Title: Black Dog Blues
Author: Rhys Ford
Publisher: DSP Publications
Pages/Word Count: 246 Pages
At a Glance: The imagery evoked by Kai’s narrative is so colourful and intense that I was easily transported into the story
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: This was actually a very hard review to write. I loved the book, I loved the world that Rhys Ford created, I loved (and hated) the characters that populated this story. My problem, though, is how I can adequately describe my thoughts and feelings about this incredible novel in any way that is remotely coherent. I can gush and fan girl for days, and did for the first dozen attempts at writing this review. But that is not what this amazing novel deserves and would not adequately reflect my awe, joy, respect and adoration of the words within this book and the mastery shown by the author as she twisted and strangled and smoothed them into submission to tell this tale.
I can tell you that Rhys Ford loves words, she loves the sound of them, and the taste of them and the color of them…it shows. She doesn’t just stick to Basic English either, oh no. Japanese, Korean, Gaelic, and Indian are just a few of the language origins that she melds into a representative language she calls Singlish. There is a rhythm to her words that carry the reader along, wrapping the reader in a pulsating ribbon of details that snag the imagination and the heart of the reader.
Rhys Ford has created an alternate reality world that is in what we know now as California. The elfin have erupted into earth and there are Seelie and Unseelie Courts scattered across the land. The resulting wars are over, but the jockeying for balance is ongoing, and the co-existence between the races is fraught with political posturing, overshadowed by the very real monsters brought into the light. Kai is a very necessary part of this world. He is a Stalker – a kind of bounty hunter – who is regulated by, and dependent upon, the SoCal Government. Kai is required to do a retrieval for a Seelie Lord, and the development of his character drives this novel, as we learn more about him on each page.
Ford plants Kai under our noses, mid hunt, and drags us into a battle with Kai as he is hunting the Black Dogs in the title. Kai is immediately clear about who and what he is, he knows his worth and abilities, and we become aware as the story progresses. The imagery evoked by Kai’s narrative is so colourful and intense that I was easily transported into the story. I watched each step he took, met each person he spoke to, and heard their voices in whichever language they spoke. The kaleidoscope of locations, which Kai traversed through the book, was vivid in their reality. I was in the under-city marketplace; a kind of Korea town cacophony of sights, smells and sounds. I blasted through the dragon infested wastelands with a “MadMax” ish chicken handed grip, breathe held and eyes bulging. I gazed upon the city of Elfhaime, a cluster of princess’s castles up high on the mountain in awe of the glitter and serenity. Kai’s loft on the edge of the city was restful while the dread I felt in the forest was literally chilling.
Really, Rhys Ford is an artist; her words are dredged off the palette and brushed on the pages, creating a world that overwhelmed my senses for days after I read the last words. I can’t think of an adjective she does not provide in the book. It is bloodthirsty and full of gore. It has moments of evil, terror, and lust. There is tenderness and affection and also greed and pride. Kai shines with his confidence and is steady in his humanity – ironically as he is elfin, after all – and makes a lasting impression on the reader.
What is so nice is that Rhys Ford closes this book with her typical cliffhanger, and leaves room for so much more from these characters we met. I cannot wait.
You can buy Black Dog Blues here: