Tombstone Blues by Chadwick Ginther – Book Review

Catching up on book reviews here.

After beating back the might of Surtur, Ted Callan is getting used to his immortal powers. The man who once would stop at nothing to rid himself of his tattoos and their power might even be said to be enjoying his new-found abilities.

However, not everyone is happy the glory of Valhalla has risen from the ashes of Ragnarok. With every crash of Mjolnir, Thor, former god of thunder, rages in Niflheim, the land of the dead.

Now that Ted’s woken the dead, there’s going to be hell to pay.

Even better than book one. If you thought Ted’s sort-of romance with Tilda was going to go smoothly, you’re worse than wrong. I love that the relationship between the two of them seems so real. I mean, he’s a middle aged guy, hooking up with a teenager. And on the one hand, she has a lot of wisdom she’s gained from what happened in book one, but on the other hand, she’s still a teenager, and she ultimately acts like it. She’s not emotionally ready for the things she’s dealing with, and helping her cope is a task greater than all the power Ted’s been given.

The handling of the mythology too is one of the things that makes this series stand out. It picks up where ragnarok left off, rather than being a retelling. That gives the author a lot of freedom to introduce plot twists, and yet, Ginther seems to be trying to be as true to the source material as he can, playing on the emotions of the mythical characters in logical ways, like Loki’s anger and sadness over the Asgardians murdering his children. Many interpretations put characters like Thor up as a heroic nice guy, but Ginther makes him a villain, and when he reminds the reader of some of the awful things Thor did, according to the stories, he’s really not stretching at all, from the perspective of modern sensibilities.

Loki has significantly less presence in book two – in fact, you spend most of book two wondering every once in a while where the hell is Loki in all this? But the raven’s, Huginn and Muninn actually do a good job of filling in for comic relief, which is important in a story where the emotions run so dark. The scope of the book is a little more epic, since rather than trashing a little town in Manitoba, Ginther’ has the minions of Hel trashing Winnipeg itself.

I’m looking forward to book three in the series. We’ve made a request that the Winnipeg Human Rights Museum* be destroyed, and I do hope he gets to that at some point.

*Before you think I’m a horrible person for taking joy in the destruction of a human rights museum, this building went horrifically over budget, which all came out of taxpayers pockets. On top of that is the controversy that it’s not actually a *human* rights museum, it is a remember-what-happened-to-the-jews-in-wwii museum, and when people asked why the place wasn’t going to be exhibiting anything to do with human rights violations towards black people or first nations people, they just said that’s not what this museum is for.

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Book Review: Thunder Road by Chadwick Ginther

I put down Mockingjay to read this one.

I don’t normally read urban fantasy at all, but it’s a first novel written by a local author and acquaintance. You know that fear, when you go to read a book by someone you know, that it might not be very good, and you sometimes just hope you’ll be able to find a few nice things to say so you don’t make them feel bad? Well I can’t say I’m surprised, but I certainly didn’t have to search for nice things to say about this one. It didn’t read like a first novel. I’ve read a number of debut novels by authors I really liked, and there’s often a precocious, unpolished quality to it. Not so here.

The novel follows Ted, who’s inadvertently got dragged into the plots of mythical figures from Norse tradition. I probably don’t know enough about Norse mythology to truly appreciate the amount of research the author’s done – the worldbuilding is rich with it. But at the same time, it’s modernized. The characters of myth have adapted to the modern world.

I think Chad knew that every urban fantasy with a male protagonist that came after the Dresden Files is going to be compared to the Dresden Files, so the main character, Ted, is definitely not a Dresden clone. He’s rougher around the edges, and not the gentleman that Dresden is. He’s a jock, and believably so. It’s not an archetype I’m very familiar with – it tends not to be one you see often in genre fiction. I figure it’s because it doesn’t tend to be one that readers often identify with – the people who would identify with it, don’t really read genre fiction. But I think it was made real enough to make up for it.

Loki was a great character. I think the author has done his job in making a character who’s entertaining comic relief, sympathetic at times, but you’re never really sure if he’s a “good guy” or not. Which is exactly what a trickster god should be, I think.

I think the ravens were underrated as well, though. They’re a voice that fills in gaps of information for the main character, and they might have been annoying as deliverers of exposition, but their sardonic tone made them entertaining enough to overlook that, and I enjoyed them.

Right, there was a romance, wasn’t there. Yeah, I’m not a romance person, so it was good that the romance wasn’t the entire point of the story, but it was also nice to see a character with a battered heart get some romance. Ted’s not such a young guy, and he’s got an ex that he still has feelings for, which is totally understandable. Tilda, the new girl, has her own hangups. She’s wound up in her  fate, and feels trapped by it. Fate is a major theme of the story, and I get the sense that the series is going to be exploring whether fate is written in stone or sand. Tilda certainly seems to think it’s written in stone, but Ted doesn’t. I’m hoping this doesn’t end up being too Damsel-in-distressy in later books. I’d like to see Ted supporting her while she breaks free of her fate, rather than rescuing her from it.

The only other female characters so far are her mother and grandmother, and her mother is a pale background character. The grandmother was an old battle-axe character type, though – she was cool, but it would have been nice to see more of the middle aged mother character come out – it’s one you don’t see much of in genre fiction. Maybe there will be more in book two, I’m looking forward to it.

Chad Ginther’s Thunder Road Launch

Last night was Chadwick Ginther’s book launch for his debut novel, Thunder Road. His post on it is here, complete with pictures: http://chadwickginther.com/2012/09/07/thunder-road-winnipeg-launch-roundup-part-the-first/

Now, I know people who have had book launches, where there’s a couple people show up. I know one who did a book launch, and nobody showed up. When Chadwick took the stage, a packed crowd of people cheered him like a rock star. It was awesome to behold.

And I’m not a bit jealous. You know why? Because seeing a fellow Winnipegger succeed means that I could do that too. More than anything, it was inspiring to see such support for a local author. From the social networking I’d seen him up to, I figured it was going to be a success, but it was more than I think he dreamed. It looked like there must have been two or three hundred people packed into the store. It’s nice to see that the effort put into networking has paid off for him – I know those people with small book launch turnouts didn’t really do much research into the marketing side of things. (ie; it helps, if you’re sending out emails about your book launch, to, you know, tell people what your book is about.)

Anyway, here’s me, hugely excited and inspired and motivated by another’s success, and I should get back to revisions!

P.S.: Review to come.