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Book Review

Book Cover

Dead Man's Deal


Author: Jocelynn Drake
Publisher: Harper Voyager
RRP: £7.99, US $14.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 752528 7
Publication Date: 18 July 2013

Gage is just trying to keep a low profile, working as a tattoo artist, weaving low level spells and trying to keep off the Tower's radar. Taken as a small child, because of his natural affinity to magic wielding, he had done the unthinkable and escaped the violence and horror of the Tower. Life is rarely that simple and Gage is overseen by a Guardian, Gideon. His job is to keep Gage in line and kill him if he strays, but secretly Gideon is sympathetic to Gage's desire to remain free. Gage finds himself in deeper water when he gets involved with a dark elf, Reave who has his own plans to take down the Tower. But his plans are folly, destined to bring ruin and war to the whole planet...

Dead Man’s Deal is the fourth book in the Asylum Tales series of books by Jocelynn Drake, who also wrote The Dark Days series of novels.

It’s always strange to come into a series so far down the line, but for the most part this didn’t spoil the story. There are a few elements which remained unclear, like where the stories action was actually taking place. The story is set in America, but this is a very different world to the one we know. Here, all sorts of mythical creatures live and work alongside their human counterparts, so trolls, Elves, witches and warlocks exist. This is a world under thraldom.

Following a Great War, which remains unclear here, but may well have been covered in previous books, the witches and the warlocks have withdrawn to their hidden towers, eight in all, but their power remains as does their lack of humanity. They are a power unchallenged who think nothing of destroying a whole city just to eradicate a single human being. It is this ruthlessness which makes Gage leave them in the first place.

Life isn’t so bad for Gage at the beginning of the book; he makes a living creating magic tattoos and spending time with his elven girlfriend, Trixie. Their lives are shared with a troll and a Russian blue cat who is in actuality a curse witch. At this point his only problem is that he has to work for Reave, a dark elf and a gangster.

Without giving too much of the plot away the book deals with a plan by Reave which on one hand would seem to make the warlocks of the Tower vulnerable, but in reality would mean the extermination of both humans and the fey creatures. Along the way Gage has to deal with problems of fertility and the re-emergence of his long lost brother.

Most books have an A plot and a B subplot, but Drake has gone to town with a multi layered story. For some this might feel a little busy, but it’s surprising how well it works and Drake is able to resolve the most important threads before the close of the story.

I’m not usually a fan of urban fantasy, which usually revolves around a charismatic male hero, who survives impossible odds and is a little bit of a bad boy - as all girls love a bad boy. That said, there was a richness to this novel that you don’t normally see in this type of book, certainly enough for me to want to know more about the world in which the story is set.

There is the usual ubiquitous sex scene which probably makes it only suitable for older teens, but it is only one instance in a very worthy read. The love story, however, is intertwined through the story and I felt that this element often slowed the story down.

That said, this is a superior book in the urban fantasy genre and well worth a look.


Charles Packer

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