Audiobook Review: Drake by Peter McLean
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 1 of The Burned Man
Publisher: Audible Studios (January 5, 2016)
Length: 8 hrs and 40 mins
Narrator: Mark Meadows
Drake is a darkly humorous urban fantasy about the unfortunate misadventures of a hieromancer hitman named Don Drake, though I must say, labeling him a “hitman” is greatly simplifying the kind of work he does. With the help of a nine-inch tall animated idol representing the earthly form of a bound archdemon—which he calls “The Burned Man”—Drake is able to summon forth demonic creatures from hell to sic on his victims, killing them without having to dirty his own physical hands. Be that as it may, Drake is still consumed with grief and guilt when his latest job goes awry, resulting in the tragic death of an innocent child who was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Traumatized and remorseful, Drake makes the decision to leave his line of work behind.
However, word of his horrible deed has gotten out, and now Drake has a trio of vengeful Furies on his tail. To make matters worse, his former employer Wormwood turns out to be an archdemon himself, and he most assuredly does not accept Drake’s resignation, pulling our hapless protagonist back into the hitman game. Drake’s only hope now lies with Trixie, an angel with a questionable history who has come to aid him in his time of need, but can she be trusted?
This is seriously a great story, full of hairpin twists and turns. While the plot could have used a bit of tightening up, the speed at which it moved was a thrill and a delight. What’s even better is that despite the modern atmosphere, certain elements in Drake reminded me of the old-style classic noir mysteries, complete with femme fatales and over-the-top diabolical villains. The dialogue is also frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious, loaded up with profanity and British slang to great effect. I’m sure I’ll have to thank my dad, who spent his college years drinking and partying studying in London, for being able to understand most of the Britishisms.
I won’t lie though, I think I would have liked this more if it weren’t for the protagonist. I’m not one who usually has trouble accepting or even embracing unpleasant characters, anti-heroes, flawed souls, or any of those morally contentious types. But when I found myself yelling “NO NO NO DON’T DO IT!” at the audiobook every five minutes (pretty much every time Drake does or says something stupid) I had to admit to myself that maybe, just maybe, the main character and I have some issues to work out.
Thing is, Drake really isn’t a bad man, but he does have this tendency to make some earth-shatteringly dumb decisions and—to my great chagrin—not learn from his mistakes. I can tolerate the occasional lapse in judgement, but I can’t abide a fool. There’s a scene in the book where the Burned Man is mercilessly laying into Drake for being a pathetic, pitiful bastard as well as a sorry excuse for a human being, and all I could think in my head in response was “Yeeeeah…I kind of agree.” Drake is for the most part a cowardly, unambitious and weak-willed magician who even admits as much, being under no illusions when it comes to his powers–he knows he is nothing without the Burned Man. Drake has good intentions, making him slightly loveable, but unfortunately he rarely sees his plans through, preferring to always take the easy way out, which was the root of most of my frustrations with his character.
I have to say though, the audiobook production of Drake is fabulous, with narrator Mark Meadows nailing the voice and attitude of our protagonist. I mentioned the excellent dialogue, which is written the way it’s meant to be spoken, and that might explain why it comes across so perfectly in the audio format. Meadows’ accents and inflections are great, so that all the characters come to life and become very real to me when he speaks their lines.
All in all, I had a good time with this book, and given the promising way it ended, I might just be willing to give Don Drake another shot in a sequel. I love edgy and gritty urban fantasy, and with so much potential in Drake, it would be a damn shame to let my feelings for the character get in the way of enjoying more, especially after this outrageously entertaining first installment.