Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Answering Review Request: The Dark Communion

Joey Ruff asked me to read his book "The Dark Communion". It's about an occult detective investigating a string of child abductions involving superhuman bums. I will examine plot, characters and polish before assigning a grade.


On the whole the plot is good. There's an action prologue that shows precisely what this occult detective, Johnathon (Jono) Swyft can do and what he's like. This leads into and connects with the main plot of the child abductions. The Herald in this case is not a Femme Fatale with some mystery but a kid looking for his brother. Points for originality and all that.

There's this progression of events and investigation that leads to the unraveling of the mystery. It makes sense all the way and leads up to this kick ass final battle with a foe much cooler and tougher than a demonically possessed hobo. It's also well foreshadowed.

I also like the world building. It's interesting stuff; a mix of classical and original ideas about monsters, where they come from and how they interact with humans and the world. It's also skillfully woven into the story. For instance, Korrigan are vulnerable to Cold Iron (a classic trope) but there's no paragraph explaining this. You see it in action. The rule of thumb is Show Don't Tell. The only time there's "telling" is when Jono explains something to his daughter, who is on the verge of joining daddy in the field.
There are two things about this novel that I find to be weaknesses:
1. Agent Stone shows up everywhere Jono goes. It gives the impression that she's stalking him or it's some string of coincidences. Given the lack of real villains for most of the book, it feels like she's plopped into the scenes to provide cheap conflict.
2. There are lots of prolonged tangents into backstories. One time there was a whole chapter that was a flashback to a completely unrelated incident. It was basically filler. The Wendigo stuff involved with the story could have been delivered in a less bloated fashion.

I like the ending. It's climatic, it resolves the initial conflict (the job offer) but the larger part is still ongoing and there's an interesting turn in Jono's personal angst.


Jono, our protagonist, is an asshole. There's no getting around that. He fires off more F-bombs than bullets. He doesn't care about the pain of others, including or especially his clients, and (as his partner Ape said) he often makes them feel worse. He antagonizes an FBI agent that would love any excuse to put him behind bars. I'd like to see someone kick his teeth in if he hadn't suffered enough already.
Underneath all that crud and cynicism is a heroic heart, so he's what Tvtropes calls a Knight in Sour Armor. Despite all his talk about how he doesn't give a damn and makes a joke about everything, he's still in the monster hunting business, he raised Nadia so well she's more mature then he is, and he shows respect for his siren girlfriend.

Other main characters include Jono's partner, Ape/Terry Towers, and his adoptive daughter Nadia.
Ape is a good foil for our protagonist because he's a fist fighter/sword user to contrast Jono's coat full of guns, and he's more positively empathetic. He looks like a gorilla because he's big and hairy but is much more civilized than Jono.
Nadia is the daughter of Jono's late mentor, Huxley. She's a nice girl following in both of her father's footsteps. She's intelligent and gets along with everyone. She also has an interesting power based on controlling the inertia of objects.

There's a slew of law enforcement agents, from local detectives and cops to the FBI. One in particular is Agent Stone. Somehow she frequently turns up where-ever Jono is doing monster busting and yet she always misses the monster itself. She is just as much as hardass as Jono himself but lacks the same sympathetic POV.

Father Finnegan is an interesting character. I wish I'd seen more of him. He's an excellent foil for Jono and here's why. He's a current and devout priest in contrast to the former and disillusioned priest, and his skill with a gun is referred to as "Wild West Gunfighter" in contrast to Jono's walking armory of More Daka. Watching them interact was fun.

There's not much to say about the villain. He doesn't show up for a while and conflict is instead provided by discovering the threads of his organization and between the various anti-heroes fighting and getting in each other's way. The end result is that he's flat, generic and, to quote Jono himself "pathetic".


Jono is a first person narrator and he has a clipped way of speaking. This makes it hard to determine what parts of narration have grammar problems and which are intentional. After all, no one speaks in perfect grammar, and especially not a coarse guy like Jono. The most ambiguous parts are towards the end. Overall, spelling and grammar are not a problem.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "The Dark Communion" a B

Click here for the next book review (which was not a request): Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Click here for the previous request (which was not a request either): Journey to the West

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