[REVIEW] Night Child – Jes Battis

Jes Battis
Night Child (OSI, Book 1)
Penguin Ace (US: 27th May 2008)

The mystical is also believable in Jes Battis’s ace début novel.

An Occult Special Investigator for Vancouver’s Mystical Crime Lab, Tess Corday arrives at a crime scene where a vampire is dead. A note and photo on the vamp lead Tess to Mia Polanski, a thirteen-year-old in danger but whom also possesses great power, and Lucian Agrado, a necromancer who’s liaison to the vampire community. And the action heats up as the investigation deepens…

Vancouver is a welcome diversion from the seemingly endless stream of American cities in urban fantasy. Jes Battis gives a right good dose of Canadian flavour that makes the setting all the more enjoyable. (Even necromancers have to love the Canucks.) Tess may kick arse with her athame, but she also makes mistakes in life, which make her instantly relatable. Fellow investigator Derrick Spiegel may be gay, but he’s not the cliché type who discusses men, shoes and fashion with the straight heroine – in other words, Derrick is refreshingly real. Children in fiction commonly are precocious, and in that circumstance Mia is no different. But unlike others, Mia doesn’t grate on the nerves.

Then there’s Lucian…he’s rare, a character actually worth fancying. Many a time I’ve come across love interests whom readers are supposed to like, but I just don’t get the hype. Lucian, however…yes, he’s hot. But he also teaches Tess about the world at large, and herself. And he doesn’t overdo that alpha male thing, either.

It’s so nice to have an author willing to go the extra mile to make their world more realistic. Most writers will explain things simply as “magic”, and leave it at that. But Mr Jes goes further to explain the magic, and investigative procedures, which makes the book worthier. Even demons’ skulls aren’t ordinary. And how necromancers came about is fascinating. Then there’s the subtle, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it social commentary: We monitored the police lines twenty-four hours a day for any calls that might relate to paranormal activity. Kind of like how the USA’s Patriot Act monitors alleged terrorism – only less evil.

I actually did hug this after reading, and not just figuratively. I read a lot of books, both bestsellers and mid-lists, and Night Child stands above most of them. Definitely one of my favourite books of the year, and one of only a few in the urban fantasy genre. Get your hands on Night Child now, but you’ll have to wait until June 2009 for a sequel.

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