The Unorthodox Chronicles #1

Dead Man’s Hand by James J. Butcher

Publication Date: October 11, 2022

Summary from NetGalley:

On the streets of Boston, the world is divided into the ordinary Usuals, and the paranormal Unorthodox. And in the Department of Unorthodox Affairs, the Auditors are the magical elite, government-sanctioned witches with spells at their command and all the power and prestige that comes with it. Grimshaw Griswald Grimsby is…not one of those witches.
 
After flunking out of the Auditor training program and being dismissed as “not Department material,” Grimsby tried to resign himself to life as a mediocre witch. But he can’t help hoping he’ll somehow, someway, get another chance to prove his skill. That opportunity comes with a price when his former mentor, aka the most dangerous witch alive, is murdered down the street from where he works, and Grimsby is the Auditors’ number one suspect.
 
Proving his innocence will require more than a little legwork, and after forming a strange alliance with the retired legend known as the Huntsman and a mysterious being from Elsewhere, Grimsby is abruptly thrown into a life of adventure, whether he wants it or not. Now all he has to do is find the real killer, avoid the Auditors on his trail, and most importantly, stay alive.

ARC provided by Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley for an honest review.

Confession:

Even though this started off a bit shaky I ended up really enjoying the story and the characters. It reminded me a lot of an old eighties buddy cop movie with a hardened cop who has seen it all and the rookie who is in way over his head. But this one of course has magic.

The story is mostly told through Grimshaw Griswold Grimsby, yep that is quite the name and it does say it all. He is young, nineteen I think, and down on his luck, working a shitty job and not having a great day when he is suddenly on the run. Grimsby doesn’t see himself as someone who can save himself, let alone others, but he tries really hard and he has a heart of gold. I really liked that he was able to befriend one of the creatures that he encounters and appears to understand some of the others as well, even when others dismiss them as stupid and unimportant. I would have liked a bit more back story on him though. We know his mom was killed in a fire when he was young and he was severely burned in that same fire, but there were some hints that the fire was not accidental. I would also like to know more about how his burn scars interfere with his magic. His lame jokes could use a bt of work also, but then I remember how young he is and how lame everyone is at that age, and I will give him room to grow into his humor.

Mayflower, also known as the Huntsman, has a haunted past that I would also like more information about. I would also like to know more about his job and how he got it. But other than that, he is your typical tired cop/detective that has probably seen it all and then some. But he does take Grimsby under his wing, grudgingly, and begins to appreciate that Grimsby may be useful and a good cop/Auditor. He doesn’t appear to have any magical ability himself either, so I am kind of interested in knowing how he ends up with the auditors.

The story is well done, and except for a few hiccups and a shaky start will keep you interested and rooting for the good guys. There are also some nice twists of who commited the murder that were unexpected. The world building was good as well, I really liked the magical system and that magic is a known entity in this world, but there so far only appear to be witches who can perform magic. (Both the men and the women are called witches) Although there are demons and other creatures that come from the Elsewhere some of them friendly and others kind of terrifying. I really enjoyed the parts about the Elsewhere and hope that we get to see more about that in future books.

I think this was a pretty solid start to a new urban fantasy. There is lots of room for growth both of the characters and of the world. I look forward to reading the next and hopefully many more books in this series.

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