(2011) Ben Macallan (Chaz Brenchley), Solaris, £7.99, pbk, 336pp, ISBN 978-1-907-51962-8
Pop will eat itself, as the saying goes, and author Chaz Brenchley will eat one of his own characters and spit them out again as his pseudonym for the author of his latest book Desdaemona so perhaps it is best to take Macallan’s bio with a pinch of salt: “Ben Macallan is the boy your mother warned you about, the one with the motorbike and the cool clothes and the dangerous superpowers. He shoots round corners without looking, can put on his socks without bending and finds new planets as a Sunday afternoon hobby. He sometimes hangs out in smoky bars, where he plays saxophone and talks philosophy. Several schools claim to have taught him, but he never turns up for Speech Day. He may be watching you, but you will never know. He lives where he lives, and always stops to speak to cats and Big Issue vendors.”
All that aside, it’s a pleasure to see Brenchley writing urban fantasy again in a sub-genre he was at the vanguard of, a years ago with his novels Dead of Light and “Light Errant.
In this latest story we meet 17 year old Jordan who helps other runaway teenagers out as best he can, sometimes that is with ordinary more straightforward problems of the homeless, but at other times the problems can be darker, fortunately, Jordan is very streetwise and has walked streets that few other people would want to venture on too. He walks the paths between words, helping out where he can before moving on before he is discovered or caught. Right at the start he seems to have his work cut out for him as the girl he is about to help needs protecting from a pack of werewolves, No sooner is that job done than he is enlisted by the mysterious Desdaemona to help her find her sister Fay who did a bad thing which has enraged some immortal creatures she encountered in her past which has marked her down to be killed, so she, also, is on the run with 'things' on her tail. Of course, Desi is not what she seems- the clue might be in her name - and has her own cupboard packed with skeletons, some of which don’t want to stay hidden, which combine not-so-nicely with Jordan’s own secrets, and those that have put Fay in the position she is in, which brings our major characters into contact with a whole array of supernatural nasties out of the shadows such as warlocks, demons, vampires and shapeshifters.
All of this combines into a novel that is fast-paced, and action-packed, peppered with a neat rebooting of ancient mythology brought up to modern times all merging with intrigue and some refreshingly humourous scenes between teenager Jordan and the more unworldly wise Desi, to give us something better than your average urban fantasy fare. Desdæmona is out now, to be followed by Pandaemonium next year. Sounds like Brenchley’s breaking new ground again. Pandas in urban fantasy? Can’t wait.
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