La Belle Sauvage, Phillip Pullman

La Belle Sauvage the first book in a new series by Philip Pullman and a prequel to his super popular and awesome His Dark Materials trilogy. I understand that The Book of Dust will also be a trilogy. The first book follows a boy who gets drawn into some shadowy underworld stuff because a sweet little infant, Lyra, is living at the priory near his parent’s pub/inn, and he gets caught up in the adventure or whatever.

Disclaimer: I found this book super boring and the characters uninteresting. And following that, confession: I don’t remember the main character’s name . LOL. Martin maybe? John? I dunno, he had a boring little boy name because he was a boring little boy. This book isn’t ultimately awful, it just doesn’t intrigue the way the first series does. Perhaps my hopes were set too high. The most exciting parts of this book are parts when characters we recognize make small appearances, such as Lord Asriel (aka love of 12 year old Heather’s life). Otherwise, none of the new characters really inspired me to care about them much, except maybe the old nuns who were so sweet. There’s an interesting villain dude, who’s super insane and beats his own daemon (!?!?!), but because this is a YA book, Pullman doesn’t really go full-dark on us. Instead we get merely a glimpse of this dude’s true depravity. It’s like, go hard or go home, you know? And it kinda feels as though Mr. Pullman just wanted to go home.

Plot-wise, this book suffers from being split into two distinct plots, but not really being clear on that front. We spend an ETERNITY slumming it around whatever little podunk English suburb our main character lives in, and then by the time we are finally like, adventuring, the adventure takes TOO goddamn long and is SO boring. Like, are we going to London or not? Why have we stopped at every small island along the way and had inane and stupid adventures? You really spend a LOT of time in a boat with these characters, which might be bearable if the characters were likable or interesting, but as I’ve previously established, they aren’t.

What this book does WELL is the sort of political maneuvering that was awesome in His Dark Materials. There are little children-led spy organizations wherein children rat out their friend’s parents for certain behaviours, beliefs, etc, which is a super sinister way of monitoring the citizenship. I mean… they’re kids. They’re everywhere.

Ultimately I give this book a cat-sleeping-all-day: pretty much what the cat was gonna do anyway. Not good, not bad.

City of Lost Fortunes, Bryan Camp

THIS BOOK… my people, this book is what urban fantasy is all about. City of Lost Fortunes follows Jude, whose uncanny gift for finding lost things gets him tangled up in a high stakes game played by the gods. I definitely recommend people keep a watch out for this book, set to release April 17. It’s Bryan Camp’s debut novel as well, which means I am gonna be keeping an eye out for whatever he has coming next.

Something I can’t gush enough about is how perfectly the urban part of urban fantasy is emphasized in this book. New Orleans is basically a character in and of itself, struggling to recover after the devastation of Katrina six years prior to the start of the novel. I loved that the New Orleans itself, its history, its vibe, was so prominent both in the lore and the plot of this book. It matters that it takes place in New Orleans. Katrina is a constant shadow over the characters and the story. It’s obvious that Camp is a New Orleans native—you can see it in the little details and the offhanded way the characters knew the vibe of the different parts of the city.

Camp writes a really vibrant and exciting fantasy culture too—gods and demigods make up the cast, with the occasional human thrown in. What I liked best about the cast is that Camp strikes a perfect balance between all-powerful terrifying gods and simply fun to read characters who it’s not uncomfortable for other characters to interact with. Of course Haitian Vodou was a significant aspect of the lore, but there were whole other pantheons of gods and demigods as well, and they intermingle pretty seamlessly.

I have literally only ONE complaint with this book, and that would be Camp’s insistence on starting every chapter with a couple of super vague paragraphs that I think are meant to be deep/insightful but mostly just annoyed me because it takes you out of the plot a bit. I did have to muscle my way past those, especially in the beginning before I was really into the book, but I am so SO glad I did.

Despite that this book continues to rack up the points in other areas: cool lady characters who don’t bone our scallywag protagonist (even though I was kinda cheering him on at some points…); no End of World Prophecies—just a dude trying to save his city and his own ass; definitely could be standalone; talking dogs (!!!); AND, importantly, villains who are just… gross. And creepy. It makes a huge difference in a novel if the reader is genuinely creeped out by the villains, and I WAS.

Honestly, set your alarms for April 17. This book earns the rarely seen 5 paws up. Find it for pre-order on Amazon.

**I received an advanced reviewers copy of this book. The contents of this review are my honest opinion.