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24 July 2009 @ 12:44 am
The Calling by David Mack  
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-genre: Urban Fantasy
Rating: 3 pints of blood

The cover is, at first glance, very simple, but the more I look at it the more detail I notice until I realize it's really not simple at all. I love the shadowy figure walking into the light, especially considering the premise of the story, and the contrasts of the very dark and the very light is striking. It's not quite the kind of cover I'd buy a book for just so I could have something so pretty sitting on my shelf, but it's enough to make me pick the thing up for further inspection, which means it's done its job.

Tom Nash is just an ordinary guy, with nothing about him to stand out in memory. He has a nice house in the suburbs, a wife, and a baby on the way. He's a jack of all trades, making just enough money to pay the bills. No one who's ever met him suspects he has an unusual secret. Tom can hear peoples' prayers. Not all the time, just when he's "meant" to. And when he hears a prayer, he's driven to help, whether it be a man who needs help with his alcoholism or a woman trying to hide what she did to her husband's golf clubs.

This time, however, the prayer Tom hears is a little more intense than what he's used to. Phaedra, an eleven-year-old girl, has been kidnapped, and before she passes out from the drugs they use to sedate her, her last thought it "Please God, don't let them kill me."

The clock is ticking, but the closer Tom gets to figuring out where Phaedra is and what's going on, the more he realizes he's in over his head. With the Russian mafia, crooked cops, and an entire supernatural underworld coming into the picture, Tom begins to discover just what his gift really means.

The book is marketed as urban fantasy, but the story is written like a thriller. It doesn't really follow the traditions of fantasy, but the supernatural elements are too strong to sell it as anything but fantasy. There are some religious undertones, at least from Tom's perspective, but the cynical woman he meets and works with (not a love interest, which is refreshing) doesn't seem to see any acts of deity in it, so readers are free to interpret the reality of the situation as they see fit.

The premise is an interesting one, and the main reason I wanted to read the critter. Tom believes he's been Called to do what he does, and while he doesn't really understand how it works, he's bound and determined to answer the prayers he hears, ignoring the risks to himself. The book only just begins to explore what he is and how the supernatural system works, leaving plenty of room for the implied series to follow.

While the plot motors along, and had plenty of interesting things going for it, I found I had fun while I was reading but had no problem setting the book down. It was entertaining but not absorbing, the writing style very visual instead of immersing me in the world and putting me in there with the characters. That Mack has written for tv and movies is not a shocker; The Calling desperately wants to be on film, with all the fight scenes and the breakneck pacing. The scene in which Tom is chasing down the bad guys, trying to avoid getting shot at by the mafia, and is nearly hit by a train would have been much more fun visually, I think.

If you're up for some high speed chases and gun fights, or if you dig urban fantasy but have tired of all the vampires and werewolves dominating the genre, this just might be something you'd like to pick up. If you're more into worldbuilding and like the emphasis on fantasy rather than urban, this might not be the book you're looking for.

The Calling is available in trade paperback and as an e-book.
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Gio: Books!frogpaddies on July 24th, 2009 07:51 am (UTC)
Sounds interesting, alto the basic concept reminds me a lot of L. L. Foster's "Servant" series (which I adore, btw)...
Shannonaurillia on July 24th, 2009 06:11 pm (UTC)
The first thing I saw when I looked at the cover was how the golden light behind him makes him look like he has wings.