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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Detonation Boulevard by Craig Schaefer (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

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Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down 
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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 The Neon Boneyard
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: When NYPD detective Marie Reinhart met Nessa Roth, a Manhattan socialite and dabbler in the occult, sparks flew. Then came the gunfire. Nessa and Marie are the Witch and her Knight, characters from a fairy tale brought to life and trapped in an endless curse: to meet, fall in love, and be torn from each other’s arms by violent death, again and again for all eternity. Now they have one slim chance to escape their doom. It lies in Wisdom’s Grave, the resting-place of the first witch who ever lived, and the wellspring of magic.

To find it, they’ll have to cross over two thousand miles of hostile territory from New York to Las Vegas, pursued by the law, the criminal underworld, and a cult of demonic bounty hunters. Their enemies have political power and an army of ruthless assassins. They have a book of black magic, a Cadillac, and a gun.

The American heartland is about to become a war zone. And as portals to other worlds tear open, showing the way to secrets buried since the dawn of time, Nessa and Marie prepare to make their final stand.

FORMAT/INFO: Detonation Boulevard is 396 pages long divided over fifty-three chapters with a prologue, & three interludes (spread out over two acts). Narration is in the third-person, via Nessa Fieri, Marie Reinhart, Carolyn Saunders, Daniel Faust, Harmony Black, Scottie Pierce, Dr. Savannah Cross, Tony Fisher, Monique, Hedy,  and a few others . This is the second volume of the Wisdom's Grave trilogy.

August 14, 2018 marked the North American e-book publication of Detonation Boulevard and it was self-published by the author. Cover art and design is by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design. 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Detonation Boulevard is a sequel that I’ve been wanting to read the moment I finished Sworn To The Night in January of this year. Sworn To The Night was the start of the culmination trilogy that focused on all of Craig Schaefer’s previous works (the Daniel Faust series, the Harmony Black series and the Revanche cycle). It’s safe to say Detonation Boulevard had to exceed (my) very high expectations, avoid the middle book syndrome and up the ante even more. For me to discuss things about this book even in the slightest will be spoilerific for the first book so bear that in mind. For those who don’t mind it, read ahead to know more

As with the first book, we are presented with two timelines. The first wherein Carolyn Saunders has been captured and interrogated by persons unknown and made to recount the modern day story of the Witch and The Knight. The second one focuses on Marie Reinhart and Nessa Fieri as they try to escape the clutches of the law, the chains of hellish bounty hunters, and also the machinations of the Universal Story. As with the preceding title, we are presented with a story wherein the tension is high strung throughout the entire plot and the pace is even better than its predecessor.

Since the characters of both Nessa and Marie are already established, the author is able to really let loose with the story in this one. Both Nessa and Marie are now fully aware of who they are and what they are. They are also on the run from the events of New York City which saw Nessa’s husband and his compatriots fall to their own rituals. Nessa and Marie don’t necessarily have a plan but what they do have is a destination of sorts. Unable to pick up any essential items from their homes, they have some cash and some specialized things that Nessa needs for her witchcraft. Focusing on finding Wisdom’s Grave, they soon learn that Carolyn Saunders can be of some help and drive off to Illinois to find her. Amidst the way they will learn more about the Universal Story, the existence and location of the Bast club in Chicago and hopefully a reunion with a daughter. All in all the story becomes pretty wild and the pace is set to match the best thrillers ever written.

I finished this book in less than a day, and I can honestly say this was one of those reads that I didn’t want to put it down until I reached the last page. This book is a crazy mix of references to the previous stories set within the same world as well as other worlds. It talks about the nature of things, people and why they possibly do the things that they do. Also the plot is an ingenious mix of interdimensional adventure, amazing character interactions and action sequences that will keep readers riveted.

For me the main reasons for why this book jived with me so much are:
- The amazingly, crazy plot that makes sense while being so twisted
- A mind-bending mix of Lovecraftian and aquatic horror that I’ll will never be able to forget
- A return to the world of the Revanche Cycle which I thoroughly enjoyed

Let’s start with the plot, when it comes to any Craig Schaefer book. I’ve come to expect grand plot designs and twists that will keep me guessing all the way till the end. The Wisdom’s Grave trilogy being the culmination saga that it’s meant to be, it takes all of the author’s skills to plan and then successfully portray it all. The plot of this book is really hard to describe without spoilers but the best blurb I can come up with is "Lost meets Thelma & Louise meets Fringe".

Craig Scahefer is also known to readers for his horror touches across all of his books (so far) and here he produces something that manages to combine Lovecraft and aquatic terror in the most unnerving way possible. Seriously if you are afflicted by Thalassophobia or were simply scared by Jaws, then be ready to get your wits blown by what Craig Schaefer unleashes. The action sequences are also amped accordingly and while there’s no all-out action, it’s solidly interspersed within the story.

