The latest installment of Keith RA DeCandido's fantasy world police procedural series picks up from the cliffhanger in the previous volume. Actually,The latest installment of Keith RA DeCandido's fantasy world police procedural series picks up from the cliffhanger in the previous volume. Actually, it picks up shortly before the cliffhanger, so it isn't necessary to have read that book (although it is a good idea). This book sees major change coming to the Castle Guard of Cliff's End, with some characters departing, and new characters joining.
As always, what helps make these books great is, while the investigative process is straight out of a regular procedural story, the fantasy elements are necessary components. This isn't just an 87th Precinct mystery with guns changed to swords, and half the characters being described as elves or dwarves. The magic is an integral element to the story.
This volume also gets more into the background of some of the characters, particularly half-human/half-elf Danthres. For me, this is the sort of thing that keeps me coming back to ongoing procedural series: come for the mystery, stay for the ongoing character development from book to book. DeCandido's writing style continues to be light, breezy and fun, but he communicates a great deal of depth and emotion as well. He has created a workplace community of interesting, likable characters and placed them in a setting that allows for some fantastical, fascinating twists on the standard police stories. Dragon Precinct continues to be one of my favorite series, and while I know we should eventually get at least one more novel in the series, I hope it continues for years to come. Especially if it continues to twist and surprise me like this volume did....more
Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Dragon Precinct series has become one of my favorites. Set in the city of Cliff’s End in the land of Flingaria, the three novelKeith R.A. DeCandido’s Dragon Precinct series has become one of my favorites. Set in the city of Cliff’s End in the land of Flingaria, the three novels to date, plus this short story collection, detail the cases of the Cliff’s End Castle Guard, particularly focusing on Lieutenants Torin ban Wyvald and Danthres Tresyllion. The Castle Guard police the city, and the lieutenants investigate the crimes perpetrated against its citizens. In short, these are police procedural mysteries, only set in a fantasy city populated by humans, dwarves, elves, and other creatures, and where a crime is just as likely to have been committed using a magic spell as with a gun or knife.
What makes this series special isn’t just the mash-up of genres--described by some as Dungeons and Dragnet--but the way DeCandido so thoroughly embraces the tropes of both genres. This isn’t just Homicide: Life on the Street or the 87th Precinct with the background scenery changed. Cliff’s End and Flingaria have a very real sense of geography and history, with great events of the past not only being referred to as background information, but also informing the stories set in the present day. When the crimes involve magic or fantastical elements--as they often do--they are written so that those fantastic elements are intrinsically woven into the core of the story. He doesn’t just substitute a mystic blast for a gun, but instead, magic goes to the very heart of the crime.
Having said that, while the setting is one of high fantasy, one of the things I love about the series is that the stories themselves are about the down-to-earth, petty concerns of day to day life, just like most crime. No matter how fantastic the trappings, almost everything boils down to relatable human emotions like greed or jealousy or passion. Where most fantasies might focus on a group of heroes involved in world-changing events, these stories show us what it’s like for the shopkeepers and innkeepers and other regular folk who stay behind to run things.
While the actual stories can get pretty dark, DeCandido’s writing is light and fast-paced, with a great deal of humor. He also does a great job of giving his characters distinct personalities through their dialogue and actions. These are characters who aren’t perfect, but who are compelling enough to want to keep revisiting again and again.
All things being equal, I think I prefer the novels to these short stories. All the character stuff I enjoy is here as well, but the novels allow for a longer, more involved investigation into the crime. However, these stories give the reader a real sense of the tone of the series. Some stories will benefit from having read the novels and understanding some of the events being referred to, but ultimately, they stand alone well enough here that this provides an effective introduction to the series. And it’s a series well worth introducing yourself to, because it’s a lot of fun....more