Fantasy Book Review: Imperative

This is the first in a series of books about a crime-solving wizard named Quinn Larson. The good thing about this book is that Quinn Larson is a lot like Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher’s famous urban fantasy series. The bad thing about this book is that at times it’s too much like the Dresden files. A tall, sarcastic wizard who lives alone in an old house with a lab in his basement, with a summoning circle… sound familiar? Aside from that, I enjoyed the magical goings-on and the fairy politics in this fast-paced urban fantasy.

The magical world P.A. Wilson creates is quite unique. The novel is set right here in beautiful Vancouver and could double as a guidebook to all the city’s hidden supernatural hangouts. For example, the Sidhe court is located in the not-yet-yuppified part of Yaletown (just as I always suspected!) There are different clans of fairies (Rose, Lily, Bulrush, etc), and then there are the Sidhe, kind of like fairies but much more crazy and ambitious. Vampires are extinct because humans had discovered and obliterated them. In fact, the plot hinges on the fact that supernatural creatures must remain hidden from the humans, since we tend to destroy all such things that scare us. So, when Quinn Larson discovers fairies murdering humans with magic potions all over the city, he knows he must put a stop to it before the humans figure out what’s going on.

The entire plot is a race against time to protect the humans so that the humans won’t start killing the fairies. There’s a strong underlying ethos to it all, similar to Buddhism. For instance, Quinn is sworn not to do harm to the Sidhe, or to anyone in general. He must overcome his enemies without killing them. This opens up the potential for some clever spell-making and ingenious plans. Imperative is refreshingly different from most fantasy novels where there is a clear delineation between good creatures and bad creatures. Here, there are no black and white divisions, and if one species suffers, everybody suffers.

On the whole, this is quite a page-turner. The magical world is easy to plunge into, and the plot is complicated and suspenseful. The weakness of the novel is in the character development. We don’t really see who Quinn is for the first few chapters as he walks around discovering things, and as the story is told from the first person point of view, we hardly know who the “I” is. Other times, he transitions too quickly from feeling horrified about the murders to romantic and then to sarcastic moods. There’s a whirlwind of emotions which could have been made more believable.

The similarity with Harry Dresden still bothered me, but as the author herself states, “Harry Dresden is the dark knight of urban fantasy,” and this Quinn Larson novel is definitely not as dark as some of the Dresden ones. There is a comedic tone to the proceedings, which makes Imperative a light and enjoyable read.