It's a really fun book, guys. And I'm not just saying that because he's my friend and I'm supposed to be nice. I absolutely enjoyed this story.
Here's what it's about:
So there's this mage named Veranix Calbert (I know, crazy name, but don't let that dissuade you!) who spends his nights trying to bring down the crime boss who killed his father.
One of his nightly excursions pays off, and he comes across the time and place for a "delivery" that he assumes is a drug shipment. Only when he goes to bust the delivery, he finds that the goods are a lot more magical in nature. Now he has an enchanted rope and cloak to help him in his quest. Awesome!
Of course he also has one ticked off crime boss on his trail who is making life difficult for the local street gangs as he assumes they can lead him to this "thorn in his side." And that's a bit of a problem, because Veranix's cousin, a gang captain, is half tempted to give him up just to stop the man from harassing his crew.
Tension! Dun dun dun.
As it turns out, the amount of tension in this book is just right. I was hooked from the first scene, and at the end of every chapter I was always eager to start the next one. Some days that's all I'm really looking for in a book.
But this one has a lot more to offer. It's got adventure! excitement! heroic deeds! The magic is interesting and worked smoothly within the plot. The fight scenes were choreographed well. I'm a big fan of action stories, and this one delivered.
Marshall does a really good job of writing atypical good guys. A street gang isn't usually the place you'd look for goodness and heroism, but his characters are convincing in their roles as heroes and are even a little bit charming. As for the main character, Veranix is fun to follow. He's got his heart in the right place, and he's easy to root for. I grinned with every victory and cringed at every defeat. (And there were plenty of each.)
One of the ways the book really shines is in its world-building. If you're ever curious about ways to come up with a believable world, check out Marshall's blog. He has a lot to say about getting the details right, and it's clear from this book that he knows what he's talking about. There were some excellent tidbits sprinkled throughout the book that really added flavor to the story. While the entire book takes place between two sectors of a single city, you come away from the story feeling like you have a sense of the whole world.
My one complaint was the lack of female characters. There is one female lead who is a great character and whose friendship with Veranix is a highlight of the book. Unfortunately, all other male characters besides Veranix treat her as a sex object. And this isn't an isolated occurrence: most of the women mentioned in the book are either prostitutes or are assessed based on their desirability.
Given Veranix's behavior and attitudes, I think Marshall may have been trying to create a forward-thinking main character living in a sexist place and time. However, despite the decency of the hero, I still found the sexism to be a negative mark on an otherwise very positive and fun story.
Nevertheless, it wasn't so rampant that it spoiled the book for me. I had a wonderful time reading it, and I think anyone who enjoys a good adventure story would say the same.