Steinmetz second book in the Mancer Series is perfectly enjoyable. Valentine, Aaliyah, and Paul come back to us. Paul Tsabo, the world’s most unlikeliest hero, takes us through the fine back alleyways between right and wrong, mancer’s vs. mundanes, faith vs. antagonism. How nice it would be if the world was black and white. Instead it is many murky shades of grey where the meek become powerful. Mancer’s are created from intense passion. Intense passion, obsession, is usually is born of loss and sadness. So, the world is left in the hands of Paul, a lanky man of Greek heritage missing a foot who is a bureaucromancer; Valentine, an overweight/voluptuous twenty-something female videogamemancer; and Aaliyah, Paul’s baydly burned, mixed race, nine year-old daughter. If the bookiemancer we meet in this book were to place a bet on these three I doubt it would be in their favor.
Paul Tsabo is in charge of the New York police force hunting mancer’s. Who would be better for the job than the only mundane man to take one down? Well, its complicated, Paul isn’t mundane is he? He’s carefully hidden his bureaucramancy. He is legitimately trying to find other mancer’s, but he doesn’t have any intention of capturing them if they are not a threat. Paul hopes to find others like him, Valentine, and his daughter.
Paul’s second job is brewing the drug Flex for a criminal entity. Unfortunately, his first job and his daughter keep getting in the way -resulting in him owing larger and larger sums to his Oscar. K-Dash and Quaysean are Oscar’s employees tasked with supporting Paul. Paul has amazing talent and skill but no one – not his daughter, not Valentine, not Oscar, or some other characters we meet, have any faith that Paul can/will protect himself. His faith in his fellow man, mancer or mundane, leaves him at risk. So, their attempts to protect him, while sometimes positive, usually result in highly dysfunctional trainwrecks.
While brewing Flex, his daughter steps in to protect her daddy when his own police force tracks him to his laboratory. He might have been able to compensate for one variable but both result in the total loss of the Flex, millions of dollars he will now owe Oscar, and the loss of his job with the police. The usual upbeat Paul is forced to slink back on his belly to Samaritan Mutual, the Insurance Company, he used to work for. The information he will find working there about the King of New York, a Police Informant whose always one step ahead of him, and about other mancers in New York takes his life in very unexpected directions. Paul and Valentine are forced to suffer terrible indignities in the name of doing what appears to be best for Aaliyah in this book. Eventually, we learn all that looks righteous and good isn’t and entities that appear criminal and wrong aren’t either. I told you this book was murky and grey.
We did meet some new mancers in this book. I wasn’t particularly fond of some of them. I get that Steinmetz mancy is based off of obsession but I had a hard time with the plushomancer. Everything about that just seems downright wrong.
A wonderful component of Steinmetz’ Mancer series is the complex characters. They are flawed well-intentioned underdogs. Most books present their heroes as fit ideals. They are the epitome of what society says is desirable – wealthy, attractive, and clever. Things come to them easy. We rarely know how they learned their skill set. They just intuit how to use a sword, naturally lead through charisma, and save the day with their unwavering confidence they are right. They have crisis of faith and challenges, but they start the game with advantages. Steinmetz characters aren’t like that. You only have to look at Valentine to see this. She turned to gaming because it offered her an escape from her life. The obsession became magic, but that magic came with Flux/backlash. She can’t care about anyone because they die. She lives in her car – her magic getting her evicted regularly. She has sex with random people met online because it’s the only way she can connect with someone without fear of the Flux taking them. She eats horribly, but hell carbohydrates make you feel good and in the midst of so much terrible in life a girl should get to have carbohydrates if nothing else. While this book has focus on Aaliyah; what Paul, Valentine, and her mother believes are the right things for her; there is also added focus on Valentine. I enjoyed this insight. K-Dash and Quaysean’s characters are also developed. They are two of my favorite supporting characters in a book. For gangsters, who can wreak a high level of havoc and pain, they are kind loving men. This book stands on its story, writing, and characters, but it also presents diversity in an intelligent realistic way.
I read and listened to the audio version of this book. Peter Brooke narrates the series. He does a wonderful job. He grasped Steinmetz humor. He also handled the range of emotion and characters well. This is definitely a book you can enjoy listening to. Fair warning: you might laugh out loud. So, if you are at work listening to this, potentially in violation of work policy, be aware.
It’s clear I enjoyed this book and respect Steinmetz. I encourage you to read/listen to it. It’s geared to a fantasy audience, but I will say it should appeal to comic book lovers and dystopian fans too.
I received this from Netgalley and Angry Robot in return for an honest review.