Book Review: Wild Court, Matthew Samuels
Urban Fantasy: Wild Court, Matthew Samuels
Ben and Matt have been best friends their entire lives. Now in their 20s, they are living in London and still hanging out together as often as they can. Ben is an assistant librarian, having followed his love of books into a career with them. Quiet and serious, Ben enjoys occasionally spending time with a homeless man he passes on the street.
Although Matt was, as he puts it, a nerdy little kid, he grew up to become very fond of women and booze. Cigarettes and joints also figure among his unhealthy habits. Still, he is happy to spend time with his quieter friend, so when Ben invites him to a mysterious event, Matt is in.
This event was led by a man who said some strange things about dispelling creatures from other dimensions, creatures that could kill humans with a touch. He then takes the group out of the building where they are meeting and proceeds to dispatch one of those creatures. Most of the group either left when the speaker started talking about the weird things, or they fled when they saw the actual monster. Ben and Matt stayed, though neither would claim any real bravery, and decided to join with the group called “The Gardeners.” The Gardeners use magic to kill these dangerous creatures, successfully keeping their work, their talents, and the dangerous creatures hidden from ordinary Londoners.
(Just as an aside, with all of the urban fantasy that is set in London, I have to wonder if that is some kind of statement about the obtuseness of the locals. With all of the wizards and vampires and ghosts and ghouls and interdimensional monsters in the city, you would think somebody would notice. Then again, I’ve missed a four-lane exit connecting two major highways, so I would undoubtedly stride blithely through a battalion of monsters and comment on the buildings.)
Unlike so many “school for wizarding” novels, Wild Court features adults. Ben and Matt face choices about giving up their lives and careers (such as they are) to chase monsters they have never seen nor heard of before. They, well Matt, engage in adult pastimes, tell “adult” jokes – albeit the juvenile kind of adult jokes, and worry about things like paying rent and finding meaning in their lives. A third character, Alice, has already embarked on a career as an archeologist before getting swept into this drama while pursuing her own research. As an adult, it is refreshing to read a book where ordinary people living ordinary lives get introduced to an extraordinary world that was always there but never noticed.
By the end of the book, though, everyone has noticed. An enemy has discovered how to bring over the monsters by the hundreds. London is under attack, the Gardeners are missing, and it is up to Ben, Matt, and Alice to save the day.
I really enjoyed almost all of this book. There was one thing that did knock me sideways, though. Ben and Alice make a side trip to the Arctic Circle, trying to recruit a powerful entity as an ally for their fight. Along the way, their party sees penguins.
PENGUINS DO NOT LIVE IN THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE! The elementary school naturalist I wanted to be nearly 50 years ago suddenly began yelling irately. I can suspend belief at attacks from other dimensions, magic killing nightmarish monsters, secret guardians protecting the world from untold horrors, but stick penguins into the arctic and that is a bridge too far!
This is a fun and exciting book that takes fantasy in some gritty and creative directions. The characters are well conceived, the change in perspective between Ben, Matt, Alice, and some of the other characters is well handled, the attack on London is vivid and disturbing, yet the frequent scenes of humor and humanity help keep the novel feeling fresh and real.
If it weren’t for those lost penguins! (Suggestion: PUFFINS are aquatic seabirds that look similar to penguins and DO live in the north. Second edition?)
Our thanks to The Write Reads for our copy of Wild Court, given so we could take part in this blog tour. The opinions here are solely those of Scintilla. For other perspectives, check out the other bloggers on this tour. I don’t know if they were bothered by the penguins or not, but they should have been.
Book Review: Wild Court, Matthew Samuels