In this first Arcane Court novel, Fox (Contessa: Princess of Summer Fae, 2014, etc.) tells the story of a dragon who tries to protect his secret from humans as he battles demons terrorizing New Orleans with his supernatural crew.
Cimmerian is a centuries-old dragon who can “shift” into human form. After a brutal confrontation with the psychotic demon Nitha, he took an “extended vacation” from his job protecting New Orleans from the forces of evil, and he just wants to relax. Then Nitha returns to the city with a diabolical plan to take over the Arcane Court, the judicial system that employs Cim and keeps the peace between the demons and the rest of the supernatural realm. Cim must team up with his lifelong friend, the half-demon, half-dragon Wretch (short for “Wretched Spawn”), and Nitha’s demon sister, Laythe, to kill Nitha and her insane demon husband before they come to power. At the same time, Cim and his team investigate a disturbing series of murders that have been leaving victims dismembered in the streets. With a practiced hand, Fox balances fantasy folklore with modernity, as when the Arcane Court sends kill orders via email, and she’s also a master of suspense. However, she has trouble balancing the present-day action and the characters’ past histories, resulting in an intricate plot that confuses more than it entertains. She also relies on stale, outdated gender stereotypes in her descriptions of female characters: coroner Angie’s “ample curves [fill] out her lab coat,” for example, and during Mardi Gras, “females approached [Cim] and offered all kinds of sexual favors.” Such moments are unnecessary to further the exciting story, which employs a charming cast of secondary characters, such as bartender Grace, who can shift into a jaguar, and New Orleans’ alpha werewolf, Adam. That said, the manuscript’s many punctuation errors (“ ‘Demons don’t wear panties.’ We said simultaneously”) make it seem amateurish at times.
Fans of fantasy and the paranormal will often enjoy this series debut despite its reliance on clichés.