Monday, 13 February 2017

Book Review: Strange Magic by James A Hunter (Yancy Lazarus #1)

Yancy Lazarus is having a bad day: there’s a bullet lodged in his butt cheek, his face looks like the site of a demolition derby, and he’s been saran-wrapped to a banquet table. He never should have answered the phone. Stupid bleeding heart—helping others in his circles is a good way to get dead.

Just ask the gang members ripped to pieces by some kind of demonic nightmare in LA. As a favor to a friend, Yancy agrees to take a little looksee into the massacre and boom, he’s stuck in a turf war between two rival gangs, which both think he’s pinch-hitting for the other side. Oh, and there’s also a secretive ass-hat with some mean ol’ magical chops and a small army of hyena-faced, body- snatching baddies. It might be time to seriously reconsider some of his life choices.

Yancy is a bluesman, a rambler, a gambler, but not much more. Sure, he can do a little magic—maybe even more than just a little magic—but he knows enough to keep his head down and stay clear of freaky-deaky hoodoo like this business in LA. Somehow though, he’s been set up to take a real bad fall—the kind of very permanent fall that leaves a guy with a toe tag. Unless, of course, he can find out who is responsible for the gangland murders, make peace in the midst of the gang feud, and take out said magical ass-hat before he hexes Yancy into an early retirement. Easy right? Stupid. Bleeding. Heart.

My Review: 
Yancy is a mage, who reluctantly decides to help an old friend with a vague threat warning and finds himself in the middle of a magical gang battle where each side think he is the enemy. It's an elaborate set up and is aimed at him but he has no idea why. First he is attacked outside a bar by people who warn him not to take on a case he has never heard of, then as he heads over to get answers from Greg he is attacked by a hyena ninja demon thing and more bad guys. Why does everyone seem to want him dead?

This book looked so promising based on a short story flashback book that I read in the series. It featured Greg and Yancy taking on supernatural threats in the Vietnam War and I really liked it so I grabbed this first one. Although I gave it three stars, it w3as a bit of a struggle to complete, and I didn't enjoy it anywhere near enough to want to continue with the series.

Lets start with why I didn't like Yancy in this book. The guy does nothing but whine, moan and complain to the point where you want to slap him. Oh I'm having a bad day, oh I'm so hard done by, oh all I want to do is sit and drink and smoke in a bar and be left alone. He's worse that a teenage girl in a bad Twilight type book! His mock verbal fights with Greg and dumb and childish and he seems to do this even when the situation calls for him to actually pretend to be an adult, something that seems alien to him. He moans that Greg won't tell him anything then when Greg is telling him something he butts in with stupid comments and moronic smart arse behaviour and Greg has to tell him to shut up and listen. And then he pouts and facepulls like a spoiled child being told off by his parents. Jeez. If the world depends on Yancy, we're doomed.

There are so many stupid inner dialogues from Yancy that add nothing to the story. He whines and complains about how bad his life is right now, he brags about how brilliant a mage he is...I really want to headbutt the guy when he starts that crap. Not that Greg is much better when he starts the fighting and bitchy comments back. They sound like two dumb kids in the playground shouting 'you smell!' at each other, leading to me sitting rolling my eyes in annoyance on every page they both feature on. If it is meant to be amusing banter, it did not work for me on any level. I just found it stupid and annoying.

We also had the endless boring descriptions of every person we met, every place Yancy goes to, every puff of smoke from whatever he smokes, every little detail of pointless things not relevant to the story, every dumb thought in Yancy's head. It was all tell and nowhere near enough show, and it just smothered the good parts of the story for me. Add that to the childish tantrums from our MC all the time and the story just became a struggle to stick with and my mind kept wandering off to other things.

The irony is, the story was quite interesting. A crooked cop has made both sides in the gang warfare believe that Yancy is the one putting hits on their people which explains why everyone wants to kill him. He has to try and convince both sides that he is not involved in that and take on whoever is setting him up and help both gangs fight the real enemy. But will they work together and fight with Yancy? The scenes where he was using his magic to fight people or demons were interesting enough and if the author would just have Yancy grow up and tighten up the story with less waffle, it could have been a decent read.

Basically this falls in somewhere between 2.5 and 3 stars. I can't bear the thought of putting up with the MC to read the rest of the series.  

Read December 2016.
star rating photo: Three Star Rating 3stars.png


  1. I have this one, I just haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I feel like I was all excited about it when I first saw it and somehow my excitement has just died out. And now, from your review, Yancy does sound like a frustrating character. The descriptions sound frustrating too. I'll still give it a try if I ever do end up in the mood for it, but I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it all that much.

    1. I'm annoyed coz I loved the short story...but the Yancy in it is way better than the one in this book! Gah I hate it when that happens!