

April 10, 2018 will mark the North American e-book publication of The Neon Boneyard and it was self-published by the author. Cover art and design is by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design. 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: This is the second book in the third arc of the Daniel Faust series and is set immediately afterwards the events of Double Or Nothing (possibly within 24 hours of the climax). We meet Daniel after the hectic events in the Low Liminal and while he has a reason for being happy. The call from the Mayor's office has him unsettled as the message concerns the King of the Worms and that's not something that one avoids. Faced with the sudden arrival of a new batch of Ink, Faust and the new Commission also have to figure out who's the Ink dealer in town. On the good news front, with his ascension in Prince Sitri's court, he has newer, nicer (?) things to look forward to.

But since this is Daniel Faust’s life, things never go as planned. With the Enemy possibly joining hands with The Network, Faust is looking at a dual front offensive attack. Things are looking dire when he finds out that there are two different folks hunting him for his status and his actions. Plus his past comes back in to the picture in more ways than one and I believe the author is laying down the roots for some crucial drama down the line. All in all this is another action-packed episode but there are bigger things afoot and Faust will have to use his powers and crafty intellect to survive it all. There are three main queries he wants answers to:
 - How Howard Canton figures into the Enemy's plans,
 - How to get the "Thief" status off his back,
 - Figuring out the Network's grand designs.

Plots within plots, machinations behind machinations, things are never straightforward and this ahead in the series, we are getting some terrific hints about the eventual series endgame.

The author has started a "what has come before" section from this book and it's a smart move considering this is the eighth volume of the series and there's a LOT that has happened before. On an average, Craig Schaefer has about three plot occurring concurrently in each book, so you can see how useful this recap will be for most readers. Beginning with why I loved this book, first of all, I have to say kudos to James T. Egan & Craig Schaefer for that amazeballs cover. It manages to combine an electric colour pattern and some terrific noir touches to make this cover possibly the best of the series (so far). Considering how strikingly good the cover art for the preceding titles has been, it’s to James’ credit to conjure something to trump everything that has come before.

The characterization has always been a highlight and over here we get a focus on some other characters. Particularly this book ties into the events of the short story DRIVE (read it for FREE on the author’s site) and we get a very big pointer about whether Faust might be getting an apprentice. There's also a resolution to a very peculiar mini-mystery surrounding certain events from book 6 involving Kirimara. But in true Craig Schaefer fashion, the answer provided leads to bigger questions and I for one am looking for more clarity in this matter as it involves my favorite character Baron Naavarasi (besides Faust).

Here are some of the things which the author had previously mentioned would be occurring in this volume:
(1) This book will mark the first appearance of Daniel's family since the mention about his abusive father and his younger brother in The Long Way Down (book 1) & within his past recollections. [Source: Fantasy Book Critic interview Part I, see Q5]
(2) This book will deal with the King Of The Worms & potentially the other Kings [Source: The ending of Double Or Nothing]
(3) This book will be set before the events of Sworn To The Night [Source: Fantasy Hive Interview with Craig Schaefer, see Q6]
(4) This book will also mark the return of Nicky & the twins (Justine & Juliette) & Freddie Vinter makes a trip to Sin City [Source: Craig's blog post]

With regards to points (1) & (2), they power the main plot and then lead to further twists within the story. With this volume set before the events of Sworn To The Night (3), we get a whole new view about the Lady In Red's actions and I can't wait to see what she and her coven manage to do in Detonation Boulevard (Wisdom's Grave trilogy book 2) and how Daniel figures into it. Lastly with (4), we get to see Nicky and the Twins return and again there are possible ramifications for the future. The Twins have always been a source of danger and are hilarious to read about, over here we get a small encore about this insane aspect. The series is now in the midst of a lot of plots mixing in from the other series books and yet the author manages to keep it simple. As has been the case with the preceding Faust titles, the plots twists are varied, the pace is top notch and the characterization rich as ever. Lastly I have to mention the creepy horror aspect which is again upped a notch with a scene featuring cockroaches. If you are dislike cockroaches, then be prepared to experience a small dose of katsaridaphobia.

This isn't a book which you can jump in and read because of all the events that have come before. You will have to read the preceding seven titles to get an idea of the massive scope of the plot within. There's a long game at work as longtime readers of Schaefer's work have noticed previously. This book is another top notch entry that will entertain the Faust fans, and keep them hungry for more answers. However keep in mind that this is going to be the only Daniel Faust title this year with the author's plan to finish the Wisdom's Grave trilogy so fans should certainly savor it. The Wisdom's Grave trilogy is chronologically set after The Neon Boneyard so we will be getting to view the aftereffects of this volume and the tussle between the Witches coven and the Alien Kings.

Negative points about the book are next to none in my view but I'm sure there will some whom might feel a bit underwhelmed by certain plot events. There’s also the introduction of a character in this book (Read Q. 5 in this interview to get an idea) which is certainly going to get the fans in a tizzy but it remains only an introduction and some might want to know more.

CONCLUSION: The Neon Boneyard is certainly another ace from Craig Schaefer. As an urban fantasy fan, I can certainly say that this series is seriously the best that the sub-genre has to offer. It even outshines the Dresden Files because of its ingenuity in mixing so many genres within the story, rich characterization and an insane overall plot that will only leave you dumbfounded as to why you didn’t discover Craig Schaefer earlier.



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