While I have been reading a lot in the fantasy and thriller genres, in urban fantasy I often find myself looking to a couple of reader buddies to be my guiding lights. One such series was the Charlie Madigan “Darkness” series; Bastard has always praised it for its action, world building, and the authorial ruthlessness with characters. So while Bastard reviews the third book The Hour of Dust and Ashes. I’ll be reviewing the first two books here.
The first book The Better Part of Darkness opens the world of Charlie Madigan amidst the city of Atlanta to the reader. It is a world wherein our world now shares its status with two other worlds “Elysia” & “Charybdon”. These other worlds were discovered nearly thirteen years ago, and since then Earth has been awakened to the presence of extra-terrestrial entities from both worlds. The story opens directly with Charlie who’s an officer with ITF, the new task force formed with humans and Elysian beings. There has been a recent increase in drug cases and this new drug called “Ash” is causing its users to lose their lives or get addicted to it forever. Charlie and her partner Hank, who also happens to be a Siren, are given this case as the victim has ties to Charlie. The story setup is typically within the realms of most UF procedurals and similarly we are shown a person whose family life isn’t the best, and she focuses on her job as well as her child as a means to living a normalized life.
The story then speeds on to its eventual climax with several twists inserted to keep the reader hooked all the way till the end. The author has done a very good job with characterization, the main character cast lead by Charlie is very varied and the reader is shown many sides to each one. But the biggest plus point in my view was the world which was showcased in the books. The author has inserted various mythical races and given the background of the two parallel worlds of Elysia and Charybdon, there’s a lot of potential for further exploration. I’ll be looking forward to see how the author shapes the world of Atlanta and how much of the other worlds she unveils.
The protagonist Charlie Madigan is a much complex character; on one hand her background as a mother is juxtaposed against the brutal reality of her job which has her dealing with danger at almost every turn. She nevertheless tries to keep both her personal and professional lives separate however events conspire to bring the twine together. These events will lead the readers to have a vein of sympathy for her; however I as a reader didn’t enjoy her viewpoint as much as I thought I would. The author has given Charlie a much deeper background than the rest considering she’s the protagonist and this is the first book. For me her character seemed a bit too hard and unforgiving. There’s visible trauma and pain in her life despite the person Charlie is, it just came across as a bit selfish, unforgiving and unfortunately hard-headed. This turned me off the book a bit however kudos to the author for writing such a brisk plot and keeping the story interesting through out. Even though I wasn't exactly enjoying Charlie’s viewpoint, I was riveted by the story and her struggles. There’s a mystery to this story which is explored via Charlie and the climax is a big one which does its part to satisfy the reader and demand that they remain for the sequel as well.
The story ends with a certain conclusion which can be partially guessed at, but here the authorial ruthlessness makes the first appearance and we are shown how this world operates. The ending while satisfying does make one curious to read the sequel as some threads are left for further explorations. The biggest negative in this book for me was the lack of explanations about the twin worlds of Elysia & Charybdon, the discovery is alluded to, but not specifically explained. The changes it brings to our world are again described very briefly; I would have liked to know more about the world as well. But all these points can countered by the fact that this is the first book and UF books rarely get to be WOT or ASOIAF sized ones. I’m hoping that the author does get around to explaining more about the worlds in the later books as I’ll be heartily looking to the next volume in the Charlie Madigan series.