The Watchtower – Darke Conteur

12810646I received this novella from the author, in exchange for an honest review.

From the recap on the author’s site:

His first day of work wasn’t what Martin Cunningham expected. A sultry boss, a classy receptionist, the drama-queen foreigner, and a painfully shy techie who prefers hiding to human interaction, was the oddest group of characters he’d ever met. When an assassination attempt is made against his new boss, Martin comes face to face with the stuff of nightmares.

This book feels like an introduction to a larger story and to the set of characters that will move in its background, and as such it does a good work of sketching the individual players without giving too much away, leaving further exploration for the next tales down the line.

The events themselves are a curious mix of urban fantasy, dark magic and humor: Martin Cunningham, the only “normal” person in the group, is quite believable in his role as the proverbial fish out of water as he’s enlisted by the mysterious Terin Global Corporation for a Public Liaison post – and they do need a PR person indeed, since the core team consists of Jezryall, a fire-breathing demon in human form and her cohort of strange individuals with even stranger abilities that Martin meets in the Corporation’s main offices that look like a cross between a Goth club and a horror movie set.

When an attempt is made on Jezryall’s life with the arrival of a strange package, containing a venomous creature ready to hatch, the team launches in hot pursuit of the perpetrators, uncovering a black magic-practicing coven hiding in the Russian embassy.  Poor Martin is brought along, in his very first day on the job, and his attitude about the whole, crazy mess is perfectly detailed in this thought: “Planning to attack a group of people who had sharp daggers and zombies, while all they had was a Druid with flaming fingers, a timid medium, and a psychic in stilettos, was, in fact miles above the whole Embassy thing”.   This made me both laugh out loud and feel great admiration for Martin who, despite some quite understandable bafflement, still manages to pull through with flying colors (well, more or less…) and with his sanity intact.

The caper makes for a quick, at times quite amusing read, and the contrast between the matter-of-fact attitude of Jezryall’s team in the face of such weirdness, and Martin’s disbelief, keeps things interesting – after all the poor guy goes from a normal, boring life to a plunge into the unbelievable in a matter of hours! – but still something seems to be missing, as if some parts of the background information were too muddled to truly help the reader make heads or tails of what is really happening.  What I mean is that there is a sort of… unfinished feel to the story itself that kept preventing me from fully slipping into immersion mode and enjoying the story.  A certain number of typos and a few characterization choices – like the main bad guy who was something of a cliché – did not help either.

Nonetheless, all the above being just a matter of personal preference, I believe there is a definite potential here, one that needs to be fully explored and polished, so it can turn into the enjoyable sequence of stories this promises to be.

My Rating: 6,5/10

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