The author has only so much room to get the story on the read and he does it with aplomb. Along the way, there’s some kinky romance, plenty of action and a lot of cameos by characters who will be known to Craig Schaefer fans. The story keeps on upping the ante and we also get a pseudo-sequel to the events of the Revanche cycle in this book. Best part about it, we get to see what that world is like afterwards and also meet a few characters who we last saw in the epilogue of Queen Of The Night.

The characters as ever are truly what make this book shine. Previously it was Nessa and Marie and in this book too, they are at the fore but the beauty is in the side character cast. Daniel Faust makes up a wonderful extended cameo as he’s once again tasked by the Mourner of The Red Rocks to help the cross-fated lovers. Faust is entirely hilarious and makes some subtle references to events in his previous series which are endearing and quirky at the same time. Seriously if I hadn’t read all of the Daniel Faust books, I would be hunting them down pronto as such is understated quirky awesomeness of Faust’s appearance. There’s another character (who shall remain unnamed) that makes a triumphant return and as such that person was one of my favourite non-POV characters and it’s a true joy to reunited with them after so long.

The world setting are expanded beyond belief as we get some crazy reveals and which unsurprisingly just lead to more questions. But the author has assured us that all will be answered in the final volume of the trilogy, In The Fire and I can’t wait to read it. The multiverse concept has been teased throughout all of Scahefer’s books and it’s in this volume that he really unloads on that phenomenon. Fans of DC comics will definitely find some fun parallels but the credit to Schaefer for not letting it go haywire. Lastly the prologue and interludes are very meta and it was fun to see that unfold.

Going on to the negatives of this book, I feel that the author managed to improve on the two pitfalls of Sworn To The Night, namely the slowburn pace and then end twist which seemed to be rehashed from another book of his. In this book he successfully negates both of those drawbacks by streamlined pace throughout as well as exploring & consolidating that climatic twist.  The only thing I can choose to fault this book for, is the absence of the Enemy. I find it hard to believe that in a tale wherein the Story is the main plot element, the Enemy wouldn’t be meddling or be featured at all. Again this is a very personal observation with regards to this title and for many, this might not be a point to consider. Lastly for those who hate cliffhangers, the story ends on some big ones so there’s that to contend with.

CONCLUSION: Detonation Boulevard is a book that is incredible and better in almost every way to its preceding title. Craig Schaefer is on the verge of unveiling his zaniest story yet and Detonation Boulevard only proves that Schaefer is a talent unlike any other in the urban fantasy sub-genre. You should be reading the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy if you haven’t so far. This trilogy has all the hallmarks of a classic genre-bending fantasy story and the author is doing his hardest to make sure all the readers feel that way.


HerbalMoon said...

He lives in Cary, North Carolina now.

Unknown said...

Good for him. I’m glad he’s achieved the success he has had. I’ve enjoyed the Faust series and most of the Revanche cycle but the sub plot between Nessa and Marie just never rang true with me. Spoiler alert from Revanche cycle: when Nessa was basically subverting Marie’s belief in good, torturing her mentor (who was seeking some form of redemption), and leading her around the nose while keeping her in the dark — seemed like a very disingenuous or at least one-way relationship on Marie’s part, where Nessa is just manipulating her. I never bought that relationship and felt that Nessa’s portion of the story in the last 1.5 books wasn’t very developed. That’s the big thing that has held me back from this series- not sure how far I can suspend my disbelief for this pair when I didn’t buy it to begin with.

Otherwise I really like the other series and am a big fan of Daniel Faust. Can’t wait for the next one

The Reader said...


That's a good point you bring up. However I disagree with your analysis. Since we are both discussing spoilers from the Revanche Cycle, I hope readers can forgive us since it's been over 2 years since QUEEN OF THE NIGHT was released.

If you recall Mari was presented as this incredible warrior who suffers incredible psychological strife from the events of her childhood. She focuses on becoming a knight and joining a specific order as a way to make sense of her life. Werner was trying to help but he didn't quite know how and on top of that he was drugging her to keep her violent tendencies on the down low.

Nessa's subterfuge and killing Werner destabilizes Mari along with the Knights' refusal to enter. Psychologically she's at her weakest as both her mentor and her ideals have betrayed her. To be shown compassion from the last person, she was expecting it from, lead her down a dark route. I thought that was skilfully shown and the love story was a natural progression (from the story's perspective as well as the W&K story thread).

The Wisdom's Grave trilogy is a completely new story and it is absolutely bonkers (as it combines every genre but the kitchen sink) and it comes through wonderfully. I'm a fan of Craig but even I'm surprised by how well he's tyng together all the threads from all of his series in this book while making it accessible for newer readers.


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