[ Book Review ] Urban Fantasy, Espionage Edition

The Man with the Golden Torc by Simon R. Green

(Secret Histories, Book 1)

His name is Drood. Edwin Drood.

Cover name: Shaman Bond.

His whole life, he’s been taught that his only reason for being is to protect mankind and maintain order in a world saturated with magic, super-science, aliens, and monsters. Around his throat, Eddie wears a magic torc–it’s retractable armor and an invisibility cloak all rolled into one. But trouble is stirring–there are evil powers that want to take the Drood family down, and a traitor in the family. So when Eddie is summoned home from the field for the first time in ten years, he knows it can’t be good.

My big mistake with this book is that I took the cover art at its visual word and approached the novel as yet another Urban Fantasy. Never having been a James Bond watcher, I completely missed Green’s play on the 1974 movie title, The Man with the Golden Gun, and so was unprepared for the novel’s tongue-in-cheek style. This book does not have the angst and grittiness that I am so used to seeing in my Urban Fantasy–instead I proclaim the advent of a new genre: Urban Opera, little brother to Space Opera.  If you’re a fan of shows like Reaper, Sanctuary, Werehouse 13, Eureka,  or Torchwood, this is the book for you. Green’s urban fantasy adventure delivers a kind of Men In Black meets The Bourne Identity with a wisecracking cast of characters.

Shows? Movies? Yes. With its heavy helping of cheese, witty comebacks, and action violence that levels entire city blocks in the middle of London, this is a Hollywood action flick in writing form. As things begin to seriously hit the fan around page 100, the story hits its stride and races down the gauntlet of everyone-who-wants-to-kill-the-main-character and through scenes of fun, kick-butt action.

But two and a half canaries are lopped off the book for a shaky beginning, a show-off narrator with an adolescent swagger, and the very convenient ending. The characters were one-dimensional, and the overall world hard to swallow. Still, the rating canaries that are left loved the banter and humorous interchanges. As Edwin races against time trying to understand why he has been betrayed, he’s forced to hook up with his arch-enemies–tension and witty quips ensue. It’s great.

I would suggest The Man with the Golden Torc to readers who’ve enjoyed books like Blood Oath and I am Number Four. While Edwin’s brief run-in with a sex cult makes me a little wary of recommending this book to the younger YA crowd, I think this book will be best enjoyed by action-spy-fantasy minded teens who like superhero flicks.

No question–I would go see the movie. But I’m not sure if I’ll be picking up the next book.


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2 thoughts on “[ Book Review ] Urban Fantasy, Espionage Edition

    • Maybe. In the most tentative way. While the dialogue was amusing, it was also very TV-style and uniform–all characters spoke the exact same way, and I even caught a couple different characters using identical turns of phrases.

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