Book Review: The Rogue Retrieval by Dan Koboldt
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 1
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse (1/19/16)
Length: 384 pages
This year, I’m resolving to do a much better job at controlling my TBR and a big part of that will involve being a lot more prudent with the books I choose to accept for review, but when I was contacted about The Rogue Retrieval, I knew there was no way I could resist giving it a try. The book’s main character is a Las Vegas stage magician who one day hopes to make it big and headline at a Strip casino! Call me cheesy, but I have a real fascination for illusionists and magic shows. Fantasy is fantasy, but watching a skilled magician at their art is always fun because if nothing else, you can suspend your disbelief and imagine—even if it’s just for a moment—that you’re experiencing something beyond the realm of possibility.
In fact, that explanation might also be analogous to why I love urban fantasy. I love imagining our real world with magic in it. The idea of the contemporary mixed with the paranormal appeals to me, and I also enjoy asking the question, “What if?”
Perhaps that is why I had so much fun with The Rogue Retrieval, because at its core, that’s what this book is—one big “What if?” story. What if a whole other world was discovered, connected to ours via a secret portal? What if everything we think of when we think “fantasy world”—like magic, sorcerers, sword-wielding warriors, etc.—is all a reality in this secret realm? And what if someone, just an average guy from our own world, was tasked to go over there to on a real-life quest?
Though, calling our protagonist “just an average guy” wouldn’t be entirely accurate, because Quinn Bradley is actually an extremely talented and ambitious illusionist. But on his big night, instead of being scouted by one of the big Vegas hotels, representatives from CASE Global, a powerful corporation, make him an offer he can’t refuse. The company has discovered a portal to another world called Alissia, a place where magic is real, and they need Quinn to be as good as the real thing so he and a team can travel there and capture a rogue scientist whose actions threaten to put all of them at risk. However, what CASE has neglected to tell Quinn is that impersonating a magician in Alissia is serious crime with fatal consequences.
What makes The Rogue Retrieval special is that it doesn’t read like your typical urban fantasy. In truth, most of the book actually takes place in Alissia, a world closer to what readers would regard as a “high fantasy” setting. But while Quinn and his companions go through the portal in disguise pretending to be native Alissians, they also carry with them advanced technology and other high-tech gadgetry to help them in their quest. So in essence, you get an interesting mix of traditional fantasy, urban fantasy, and even some science fiction thrown in.
This makes The Rogue Retrieval a very different sort of read, one that might appeal to fans of UF who are looking for something that breathes new life into the genre. At the same time though, it retains a lot of the characteristics that makes UF fun—namely the fast pacing, lots of laugh-out-loud humor, and plenty of thrilling action scenes. For better or worse, it also doesn’t take itself too seriously, forgoing much world-building so that Alissia feels like your very generic fantasy world. The book has a feeling of satire at times, reminiscent of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, where a present-day person is transported to another world where he is able to fool its inhabitants into thinking he is a bona fide magician with his knowledge of modern technology. Nothing too deep here, but the story is admittedly tons of fun.
That said, there were a few puzzling issues with the plot. I was never entirely convinced why CASE specifically needed a stage magician for the mission, though a big deal was made about an aspect of Quinn’s background and the reasons for that might be revealed in the next book. But on the whole, I was hoping Quinn’s talents would’ve had more relevance to the story. There’s also the prospect of a romance that I’m not sure was really required. By the end of the book, nothing really gets resolved either, and there were a lot more loose ends than I would have liked.
Still, it’s clear we’ve only scratched the surface here, and hopefully the next installment will develop things further and give more answers. A few minor issues notwithstanding, I’m definitely interested in reading the sequel. Dan Koboldt’s new book is an entertaining urban fantasy with a fascinating angle, great if you’re in the mood for something light, fluffy and fun. I’m looking forward to see where the story will go.