Black City Saint by Richard A Knaak

black city saint.jpgBlack City Saint was a fun and entertaining urban fantasy that I finished reading a couple of days ago.  It has an interesting main protagonist at the heart of the story plus a dragon, a shapeshifter, fae and a prohibition era Chicago setting with bootleggers and gang warfare playing a key role.

I enjoyed this story and I can say that it gets off to an immediately creepy start with a dark attic and a huge and strangely arachnid-type monster being expelled back to the world from whence it came!  Kind of puts you off going into that attic space right now!

The story follows the character of Nick Medea who in a strange twist has become jointly responsible for maintaining the Gate that separates the land of the fae from that of the humans. I don’t want to give too much away about Nick and his past as I think this should be discovered during the course of the story as the author intended.

Nick comes across as a private detective for hire except of course that you would never be able to find his contact details unless your situation was truly dire.  (I will just add in here that Nick isn’t a private detective. He just comes across a little like that. He’s more akin to an exorcist. Except that’s not quite right either, he’s basically a gate keeper!) If there’s something strange lurking, you feel scared of the dark corners or have a genuine feeling of being watched or stalked – then yes, you’ll probably become aware of his advertisement and, unlike the other charlatans who have visited previously, he will arrive, without fanfare or drama, take a look at your basement and attic and leave without the need for payment (having found nothing) and yet that dark feeling will no longer be present. Meet Nick Medea.  If there’s something dark, in your attic space, who you gonna call!  He’s sort of like a ghostbuster except he’s not catching ghosts and he doesn’t carry a proton pack – instead he has a trusty sword given to him by his lady and he seeks out those that have sneaked through the gate from the land of the fae.  There’s more to Nick than at first meets the eye, his dog isn’t really a dog, he’s not really talking to himself even though it may look like it and his raincoat holds a pretty handy bag of tricks.

I’m not going to delve too deeply into the plot other than to say that certain members of the fae have dark and nefarious plans to take over the human world and disrupt the harmony that currently exists between the two.  There has always been a gatekeeper and in a strange twist of fate Nick has become entangled with this duty.

The main characters are of course Nick and his inner voice.  His trusty hound is actually a fae shapeshifter banished from his own world and trapped in his current form called Fetch, we have none other than the King of Fae – Oberon and his lovely wife Her Lady (as she is known for most of the story as most are afraid to utter her name out loud) and Claryce.  Claryce is Nick’s latest client in need, or at least that’s how she appears at first.  In fact Claryce is the reincarnation of a former love of Nick’s who in some sort of grim twist has been reincarnated over and over again for the past 1600 years that he’s spent as the gatekeeper.  Every time she appears he is again unable to save her life.

What did I like about this book. I actually think this is a very entertaining read.  I enjoyed the inclusion of the fae and I thought there were plenty of original aspects to the story.  Knights of old, Saints – you’ll appreciate that I’m trying not to give anything away here!  I liked that the author portrays the fae as anything but lovely cute twinkly characters.  I think Claryce manages to play a good role and defy the first impression that I had of her as a typical damsel in distress and I loved the character Fetch.  I just couldn’t help it, he was without doubt my favourite of the story.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, Nick is sometimes a bit of a raging idiot.  Really, that thing of standing back to see the bigger picture – somebody needs to clue him in.  As it is he can be a little bit frustrating to the extent that I wanted on occasion to shake him.  Also, the whole idea of Nick and Claryce (to go with the names that they’ve been given here).  I’m not quite sure if this is intended to come across as romantic but it definitely didn’t strike that chord for me.  I didn’t really feel any chemistry between the two – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I didn’t go into this story expecting a romance and I don’t think that’s what the author intended – it’s just that something felt lacking with that aspect somehow.

As it is I found this a good, fast paced read that kept me pretty much glued to the page.  I think there’s plenty of scope for future tales and I look forward to seeking where the author takes Nick and his little company next.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Edelweiss for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.





14 Responses to “Black City Saint by Richard A Knaak”

  1. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Glad to hear you enjoyed this one! I may need to give it a try, though I don’t always do well with detective stories

    • @lynnsbooks

      I think I’ve mis sold it there to be honest so I’ve gone and adapted the wording slightly. It’s not a detective story but the main character kind of reminds me of a detective – he just had that feel a little at the start – I don’t really know why because he certainly isn’t a detective!
      Lynn 😀

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Every time Nick’s…er… unseen friend spoke, I kept hearing a voice that was a cross between Serkis’ Gollum and Cumberbatch’s Smaug – and it felt so appropriate!
    Agreed on Nick needing a good shake now and then, for someone so well-versed in the ways of the world, he can be quite the innocent, but I totally loved the unusual background and the creepy representation of the Fae.
    And Fetch… ah, dear Fetch! 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      I know – I was like that. I find that I do have a certain way of reading where different voices are running around my head and your two choices here are perfect!
      I liked Nick – he’s a good character, but considering how long he’s been around he could do to wizen up a little. He made a few ‘schoolboy’ errors and went round in circles for a bit there. But yeah, this was a great fun read, there’s plenty going on, it’s original and I loved getting to revisit the fae – and not just any fae but fae royalty!
      And fetch – good doggy!
      Lynn 😀

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I need to read this, I need to read this, I need to read this. I love detective stories and I’ve always been curious about Knaak’s non-Warcraft books. Now the main issue is time! As in I really have to make some to fit this in. All of you are making this one sound so good 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      I think I’ve probably been a bit misleading – this definitely isn’t a detective story – I’ve revised my wording slightly. Nick just puts me in mind of a detective – I really don’t know why though because he certainly isn’t! Well, he’s a gatekeeper and he does have ties with one of the cops (who thinks he’s a PI) – oh well, I’m just a mixed up minnie!
      I thought this was really got fun, I live visiting the fae, there’s some wicked imagination going on and it’s very fast paced. The only issue I had with my copy was quite a lot of mistakes but I didn’t mention this in the review because I figure/hope these wouldn’t make it to the final version.
      Lynn 😀

  4. DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

    Fetch was great! My favorite character was the cop, Cotrez. I’ll look forward to a sequel too. There is still much much more back story to be told, and that I’d really like to know about.

  5. vacuouswastrel

    Good to see one of the definitive 80s Old School Fantasy authors still getting fans…

    • @lynnsbooks

      I enjoyed BCS – I can definitely see Old School in a few of the ideas here and overall it was a fun read. 😀

      • vacuouswastrel

        For those who don’t know, Knaak is (or was) best known for the Dragonlance novels, ‘The Legend of Huma’ and the sequel ‘Kaz the Minotaur’, as well as a number of other Dragonlance novels about minotaurs. It’s been a very, very long time since I read any of them, but he had a reputation as among the best D&D writers, and ‘Legend of Huma’ is one of the best-regarded Dragonlance novels (despite completely trampling over any vestige of continuity and being set thousands of years away from the main Dragonlance plotline).

      • @lynnsbooks

        Excellent – thanks for that 😀 Have you read Black City Saint?

      • vacuouswastrel

        No, doesn’t really sound like my sort of thing. It’s always nice to see the guys from my childhood still going strong.

      • @lynnsbooks

        Yeah, he’s obviously done quite well!
        Lynn 😀

  6. February: My Month in Review | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Black City Saint by Richard A Knaak […]

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