By Elliott James
Published on September 24th 2013
Published by Orbit
Published by Orbit
Charming is a fun, fast-paced urban fantasy novel, set in a world where the supernatural exists but is hidden to the average person by ancient magic. John Charming was once a Knight sworn to protect humans from supernatural beasties, but now he's on the run, because he's got a bit of supernatural beastie in him that the Knights don't like. Living under an assumed name with a bit of a tragic past, John is trying to lie low and just be normal, but trouble finds him.John Charming isn't your average Prince...
He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is — until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.
That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn't change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar... Right?
John's voice as narrator is witty, self-deprecating, sassy, and full of backstory trivia. The backstory that he explains to the reader in his narration comes in handy for more fully understanding the world that the book takes place in. It can sometimes feel a bit info-dump-ish, but John's voice is such a treat to read sometimes that it wasn't bothersome. (Besides, there's a hook at the end of the book that makes the narrative choice of talking directly at the reader make much more sense.) I liked the fact that, despite being a leading man in an urban fantasy novel, John is a complex character and not just your typical alpha male. He's a total badass when it comes to fighting, and is super snarky, but he's also got a very strong sense of chivalry, and he also can occasionally talk about feelings. It would have been easy to make him into just a stone-cold killing machine of a dude, but he's more multi-dimensional than that, which was cool.
The supporting cast are all interesting, albeit with a hint of genre stereotype thrown in. There are the grumpy Eastern Europeans, the pot-smoking strong-but-mostly-silent African American, the slightly spacy woman, the bitter boyfriend, and Sig, the hardened warrior at the heart of the book's love triangle. Despite being familiar tropes, they were all characters I wanted to get to know more about, especially Molly (spacy) and Choo (strong-but-mostly-silent). We get to know enough of the broad strokes of their backgrounds that you care about what happens to them, and I hope to see more of them in the future.
The romance between John and Sig is slow burning, and while there's definitely an initial attraction between them, there are tons of reasons why they don't immediately act on it. The sorting out of one of those complications created one of the most moving, emotional scenes I've read in an urban fantasy novel in a long time -- it's a genre I associate more with action and sass rather than giving me feels.
There's a ton of violence, especially in the vampire slaying department, and it's sometimes gorily described, so this book may not be for the faint of heart. The author writes really excellent fight sequences. I always felt like it was very easy to keep track of the action, and you could tell a lot of thought had been put into these scenes so that they were realistic (as realistic as fighting supernatural beings can get) and made sense from a physical standpoint.
Overall, Charming was a great start to what will hopefully be an ongoing series. The book wraps up well enough that it could stand on its own, but there are enough plot threads weaved in to be able to sustain several more books. There are several short stories currently available as prequels, which I hope to check out, and I will definitely be on the lookout for a sequel someday!