Review: Demon Moon

Demon Moon audiobook cover. A handsome wizard in a trench coat faces outward with his arms wide and palms splayed to reveal fiery sparks within each hand. Demon Moon, Prof. Croft Book 1, by Brad Magnarella.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 8 hrs 19 mins.

Demon Moon by Brad Magnarella is the first book in a slick urban fantasy series featuring a pretty ordinary hero with some decidedly extraordinary problems.

Audible Summary: "Everson Croft here, professor of mythology and behind-the-scenes wizard. Show me an amateur conjurer, and I'll stop him before he gets himself killed. That's the idea, anyway. But New York City isn't what it used to be, and I don't mean the recent crash. Amateur casters are calling up creatures they shouldn't be able to. And there's been a murder at the city's most hallowed cathedral, a message in blood on the victim's back the NYPD wants me to interpret, like yesterday.

Something tells me I'm in over my head. And that's not just Chinatown's newest mob boss, a scary-powerful vampire, or my possessed cat talking. No matter how much magic I hurl, worse keeps chasing bad, and I'm amassing enemies like they're aluminum cans.

Did I mention the end of the world might be nigh? Damn. Maybe I'm the amateur here.

©2016 Brad Magnarella (P)2016 Brad Magnarella."

It's almost impossible to listen to a story about a contemporary, American, crime-fighting, wizard at the mercy of a shadowy magical organisation without thinking of The Dresden Files, Alex Verus, or even Nazri Noor's Darkling Mage series. Whilst this book doesn't quite have the thrill of The Dresden files, it does compare favourably by avoiding the grinding sexism of Butcher's series. I also found it easier to settle into than Noor's first book, though it lacks the wise-cracking humour.

Set in a near-future version of New York, Professor Everson Croft isn't quite all that stands between good and evil in the city, but he is often the only one who actually turns up to do anything about it. So far that's gotten him arrested for murder and made him perennially late for class, which tends to cause problems when you're the teacher. His main side-kicks in this series are an oversized talking cat and a homicide detective, neither of whom seem to fully trust him but both understand that he's their best hope of staying alive.

There were only really two moments that threw me out of the story. Once, when Croft was racing home, he claimed that there was no point trying to steal a car as he "wouldn't know how to drive it anyway" because he'd always lived in a big city so he hadn't learnt. That wasn't a surprise, but it did make it rather unexpected when he successfully drove Detective Vega's car across the city, through various intersections, and "held [his] velocity steady at forty" as he approached a checkpoint. This wasn't really a big deal, but could have been avoided by simply stating earlier that he didn't know how to hot-wire a car, and omitting any reference to his driving ability. I may have missed the moment where he cast an assistive spell, but if he had that magic in his arsenal then it raises the question of why he didn't use it when he was in a race against time (and two burly police officers) before.

My biggest gripe with this audiobook was with the author's unfortunate use of the word "spazoid". As poor choices go it's up there with the time I bought white, hipster, flares for the school disco like some sort of miniature John Travolta; embarrassing and enough to make you wince just thinking about it. Thankfully that was in the 90s when the evidence of one's transgressions was easier to destroy forever, but now it's 2019 and we live in a world that's expected to be far more self-aware. There are so many other words that would have conveyed the same meaning to that moment in the book without using one that denigrates disabled people. I don't know how acceptable the word is in American culture, but here it's pretty rightly frowned upon to use any derivative of the historically-laden, discriminatory term 'spastic' without very good reason. It felt a bit out of character, too, as I think that a Professor of Ancient Mythology who has studied cultural nuances throughout the ages, (and understands the additional intricacies of supernatural identity politics), would be a little more aware of semantics. Especially when describing a monstrous, demonic creature that can do little more than thrash and shriek, which could be interpreted very badly by anyone who has been on the wrong end of that particular slur. I know that many people are in two minds about whether or not literature should be 'PC', but if we can hold anyone to account for their word choices then it should be writers. I do think the word's usage was merely thoughtless rather than malicious in its intent, as there's nothing about the author's other attitudes in this audiobook to suggest otherwise, but ignorance isn't a particularly robust excuse.

The narrator, James Patrick Cronin, does a great job and really helps bring Croft's world to life. His female voices are rather dull compared with the male ones, but it's almost always tricky for narrators to perform the opposite-sex parts with as much charisma. He held my attention throughout and was easy to listen to, which helped me fly through this audiobook in a couple of days.

Demon Moon isn't an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but it's an entertaining mystery full of twists, turns, and the occasional winged-beastie. As the first audiobook in a new series Demon Moon does a good job of setting the scene for Croft's later escapades, and though it functions as a standalone novel, this story ends with a clear run at the next instalment. I'm looking forward to the adventures that Croft, Tabitha, and Vega get up to next, and have already put book two on my wishlist.

I'd recommend it to anyone who likes urban fantasy and is looking for an easy, enjoyable new series along the lines of their favourites.

The Professor Croft books in order (so far) are:

Book 0.5 - Book of Souls (novella).
Book 0.75 - Siren Call (novella, not available on Audible).
Book 1 - Demon Moon.
Book 2 - Blood Deal.
Book 3 - Purge City.
Book 4 - Death Mage.
Book 5 - Bad Luck.
Book 6 - Power Game.
Book 7 - Druid Bond.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

(Click here to buy this book, listen to a sample, or add it to your wishlist!)

No comments