Ramping up the power levels from the first page but not throttling back on the lasting consequences, Leigh fuses the intimacy of urban fantasy with the massive world changes of high fantasy to create a narrative that will appeal to both tastes.
This novel is the second in the Dreamcatchers series. Daniel is a Protector, a warrior returned from the dead to defend the world against supernatural threats. After the destruction of several Protectors’ bases around the world (and the cities around them) by an army of Nightmares, he and his allies have taken refuge in the hidden city of Caelum. However, when the body of a fallen comrade arrives with a message about the Four Horsemen, Daniel realises his adversaries plan might be even worse than he thought; and his girlfriend might be one of the harbingers of the Apocalypse.
With the cities having already been destroyed in the previous volume, this novel is very definitely at the world-spanning impact end of urban fantasy. However, Leigh also includes plenty of personal conflict and small-scale action, so there is substance alongside the set pieces and special effects.
While this global span might leave some readers wondering just how apocalyptic a book that isn’t the end of the series is going to get, it also avoids the implausibility that affects some urban fantasy: angels, demons, and even gods, wandering the world with fewer fireworks or lasting effect than a pack of D-list superheroes.
However, the thrilling story is occasionally let down by the prose. Although Leigh gets straight into the action rather than opening with a précis of the previous volume, Daniel does pepper both his internal and external dialogue with explanations and asides on previous events. This does enable a reader who has not read the previous volume to understand events; but also reminds the reader they are an observer not a participant, potentially weakening the immersion.
As Leigh’s world is (as with many urban fantasies) also high in bespoke terminology, the presence of these explanatory paragraphs also highlights that not all the terms are explained, leaving the reader potentially wondering whether they have missed something or feeling unconsciously annoyed with themselves that they have not got it from context.
The level of explanation falls and the evidence of context rises as the book continues, allowing what is an interesting variant on resurrected warriors and multiple supernatural races to shine.
Unfortunately – while avoiding the complexities of Latin declension is a sensible choice overall – Leigh has chosen to use Magus as the plural as well as singular noun for a type of magic user. As well as risking irritating those readers who enjoy language (a not insignificant group in the fantasy audience), it leads to situations where it is not immediately clear whether an individual or group is referenced; this can be determined almost as quickly from context, but that extra moment does break rhythm.
Daniel is a well-crafted protagonist for the genre. He is at times slightly melodramatic, especially when it comes to assigning responsibility for his girlfriend’s potential role as Horseperson of the Apocalypse; however, that fits the overall theme of immense threats and ancient conspiracies. And, when he isn’t dealing with city-scale obstacles, he displays a complex personality befitting the everyday travails of uncomfortable allies and a life in hiding.
The supporting cast are equally a mix of plausible character and dramatic edge, leading to a realistic portrayal of bickering over food, beds, and tactics combined with an equally realistic pulling together when it really matters.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I recommend it to readers seeking urban fantasy with immensely powerful beings actually having real effects.
I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.