Review of Shrouds of Darkness, by Brock E. Deskins

Shrouds of DarknessI downloaded a copy of Brock E. Deskins‘ book, Shrouds of Darkness sometime last year, when it was free on Amazon.

Description from Goodreads:
Leo Malone is a vampire for hire to do just about whatever you need done. Leo is hired by a young woman and her brother to find her father, a werewolf and mob accountant, who has gone missing and is suspected to be responsible for several killings around Brooklyn. Leo soon finds there is far more going on than a”simple” werewolf run amok problem. Leo’s no nonsense, bullet diplomacy approach to problem solving has him leaving no stone unturned and no toes un-stepped on as he tries to unravel a conspiracy that threatens to topple the enclave and reveal the existence of vampires.

If you like vampires with overly emotional teenaged angst, Leo is not your guy. If you like a wise-cracking, sword swinging, bullet spewing, hard-charging vampire, you don’t want to miss out.

Review:
Another reviewer said it took him a couple chapters for this book to draw him in. That reviewer was being kind. The beginning of this book is…off putting. (Now I’m being kind.) It starts with a first chapter that would be better termed a prologue. We then meet the main character for about a page before the book leaps into a lengthy flashback. He then starts reminiscing about a friend. We see him for another page or so before a large info-dump.

I’m not even exaggerating. It’s a good 15% into the book before we actually really ‘meet’ Leo. And given we hadn’t met him yet, all that information about his past, his friend, the vampire dynamics was nothing more than detritus. I simply couldn’t care yet. Even worse, it’s all told in a stiff, almost formal first person account. Off putting.

If it hadn’t been for the previous reviews stating it gets better, I would have given up and tossed it on the DNF pile. But I didn’t. I stuck with it and it does get better.

Leo is a bit of an anti-hero. He is not a nice man. In fact, he’s pretty much an asshole. But I would deem this ‘men’s fiction,’ in other words written for a male audience, and men do always seem to idolise violent jerkwads. So, that kind of makes sense. And you can appreciate the politically incorrect, socially disinterested, devil may care attitude he sports.

A lot of it is over the top. He’s sarcastic and/or unnecessarily abrasive even when he would be better served otherwise or well after he’s gotten what he wants and further retaliation is not only pointless, but cruel. However, a lot of it is also quite funny. The man is completely neurotic on top of sarcastic, so there are a lot of opportunities for quips and quick wit. It’s this humour that carried me through the book. But it’s pretty borderline too much.

I don’t mind violence or gore, but I got tired of the endless fight scenes and weapons descriptions. I also cringed away from the first person narrative. I’m not a big fan of the style, especially when it’s a first person, present tense narrative. (I always get distracted wondering why the character is narrating their current life.) But it’s especially hard when dealing with a hard-boiled, apex predator type character. It just feels wrong to read things like, ‘My powerful legs flexed.’ Or to hear a character tell the reader how much stronger, faster, scarier, etc he is than anyone else. It just plain feels like bragging and who likes spending time with a braggart?

Plus, it’s never really addressed how he became so badass, as if he’s bad because he’s a vampire. Problem is, so are a lot of other characters. This makes it feels little hollow. I want to know what his reputation is based on, not just that he says that he has it.

The first quart of this book is difficult to get through, but once you do the story is pretty good. The mystery isn’t hard to figure out, if only by virtue of identifying the single person the character pays too little attention to, but it’s engaging enough. There’s a painful example of sex-equals-love, at least on the woman’s part, but she’s a fun character. There are a lot of chuckle worthy moments and plenty of fight scenes. I noticed a couple editing issues, but not enough to make an issue of. This is one of those books where ‘if you like the sort of thing’ you should pick it up, but it probably won’t work for those on the fringes.

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