Unquiet Dreams by Mark Del Franco
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you are a fan of faerie, you must read this book. Mark Del Franco 'gets' what makes us faerie lovers tick. And he really understands how to write a good urban fantasy book. The elves and the faeries are at each others throats. They are plotting and planning against each other, big time. Think of how it would be if the Democratic and Republican parties were militarized. Yup.
Although the first book took a little time for me to get into it, I fell right into the story in Unquiet Dreams. I am starting to have a serious crush on Connor. I liked the approach that Mr. Del Franco took with Connor. He's the golden boy that fell from grace. He was a very arrogant, somewhat self-absorbed guy who had a huge sense of entitlement because of his formidable Druid abilities. When he was attacked by an elf, who damaged his Druid powers, he had a very painful epiphany. There are moments where you wince along with Connor as he's confronted with his past hubris and overweening self-confidence. It's so real how the 'beautiful people' will turn their back on a fallen comrade. I believe that this fall from grace is the making of Connor. He will grow from the experiences, albeit painful, and become the man he's truly meant to be. But it's not an easy process.
Connor's sort of unique as an urban fantasy hero. He really doesn't have that powerful an ability that carries him through. He has the remnant of his Druid abilities, but they really don't protect him from harm. So you see him end up vulnerable a lot in this book. It sort of reminds me of Harry Dresden in that sense (Harry's always getting banged up), but it's even more realistic, in the sense, that Connor is always aware of his short-comings. I found the mix of his vulnerability, learned humility, intelligence, and his innately commanding personality very appealing. He's a real survivor, and I admired him for that.
The plotting and storytelling were excellent. To be honest, I would sometimes get lost with some of the investigative and procedural aspects. But I blame that on my often short attention span. I have to say it adds to the magical/occult detective story vibe considerably. And the fantastic/faery elements took what would have been dry for me (in a non-fantasy book), and made them more interesting then I would have found them otherwise. Nevertheless, I feel that a mystery fan coming over to urban fantasy would enjoy this book.
The worldbuilding is fantastic. The Weird part of Boston is inhabited by all sorts of Fae, from Danaan faeries to pixies (called flits--Connor's good friend Joe is one), to trolls, dwarves, and elves. I loved the socio-political structure Mr. Del Franco gave this world. The faeries have street gangs, run by Trolls, and there is a faery bar where a group of hard-drinking faeries called the Cluries, love to get nice and rowdy. They sort of reminded me of the gypsies led by Brad Pitt in the Guy Ritchie movie, Snatch. And we get to see how members of the Faerie community party in their very own version of a rave. Those scenes caught my attention, and did not let go.
I loved the secondary characters: Murdoch (a human homocide detective who uses Connor as a faerie consultant), Meryl (lab tech/Druidess extraordinaire with outre' fashion sense--think Abby from the tv show NCIS), Joe (Connor's small pixy friend who loves to get in trouble, and who may be cute, but is fairly deadly against aggressors), and the various faeries, elves, trolls, and Druids that Connor has to sort through to find his suspect and to solve the two murders in question. We also get to meet Connor's older brother, Cal. There is a strain in their relationship that pulled at my heart.
Unquiet Dreams starts with a rather grisly murder investigation, and culminates in a powerful climax in which the world could very well end, when the powerful essence (what we'd consider faerie magical power) is stolen from a large number of fae, to be used by the main, power-hungry culprit, and things get out of control. And the unlikely hero of Connor, disabled druid, is the only one who can save the day, although he gets a little help from his friends.
Believe me, I cannot recommend this book highly enough if you are into faerie fiction. You will be astounded and blown away with what Mr. Del Franco has done with this sub-genre of urban fantasy. He truly has my respect. I'm anxious to see what adventures he has in store for Connor in the next book.
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