Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: The Devil You Know by Mike Carey ★★★★

The Devil You Know (Felix Castor, #1)Despite like 20 people I know having read (or wanting to read this), I'd never heard of it until discussing the best Urban Fantasy books and series... And then, because I'm half-demon myself, this one stood out from the crowd and sounded like it'd be something I'd really enjoy. To be quite honest, I'm a little tired of the vampires and the werewolves and whatnot, so demons and ghosts seemed like a nice change.

And it was.

I really enjoyed this book. I've been in a bit of a slump lately, and so it seemed like it took me forever to read this, but I got there in the end and I liked it a lot. I loved the kind of... gritty realism the book had. It felt less like fantasy than real life - if real life had ghosts and demons and those who were capable of seeing and dealing with them.

This book seems to come with an intertwined recommendation: If you like The Dresden Files, read Felix Castor. And vice versa. (Again, odd, because last year I read EVERY SINGLE HARRY DRESDEN BOOK THERE IS and Felix was mentioned not one time to me... HMPH!) Anyway, I can kind of see why, because Felix and Harry both kind of have that snarky, just-a-guy-who-can-do-stuff thing going on. But, they were quite different, too. I've been thinking about it this morning, and it's taken me a little bit of time to realize it, but in SOME ways, I liked Felix more than Harry. (What? Like it's WEIRD to brood over fictional characters or something. Pfft.)

I don't want this to be come off sounding like a criticism of Harry, because it's not. Some of the things that I'm going to mention are parts of WHY I love his character so much. But they work in HIS world - not so much the one that Felix lives in.

First, Harry has this kind of (to use Hermione's words from The Order of the Phoenix) "saving people thing". He's chivalrous and kind-hearted with a dirty mouth and a quick temper. He has a lot of internal doubts about his ability to be the man -or the wizard- that he needs to be. Which is, of course, what makes him that man/wizard. Harry Dresden knows who he is and what his powers can do, and he has a kind of feeling of responsibility to use them to help people. I love these things about Harry, because the man that it makes him (without giving anything away) is one that I love and pity in equal measures.

But Felix was... just a guy. And I liked that. OK - maybe just a guy who was slightly more in tune with the no-longer-alive than most other people. He didn't have the hero thing going on. He didn't really head out into the fray to protect "his" city or to do good deeds... he just got caught up in a mess. He has his own doubts, his own dark history, his own fears. I really hope to see more of this in the remaining books in the series.

I liked the plot as well, and I think that it lent a good deal to the realism of the story. This was an already fucked up situation that went completely FUBAR, and then some. There are books (like The Dresden Files) where the fantasy is so entwined that to remove it would be impossible - and I wouldn't want to. But then there are books like this one, where the fantasy aspect is more... like an addition. Take away the ghosts and demons and whatnot, and you STILL have a really good story. With them, and you have a really good urban fantasy story. And I really liked that. But the fantasy aspects never felt tacked on or like an afterthought. They meshed perfectly with the story and the world, especially old city London with all its history, and I loved it.

I will definitely be reading more of this series.

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