A Devil in the Details by K.A. Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a good start to a new to me series. Although it does have that standard male UF feel (which is not a bad thing), there were a few things that nicely distinguish it from the others that I read and enjoy:
1. The lead--Jesse James Dawson (don't call him JJ) is pleasantly angst-free. I like angst as much as any other reader, and probably more, but it's nice when the character doesn't stoop over like a 90-year-old from the weight of sorrows on his back. I think a huge factor in this is my second point.
2. Jesse is a happily-married family man! It was so refreshing to have a hero who is not a loner who avoids women or just uses them to fulfill his male needs, or both, but is deeply in love with his wife. The moments of intimacy and married people exchanges caused many 'aww' moments or smiles as I read. It's clear that Jesse doesn't take his wife for granted. He respects her as an equal with formidable strengths that balance him out. He knows his wife doesn't take crap, and he doesn't shovel any her way. At the same time, he is protective of his family in a way that I think a guy should be with his family. I loved how much he values his wife and his little girl. I have a big soft spot for a hero who is a father or has a fatherly vibe to him, so I dug the scenes in which Jesse plays with/takes care of his daughter. I can see why Jesse has the empowerment to go out and fight the good fight like he does.
3. Jesse is a modern samurai. He follows the bushido code. Let me make it clear that I am a huge ninja/samurai/Asian martial arts fangirl. Although I lack the discipline for the Way of the Warrior, I had mad respect for Jesse's adherence to this philosophy. Although he is not a religious man, he has a code which directs his behavior, instead of drifting through life aimlessly. It rounds him out as a character in a solid, but not over the top way instead of this story being about his A)determination to get vengeance, B)leftover childhood issues, C)being a happy-go-lucky ne'er do well that merely stumbles into heroic situations.
4. The concept of Jesse working as a champion--fighting demons to win back people's bartered souls was very cool. I like that there was rules to be followed, and I admit that the demonic aspects were a bit chilling, although not in a macabre, in your face, way. It felt very real-world and entirely possible. A nice foundation for world-building in this series.
5. The conversational narrative was good. Jesse has enough snark to put me in the wise-cracking UF male mode that I like, but it's not forced or obvious. It was interesting seeing Jesse interact with his co-workers at It, a trendy store that I would equate to the real-life store Hot Topic. They are very much of the new generation, and Jesse is in his thirties and a grown man with grownup responsibilities. They call him Old Guy, which I found hilarious. It may not seem like a huge age difference, but as a woman in my thirties who has worked with people in their teens and early twenties, it can actually be a fairly large gap at times. Long story short, Jesse gets cred as a realistic character who I can buy into for a series. I liked spending time in his head and I would come back.
This was a pleasant, relatively quick read. I think it's a great start for a new series, and there was enough hooks here to get me coming back for more. I liked the story, the characters, and the concept. The action parts were good and the humor had me laughing and nodding along. That makes this a thumbs up book for me. Four solid stars, and my recommendation to fans of male lead UF along the lines of Harry Dresden or Atticus O'Sullivan. In other words, both fun and meaty.
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