Black City Saint – Richard A. Knaak
Release date: March 1st, 2016
Age Group: Adult
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
For more than sixteen hundred years, Nick Medea has followed and guarded the Gate that keeps the mortal realm and that of Feirie separate, seeking in vain absolution for the fatal errors he made when he slew the dragon. All that while, he has tried and failed to keep the woman he loves from dying over and over.
Yet in the fifty years since the Night the Dragon Breathed over the city of Chicago, the Gate has not only remained fixed, but open to the trespasses of the Wyld, the darkest of the Feiriefolk. Not only does that mean an evil resurrected from Nick’s own past, but the reincarnation of his lost Cleolinda, a reincarnation destined once more to die.
Nick must turn inward to that which he distrusts the most: the Dragon, the beast he slew when he was still only Saint George. He must turn to the monster residing in him, now a part of him…but ever seeking escape.
The gang war brewing between Prohibition bootleggers may be the least of his concerns. If Nick cannot prevent an old evil from opening the way between realms…then not only might Chicago face a fate worse than the Great Fire, but so will the rest of the mortal realm.
I’m having real trouble rating and reviewing this book. It was a bit of an odd one. It is an interesting story with a new take on Feirie that quite surprised me, but it also had a number of flaws. Right before the end I was going for 3 solid stars, but the ending makes me want to add another half one. I was happy about the turn the book took in the last few pages and it shifted my whole perspective of the book a bit.
There is a lot going on in Black City Saint, that’s for sure. Some of my friends read the synopsis on the back of the ARC and were really confused as to what it was actually all about. Bear in mind though, that this is an ARC and not a finished copy of the book. Luckily the author succeeded in giving every bit of plot time to unfold and fit into the bigger whole. At times though, especially in the beginning, I did feel a bit overwhelmed.
We are introduced to Nick, who is the Gatekeeper for the Gate between Feirie and the human world. He is not alone in that role though. The original Gatekeeper, a dragon, was ‘slain’ by Nick and is now part of him, fighting for dominance and freedom every step of the way. We are in prohibition-era Chicago and aside from his job as Gatekeeper, Nick also works as an exorcist, getting rid of unwanted Feirie creatures in people’s houses.
His lovelife is not exactly going great. Nick is stuck in some sort of timeloop, meeting reincarnations of his beloved Princess Cleolinda again and again. Even though he desperately tries to save her every time, every reincarnation dies a horrible death. When he meets Claryce, another reincarnation, he is desperate not to let her die again.
I liked Claryce, she is a fierce and valuable character, but the one thing that annoyed me was the constant battle between Nick and Claryce over every single thing they did. Claryce wants to be involved, she’s headstrong and she doesn’t take no for an answer. Every time something happens though, Nick wants to set out without her, he wants to leave her in safety, which is normal seeing as he is obsessed with keeping her safe. Every single time, Claryce gets angry or moody and wants to come with. After having this happen time and time again, I was getting a bit tired of this dynamic. Claryce started to feel like a petulant child and Nick as a push-over, because of course he almost always gives in to Claryce’s wishes. I would have liked it better if this happened once or twice and they then came to an understanding: either Claryce backs off or Nick gives in completely and takes her with him without discussion.
The villain of the story was pretty quickly revealed, but there were still enough unknown factors to keep it interesting. This is especially true because said villain has recruited the local crime scene as his helpers. Names like Al Capone and Big Bill Thompson are familiar even for people who are not completely familiar with Prohibition-era Chicago. Not only the people made you feel completely immersed in the time-frame, also the mention of other common things for that time, like the music.
Nick’s sidekicks were also very entertaining, most of them originating from Feirie who, after being exiled, now live in the human world. One is the ghost of a roman Emperor who was responsible for Nick’s execution ‘back in the day’ and is now stuck between life and death until he can earn Nick’s forgiveness.
All in all, I liked the constant action and twists in this book. There was definitely not a moment of boredom while reading. Not everything was exactly how I personally would have liked it, but the down-to-Earth ending made up for a lot of my earlier misgivings.