Title: Black Dog Blues (The Kai Gracen Series: Book One)
Author: Rhys Ford
Narrator: Greg Tremblay
Publisher: DSP Publications
Run Time: 8 hours and 50 minutes
At a Glance: The audio version of this novel was well done and hooked me immediately, drenching me in the mood and pathos of the story.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Ever since being part of the pot in a high-stakes poker game, elfin outcast Kai Gracen figures he used up his good karma when Dempsey, a human Stalker, won the hand and took him in.
Following the violent merge of Earth and Underhill, the human and elfin races are left with a messy, monster-ridden world, and Stalkers are the only cavalry willing to ride to someone’s rescue when something shadowy appears.
It’s a hard life but one Kai likes—filled with bounty, a few friends, and most importantly, no other elfin around to remind him of his past. And killing monsters is easy. Especially since he’s one himself.
But when a sidhe lord named Ryder arrives in San Diego, Kai is conscripted to do a job for Ryder’s fledgling Dawn Court. It’s supposed to be a simple run up the coast during dragon-mating season to retrieve a pregnant human woman seeking sanctuary. Easy, quick, and best of all, profitable. But Kai ends up in the middle of a deadly bloodline feud he has no hope of escaping.
No one ever got rich being a Stalker. But then few of them got old either and it doesn’t look like Kai will be the exception.
Review: If you are approaching Rhys Ford’s novel Black Dog Blues looking for a traditional romance or even a sci-fi classic, think again. This is no typical anything. Instead, author Rhys Ford creates a world that has both human and fey, magic and monsters and everything in between, and places them inside a story that is so rich in character and long in plot that you are nearly breathless by novel’s end.
The main story centers on the Sidhe and Unsidhe—those who are elfin and those who are…something evil altogether. They coexist next to humans and multiple creatures of every species, from dragons to the elfin shadow dogs and many other mutant forms of different species. In this new society there are stalkers—those who go hunting our worst nightmares and deliver their hides for payment. One such stalker is the mysterious Kai Gracen, a young elfin who has been humanized to the point of virtually becoming a loner, neither cohabitating with his own kind nor humans. Kai was raised by Dempsey, a stalker who won him in a poker game. At that time, Kai was barely recognizable as any kind of boy, more animal than human or elfin. As this story evolves we come to find out about his past and are mystified as to how Kai not only managed to survive the horrors of his former life but rise above them to be the compassionate man he has become.
He is commissioned to retrieve a pregnant human from the chief city of the sidhe (the good elves, in essence). Accompanying him will be the prince of that dynasty who has come to Kai’s neck of the words to establish a “dawn court” for the disenfranchised sidhe who live in the city. This mission will challenge Kai in many ways and unlock the mystery of who he is and just what stalks his own nightmares. He will be confronted by the horrors of his past and feel himself slipping into love with a man who wields much power for good. The question remains, though, will Kai survive this mission intact, and can he really love another person—especially when he is unsure that love can ever really be his at all.
The brief and admittedly shallow synopsis above touches only the bones of this story. There is one mystery after another in this novel, and Rhys Ford unravels each one, even while intertwining them into the most intricate of plots I have ever read. However, by virtue of her excellent storytelling abilities, I was never lost in the weaving of this tale. Kai is a conundrum whose story just begins in this novel. While he is on every page, his past is slowly and carefully alluded to over and over, with the startling revelation of who and what he is being revealed finally near the end of the novel. Even then, you know there is a wealth of background information just waiting to surface, which becomes the springboard for future novels about this brave young elf.
Speaking of elves—these are not your waif-like forest creatures. No, this author not only makes her elf-kind cunning and smart but strong and determined as well. I was so impressed by the way that the supernatural creatures in this story were three-dimensional and fully fleshed out. The result was that I cared for them, was drawn into their story and captured by their troubles. The story itself was captivating, with so many twists and turns that I found myself trying to solve the many mysteries and was delightfully surprised when the answers turned out to be ones that I would have never thought of in a million years.
Greg Tremblay did a great job with Kai’s sarcasm—that weary ennui that the character wears like a mantle. The variation of voices was quite good—including Dempsey’s lilting brogue that was so reminiscent of those turn of the century New York City Irish cops. Every once in a while Mr. Tremblay would allow the brogue to bleed into the beginning of another character or the narration but overall, the delineation between voices and their cadence was spot on. The narrator’s gravelly tones really added to the gritty feel of the novel as well. Quite frankly, his pitch, speed of delivery and variation in voices enriched the overall mood of the story. Black Dog Blues is a dark tale and the narrator’s approach added to the mysterious feel to this story.
All in all, Black Dog Blues was a compelling mystery with a touch of romance and excellent supernatural shadings thrown in. The audio version of this novel was well done and hooked me immediately, drenching me in the mood and pathos of the story. I enjoyed this narrator immensely and would highly recommend this audiobook.
You can buy Black Dog Blues here: