Review: Half-Resurrection Blues
I really liked Urban Fantasy. I read Jim Butcher and loved the Louisiana of Charlaine Harris and had a nice moment back in the early 2000s thinking, "Ok! Fantasy is modern and I'm loving it."
Then last year I met Daniel Jose Older and I realized that most of these stories were missing something that is key to making successful "Urban" Fantasy. The whole genre is represented as taking the ideas and tropes and common characters of your general Fantasy genre and then put them into a modern context. But what is missing from those early entries into the genre that I was enjoying was the real modern context. What we had was as much a fantasy of what the real world is as the fantastical elements that it included.
What Half-Resurrection Blues gets so right is that modern world. In the very first scene you are immediately grounded in the mundane while the fantastic erupts, not around it, but inside of it. As is a hallmark of the rest of Older's books, the fantastic elements are not happening to the people of his story, but they are already living in it. The spiritual is not unknown to his characters. They live it and breathe it and its a part of their "mundane" life. It's only when violence and power upheavals arise in their world that the plot gets moving and the characters start to shine. And that's real life. People live with the supernatural, especially in a city like New York, it's in the background of their live even if they maybe aren't willing to admit it consciously.
That's what I need in my fantasy now. Not just fantastical elements and powers, but a real honest world for those things to exist in.
Of course Half-Resurrection Blues just starts there, and still manages to fill it's pages with an interesting plot and characters that live and bleed on the page. It was one of the best books that I read last year, and I would have said the best book of Older's that I read except that Shadowshaper came out that same year and somehow Older topped himself as he continues to show how much growth there is left in the realms of Urban/Contemporary Fantasy.
Half-Resurrection Blues gets four stars out of five.