A motley squad of private police takes on smugglers, rival peacekeepers, and a mad witch in this tumultuous trilogy opener, first published overseas in 2012.
The rough-and-tumble melting-pot town of Port Fayt serves as the setting, and a wooden spoon that is actually a powerful magic wand is the MacGuffin. Two young orphans—half-goblin Joseph Grubb and Tabitha, a whiny, blue-haired adrenaline junkie—are the main point-of-view characters in a cast composed of humans, hulking trolls and ogres, tiny fairies, a feline shape-shifter, pale elves, imps, and various mixtures. From these elements Mason dishes up a standard-issue stew in which the wand, lost by a smuggler in a tavern brawl and found by Joseph, passes from hand to hand as the shy lad meets Tabitha amid frequent fights, flights, and chases. By the end, both have demonstrated individual talents (Joseph for clever deduction; Tabitha for creating general mayhem) and earned places in the crime-fighting, multispecies Demon’s Watch. Though the plot, setting, and characters are conventional types, pervasive themes of racial prejudice set the tale slightly apart: Joseph’s father was killed by goblin haters; the wand was created as part of a narrowly averted scheme to clean out Port Fayt’s “demonspawn” residents; and the conclusion hints at further such conflicts to come.
A polished if unambitious adventure with a whiff of thinly disguised topicality. (maps) (Fantasy. 10-13)