Book Review: Daring by Elliott James
Daring by Elliott James
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 2 of Pax Arcana
Publisher: Orbit (September 23, 2014)
Author Information: Website
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Given my heavy reading load and lack of time, this book almost didn’t make it onto my review list. I enjoyed its predecessor Charming, though as a first book in an urban fantasy series it was probably a bit too standard and conventional to be truly memorable. But UFs are generally quick reads, not to mention I realize some series do need a bit of time to take off, so I was more than willing to give Pax Arcana another shot with Daring.
The book jumps right back into the life of John Charming, a young man who comes from a long line of Charmings – yes, that family of swoon-worthy princes, heroic dragon slayers, and rescuers of damsels in distress from evil witches and their dastardly curses. But John isn’t your average Charming, despite his illustrious family name and long years spent training with the modern day equivalent of the Knights Templar. A werewolf attack on his mother right before his birth resulted in John becoming a new type of strange hybrid, and his own people have hunted him ever since the first day he manifested his symptoms.
But now, instead of trying to kill him the Knights Templar are actually trying recruit him. They believe John’s ties to werewolves makes him the perfect man to infiltrate the werewolf packs that have been uniting under a mysterious leader, while the Templar themselves have failed time and time again. They’re dealing with creatures with noses that can sniff out an interloper from a mile away, after all. John agrees, but only because he was forced to and it would also help keep the woman he loves out of danger.
I have to say this book left me a bit torn. I do think Daring is a better book than Charming, but probably not by much. Like I said, the first book didn’t make much of an impression on me; a few months after reading it I found I could hardly remember anything specific about the plot. Needless to say, that affected my ability to jump right into this one. Even though the “ten things you need to know” type recap at the beginning was humorous and a clever way to get the reader up to speed again, I didn’t really find it all that helpful.
But the question here is how does book two match up? Well, I do think there’s a lot more to like about Daring. I thought the comedy factor was more pronounced in this book, even though the overall themes are bit darker. And sometimes it’s not the action scenes and the flashy trimmings that I find the most memorable (in fact, a lot of times it’s the opposite and those tend to blend together) but the more subdued and serious scenes. I liked the chapters that flashed back to John’s past, for example, revealing his childhood years as a talented but outcast novice in the order of the Knights Templar, as well as the experiences in his love life that have shaped him. Likewise, when John joined up with the werewolves in the woods, I got a kick out of the quiet moments of introspection and meditation with his new lycanthrope clan mates.
Then there were the things I didn’t like so much. While the overall story was enjoyable, as to how much it will stick with me this time around, that remains to be seen. I suspect much of what happened after the part with the new age-y wolves will become a blur for me. There were the requisite bells and whistles and twists and turns. But what was missing for me were the supporting characters I met in book one! Where’s Molly? Where’s Choo? And I could have done with more than just a small cameo from Parth. I also wasn’t too convinced of John’s budding relationship with the Valkyrie Sig in the first place, to have her absent for the most of this book was a mistake in my eyes.
And finally, perhaps my main disappointment with this book is the same one I had with the first. The description for Daring states that this series “gives a new twist to the Prince Charming tale.” I still feel that it’s a bit of an overstatement, and wish that the “twist” to the Prince Charming angle could be more inventive and unique. A lot of what makes this series different is based on gimmicky factors like punny chapter titles and a split paragraph here and there; I know this is probably going to sound a lot harsher than I intend, but I really do think a new urban fantasy needs to stand out more these days to set itself apart.
Pax Arcana continues to be fun. My opinion of these books hasn’t really changed for the better or the worse since the first one, which means despite my gripes my feelings are still favorable towards this series. I’ll be open to checking out the third book when it comes out. Now, if this had been an epic fantasy series and the books were each 500+ pages long, that would be a different story, but urban fantasies do not require the same time investment and I know they’re always a good time. I’ll decide once we get closer to the release date of Fearless.
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Orbit Books!