Reading level: Adult
Genre: Urban fantasy
Mass market paperback: 352 pages
Release date: February 1, 2012
Series: Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty Hunter #1
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed by: Jenn
He lives to kill monsters. He keeps his city safe. And his silver hollow-points and back-from-the-dead abilities help him take out any kind of supernatural threat. But now an immortal evil has this bad-ass bounty hunter dead in its sights. . .
Ever since a monster murdered his family, Deacon Chalk hunts any creature that preys on the innocent. So when a pretty vampire girl "hires" him to eliminate a fellow slayer, Deacon goes to warn him—and barely escapes a vampire ambush. Now he's got a way-inexperienced newbie hunter to protect and everything from bloodsuckers to cursed immortals on his trail. There's also a malevolent force controlling the living and the undead, hellbent on turning Deacon's greatest loss into the one weapon that could destroy him. . .
James R. Tuck blew my mind with THAT THING AT THE ZOO, his introduction to Deacon so my expectations were high for BLOOD AND BULLETS, his first full-length novel. I think novellas are harder to craft than novels because of the length restrictions and I was quite excited to see what the author would give us with more pages at his disposal. Unfortunately, my reaction is mixed.
Don’t get me wrong, there are good qualities a-plenty in BLOOD AND BULLETS and, as a whole, I liked the novel. There were just a few things I didn’t love, and they ended up distracting me from the story, which is never good. My biggest issue was how repetitive certain things were. We get told over and over again that Deacon lost his family to vampires and he misses them terribly. The first couple times, it was poignant and I empathized but I eventually started going, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” as the novel progressed because I’d been told about his tragedy so many times. It was the same sort of thing about Deacon’s physical appearance. I don’t need to be told every seven chapters that there are women out there who love big, burly, bald men covered in tattoos and leather. It came up organically most of the time but it did detract a little from the story for me in the latter half of the novel. Let me be clear: these are minor notes about a strong novel but they're definitely things that pulled me out of the story every once in a while.
Now that I’ve gotten my mini-rant over with, I can focus on the positive parts of BLOOD AND BULLETS. First and foremost, Deacon is a cool character. He started hunting monsters after they killed his family and, along the way, he was gifted with powers, making him more than human and better able to fight the baddies. I love that he’s atypical in the sense that he’s big and tough and drives a muscle car -- he’s the kind of protagonist we don’t see much of in urban fantasy right now. And James R. Tuck has done a great job of giving him a voice that’s his own, which I enjoyed despite my quibbles about repetition. Plus, Deacon is surrounded by interesting people. I love that he uses his club to fund his war and that his dancers and staff are all folks who have been touched in some way by the darkness. His two main allies are Kat and Father Mulcahy, two people who couldn’t be more different but who give him the support he needs to get his job done. They both have pasts but it’s Father Mulcahy who I’m most intrigued by. A priest who used to do exorcisms and is happy to fire rifles at vampires? Part of me wishes he’d get his own series. I feel like he has lots of stories to tell. There's also a nifty shout-out to a few urban fantasy series with characters with similar careers, like Anita Blake, Cat and Bones, Blade, Sam and Dean from Supernatural, and Buffy. (There was one reference -- to a Blue Woman -- that I couldn't place. Anyone know what series he's talking about?)
All in all, BLOOD AND BULLETS is a promising debut. James R. Tuck has built a strong foundation for future work and I look forward to seeing what happens to Deacon and his friends next in BLOOD AND SILVER.