In Faulkner’s series-launching urban fantasy debut, two men with untapped superpowers face off against a god with sinister intentions.
Bambi Laurence Riley, who goes by his middle name, can see the future. The first sign of his ability came three years ago during a heroin overdose. He saw snippets of upcoming events, including his father’s death and his own failed stints in rehab. Today, Laurence lives above a San Diego flower shop that his mother, Myriam, runs. He’s inherited her apparent powers of precognition as well as a supernatural ability to grow and heal plants. But although she’s mastered the former gift, Laurence only sees random glimpses of things to come. One involves a handsome man, whom Laurence soon encounters in real life. He’s Quentin Ichabod d’Arcy, a British earl who’s currently in the United States to evade his fame in London. The two have a mutual attraction—which Laurence’s stalker ex-boyfriend, Dan, unfortunately notices immediately. Laurence’s problems get worse when he forgoes his usual prayer for a blessing from the fertility god Cernunnos, and simply asks the Celtic deity for direct help and guidance in his life. Cernunnos responds by manifesting as an emerald-eyed human who insists that Laurence call him Jack. The newcomer’s persistent demands for sexual sustenance lead to him to force a kiss on Quentin, and the latter defends himself with apparent telekinesis. Quentin, like Laurence, can’t control his gift, but both try to hone their skills to combat Jack, who’s cooking up a scheme that could prove devastating.
Faulkner’s first series installment offers a commendable introduction to his characters. Laurence and Quentin are flawed but enthralling; the story alternates between the two characters’ points of view, but readers learn a little more about Laurence. His fight against addiction is realistically constant, and triggers such as alcohol sometimes cause stumbles. But his respect for his mother makes him sympathetic from the beginning. Myriam earns this respect as the novel’s best character—a woman who knows the future but wisely doesn’t reveal too much of it to her son. Readers may take longer to warm up to Quentin; he’s initially pretentious, with a palpable animosity toward American customs and vernacular. His background remains somewhat mysterious, but Faulkner makes clear that Quentin has never lived anywhere without a butler before. Stretches of the story concentrate on the two men and their prospective lovers, and they offer sound character development but minimal romance; Laurence’s attraction to the virginal Quentin doesn’t seem to be much more than physical. Along the way, Faulkner’s lustrous passages turn basic scenery into beautiful imagery: “The branches waved lazily in a light breeze and, in parting, revealed a hanging rope, from which was suspended what appeared to be a vast tire from some industrial vehicle.” The story also generates a fair amount of suspense after Jack’s nefarious plan begins to unfold and lives are threatened, and the ending aptly sets up a second book.
Striking prose and characters make this opening fantasy installment worthwhile.