Friday, July 6, 2018

Daniel Humphreys's Night's Black Agents

One day soon I'm going to have to sit down and have a chat with one Mr. Daniel Humphreys. You see, Mr. Humphreys seems to enjoy messing with me by putting the best parts of the books right where I'm about to be interrupted. Now you, dear reader, may be tempted to tell me that Mr. Humphreys had no way to know during what part of his stories I would be interrupted while reading. Others out there may want to point out that even if he did, I am hardly his only reader and so why would he tailor everything to me? In response I can only state the obvious: I am the Great and Terrible Jimbo, sole possessor of Jimbosity and many other good things. My sheer amount of awesome and good looks is surpassed only by my incredible humility...

>AHEM< So, now that I've set all of your bullshit meters off... I received a copy of Daniel Humphreys's Night's Black Agents because I'm on his ARC team, so I get to review all of his stuff as soon as it comes out. Of course, it's always been my pleasure (all two times I've done it) because he writes really well. He gives us all some really believable characters and a world only slightly outside our own. Seriously, it's just far enough off to be interesting but close enough so that it all feels familiar. I really liked this one, in large part because of how well Humphreys blends the two worlds.

Our hero, once again, is Paxton Locke, budding mage and a Fade who can both see and communicate with ghosts. Locke is at war (and, despite my saying the same thing about my mother over some teenage spats this fits) with his mother Helen. Helen, you see, killed Paxton's father while Paxton watched. This was all covered in the first book Fade but it's worth repeating. It's not a fight he particularly wants. He's been forced into it by his mother who has broken out of prison and wants something that he has.

Helen Locke, for her part, is like a modern day female Raistlin Majere, only without the hourglass eyes and regret that saves the universe. She is four parts evil and no parts even tolerable. This is a woman who covets power for its own sake and will do whatever it takes to get it. She will lie, cheat, steal and murder. As a matter of fact, she has done all of the above and doesn't seem to be the slightest bit remorseful for any of it. I love to hate this chick. The only thing that I can kind of identify with about her is that she's chasing a rare book. Granted, it's a grimoire full of magic with potentially evil applications,but hey, it's a book, right?

Helen and her group of three followers make up a coven of witches that are actually pretty frightening. None of them are all that experienced in magic and mayhem but they more than make up for the lack with power and enthusiasm. These girls want to kick ass and they manage to do so. I can't help but wonder if a certain amount of subtlety might serve them better than just charging ahead seems to do, but that's how crass newbies act. They're dangerous enough already. If they actually get their poop in a group they're going to be horrifying effective. It's a good thing Paxton still has room to grow because things are looking rough for him in the near and far term future.

Of course, Paxton has friends too. The government agents in Division M are on Paxton's side. Well, for the most part. It's not like they actually TRUST him, but they damn sure don't like his mother so as long as he's up against her, they'll back him. Or maybe they'll use him, but whatever he needs the help. And if not everyone is who they seem to be, at least it's fun to watch him try to figure it out.

Of course, as far as Paxton knows, his mother isn't, and really shouldn't be, the main focus of his life. He finds out in the first chapter (or maybe two, I didn't take notes) that there are two missing young boys and that they've been taken by a cult. The cult appears to be out to sacrifice them. Mr. Locke, not wanting to see something terrible happen to two kids who have done absolutely nothing to deserve it, goes to their rescue. A large part of the book involves his search for them. He's not exactly clueless about the fact that his mother is looking for him. He just isn't focused on her because he has other things going on. He does realize that he has her grimoire and that she'll be looking for it but he has other things on his mind.

While I'm happy to say that this book features far less depravity than the first one, it is not without its fair share of mayhem and destruction. That's good though, because it just wouldn't be Paxton Locke without some blood (or maybe ichor) and gore at some point. Night's Black Agents, like Fade before it, has a very strong central conflict which can only be resolved though explosions and force blades and magicky stuff. (What's a force blade? Sorry, I can't tell you. I guess you'll have to buy the book to find out. I can tell you that it has nothing to do with Star Wars.) So, if you're a person who likes things that go BOOM, this is the book for you.

I can't really find anything to complain about. The book moves. The characters are believable. There really is never a chance to catch your breath, but that's a good thing. Humphreys switches back and forth between different point of view characters to always keep things fresh and moving forward. Come to think of it, I wouldn't mind seeing this as a television/Netflix series once there are a few more books out. Humphreys's writing has an ability to consistently shift to wherever the action is that would work well on the small screen. I'd even hang on through the commercial break and make the sponsors happy.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Ichor Splatters.

Night's Black Agents
Daniel Humphreys
Silver Empire, 2018

Night's Black Agents is available for purchase at the following link:

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