Title: The Seer
Author: Jordan Reece
Pages/Word Count: 249 Pages
At a Glance: Jess Faraday, Tamara Allen, KJ Charles, Jordan L. Hawk–author Jordan Reece’s The Seer notches right in there with some of my fave historical/historical fantasy authors.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Detective Laeric Scoth is good at his job, but he’s also an ass. And Jesco Currane has just gotten stuck with him on the most frustrating case of their careers.
When the body of a courier is discovered in an alley, Jesco is called in to assist with his seer skills. All he has to do is touch the clothing of the deceased to identify the killer. But the victim has been stripped naked, and the only evidence at the scene is a timepiece. The people he sees within it have nothing to do with the murder, yet they must be related to the case.
Chasing down leads with Scoth lets Jesco see another side of the surly, if handsome, detective. But as their feelings for each other grow heated, so does the investigation. Someone doesn’t want them to know who killed the courier . . . and plans to add them to the death toll if they don’t stop pursuing it.
Review: “I know them as I know myself, and I want to bring them justice just as much as you do. If not more, because for a short time, I am them.”
Jesco Currane is a seer who’s on retainer with the Cantercaster Police Department. Jesco is othelin and it’s his ability to “see” that makes him an integral asset at the scene of a murder investigation where the killer leaves no clues—he need only touch the clothing or a personal item of the deceased and he becomes them, even at the moment of their death, and it’s this ability to become the victims, figuratively speaking, that allows the police to catch their killers. An othelin’s talent is so accurate, in fact, that their testimony is not only admissible in court but their word is nearly law when it comes to fingering a perpetrator, which makes Jesco invaluable to the justice system. This ability, however, doesn’t come without a hefty price. It also makes him a freak, an outcast; according to the Church he is demon spawn, evil incarnate, and there are many who fear him. And, for days after “seeing,” Jesco is left little more than an invalid, in the worst cases unable to move or take care of his most basic of needs, eventually able to be strapped into a wheelchair before he can graduate to walking with a cane and then recover his full range of motion.
When it became evident at the age of eight that Jesco was “other,” his family took to beating him, attempted to cast the demons from him through vigilant prayer, then eventually abandoned him to the Cantercaster Asylum where he’s lived ever since they realized the demons had taken hold of Jesco’s soul and weren’t about to let him go. Let me just say right here that what we learn about Jesco in relationship to this backstory is every single thing that makes him a brilliant and embraceable character. Where all too often we might see an author manipulate these events and their aftereffects, using them as an opportunity to manufacture drama and make Jesco a pitiable character weakened by his own misery or self-loathing, Jordan Reece does the opposite. Reece gives Jesco a home and a family filled with children who are othelin like him—and Jesco loves that home and the family he’s been gifted there (although, after his sister married a man of science, he did regain at least one member of his biological family). The author also gave Jesco a purpose driven life. While he is hated and feared and is even looked upon unfavorably by some of the members of the very police force he works for, Jesco’s life is also enriched by that which also proves to be a great burden at times. Jesco brings justice to the deceased and closure to those who may mourn them, and it’s this ability that drives him to put himself and his body through such trauma. He’s heroic in no uncertain terms, but he’s also not infallible.
It’s this infallibility that’s at the heart of this mystery novel. When Jesco is called to the scene of a murder in one of the most desolate (in a post-apocalyptic way) areas of the city to try and identify a killer, what he discovers upon his arrival is that the victim has been left in an alley, naked. It would appear to be the perfect crime—if a seer has nothing upon which to use his second sight, the killer gets away, quite literally, with murder. It’s in this place dubbed Poisonous Lane that we first meet Detective Laeric Scoth.
Scoth isn’t an easy man to like, at least not at first. He and Jesco are oil and water, both prickly with each other to the point they’re consistently poised on the defensive, both expecting the other to be offensive in one way or another, when what really grates is the fact they’re both a little arrogant. Jesco has pulled the rug out from under Scoth at least once when the detective thought he’d had a murder solved, but then Jesco came along and with one touch proved Scoth wrong. Their antagonism toward each other proves to be more fruitful than the answers they’re able to glean from Hasten Jibb’s denuded corpse, though, and their investigation begins in earnest when a watch is discovered near the young man’s body.
The investigation of this crime is nothing less than superb, the action at times intense, the danger significant as more clues are revealed, and the man-child Jibb is revealed to have been, along with the fact that no one mourns his loss, makes him a touching and sympathetic character even in death, which was an unexpected bonus. The evidence piles up and leads to so many suspects which leads to twists and turns and, in the end, a motive for murder that is not only entirely plausible but is so well detailed that it almost overshadows every other aspect of this story. Jordan Reece gets the historical feel of the novel down well, but it’s the steampunk that makes The Seer fun (an example being that because Jesco is unable to read, for reasons that have nothing to do with illiteracy, we get to witness the first audiobook).
Dovetailing with all of this is the third person omniscient narrative—a mode that’s not easy to write and not be accused of head-hopping, but in this case is finessed well. The dialogue is outstanding, serving to move the story forward and completing the exposition of not only the characters but the plot as well. The only niggle I can say I had was in some of the instances of when Jesco could and could not touch something, specifically Laeric, without having a reaction—there were times when his seer talent was a distraction for me as I tried to suss out what was and wasn’t going to put him in thrall, but in relationship to my overall love of this book, that was minor. I also never really warmed up to Scoth much, but his surliness did fit both his job (think hardboiled detective) and the contrast in personality to Jesco’s gentler nature.
In the spirit of my love for steampunk and a good murder mystery, I suppose I should insert the disclaimer here that The Seer is not a romance novel. While Jesco and Laeric do become romantic partners, and the affection they feel for each other is evident, the building of their relationship is secondary to the crime being investigated. And while I’d love to see a continuation to their story (we do get an interesting glimpse one-hundred-fifty years into the future through Sfinx, one of the othelin children, which shows us who Jesco eventually became), this book is a complete standalone novel. That doesn’t mean, though, that there couldn’t be so much more story to tell.
You can buy The Seer here: