Hallow Point by Ari Marmell

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Hallow Point by Ari Marmell

Category: Fantasy
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: Mick is a typical PI in 1930s Chicago, apart from the fact that he is an elf and packs a wand, rather than a gun. Join him in this pacy, but slightly mishmashed outing.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 336 Date: August 2015
Publisher: Titan Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781781168257

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The first person perspective is not an easy one to pull off in fiction. Despite this, it has been a favourite of the gumshoe genre as getting behind the eyes of a grizzled Private Investigator as they solve crimes and fall for femme fatales is incredibly satisfying if done well. All this is achievable, but what if you throw urban fantasy in too? Now you have a book that has to explain crime in the first person, but also magic and in the case of Hallow Point, 1930s Chicago slang.

Mick Oberon is your typical 30s Chicago PI, investigating those crime that fall between the cracks. It just so happens that Mick is also a centuries old elf who can use magic to solve crimes and is usually hired to investigate the mystical, rather than the mundane. When an ancient spear turns up in the city it appears that every magical being in all the realms wants to get their hands/claws on it. Mick wants to be left alone, but somehow he always seems to be dragged into the action.

When done well urban fantasy is an excellent genre; taking the normal and adding a magical twist. Jim Butcher is a master in his Harry Dresden novels and Ari Marmell is mining a similar seam with Mick Oberon – another magic user who solves crimes. The unique selling point of this series is that it is set in a version of the real 1930s Chicago, well known gangsters and all. This is a ripe period of criminality, backhanders and murder; Marmell should easily be able to set some dark fantasy here and put a twist on real history, but he fails.

There are some fundamental problems with Hallow Point that detract from what is a solid PI book. As a straight forward take on the crime noir genre it has some things going for it. The setting is excellent and the sprinkling of real world gangsters into the mix is a great idea. It is just that the majority of the rest of the book loses its way.

For one, this book falls into an increasingly common trap in urban fantasy of having too much action. Mick runs from action sequence to action sequence and the down time is not long enough for the plot to thicken to satisfaction. Rather than concentrating on the few characters that are already present early in the book, Marmell keeps adding more antagonists to the mix. By the end it feels like everyone is against Mick and he can't stop to think, but neither can the reader.

There is also a fundamental issue with the use of first person in the book. Told from the point of view of Mick, we not only have to read his slang, but also magical terms. Sometimes you get a sentence that contains slang, an abbreviated word and then a magical term. I was constantly drawn out of the book in confusion as I tried to work out what was happening. Using older terms is evocative, but using gotta or outta is just plain annoying.

Hallow Point reads like nearly urban fantasy, an idea that nearly works and is nearly executed well. The character of Mick Oberon has obvious hidden depths that will be revealed in later books, but if they are as confused as this outing, it may not be worth the effort. Marmell could improve the series by just relaxing the pace a little and reducing the overuse of slang throughout.

There is more urban fantasy available out there now than you can wave a magic wand at, try the Libriomancer by Jim C Hines series or the classic Dresden files, such as Changes: The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Buy Hallow Point by Ari Marmell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Hallow Point by Ari Marmell at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Hallow Point by Ari Marmell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Hallow Point by Ari Marmell at Amazon.com.


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