by Elliot James
Orbit, 2013. 480 pages. Fantasy.
Book one of the Pax Arcana series (of which book five, In Shining Armor, was released this April), Charming introduces John Charming, ex-knight Templar, occasional monster hunter, and secret half-werewolf. John reluctantly joins a valkyrie, a priest and a psychic as they hunt a vampire with radical new ideas about who should run the world. Within this frame, James expertly establishes his kitchen-sink style mythos and magic of the “Pax Arcana” that keeps it hidden from the rest of the world.
Charming pulls off that elusive unicorn of creative writing; funny dialogue that feels organic. James breathes life and believability into his characters, especially the antagonists. Picking this up for the first time a few nights ago, I was interested initially by the back cover of the newest book in the series, so I started at the beginning. Even knowing there would be further installments, the narrative kept me in suspense. Most of the material keeping the book from being a clean read was superfluous, but neither was it gratuitous or vulgar. I appreciated the candor of discussing mature topics (such as the prospect of a relationship or the best way to incapacitate an immortal snake monster) without it feeling too racy or graphic. I finished Charming excited to see where the next installments take John and his friends.