Harmony Black (Harmony Black #1)

Read:  2016

Author:  Craig Schaefer

Published:  2016

Genre:  Urban Fantasy

Pages:  332 (paperback)

Selected By:  Elle Tea

Elle’s Score:  Scoring Great Book

“Harmony Black is much more than your average FBI special agent.  In addition to being a practicing witch, she’s also an operative for Vigilant Lock, an off-the-books program created to battle occult threats – by any means necessary.  Despite her dedication to fighting the monsters threatening society, Harmony has become deeply conflicted about her job.  Her last investigation resulted in a pile of dead bodies, and she suspects the wrong people are being punished for it. 

“While on a much-needed vacation, Harmony gets pulled back into action.  This time, though, she’s gone from solo work to being part of a team.  Their target: the Bogeyman, a vicious and elusive figure – and the creature that destroyed Harmony’s childhood. 

“Surrounded by quirky, fascinating characters as dedicated to one another as they are to their new partner, Harmony must learn to trust her team – and a new romantic interest – on a dangerous and deadly mission that conjures up memories she’d much rather forget.” – from the Amazon summary.

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Elle Tea’s Review

I read this as my January selection for the Kindle First program, so if you don’t have Amazon Prime, heads up: Harmony Black (Book 1) will be released February 1st, and it’s well worth the $5.99 price tag!  Mr. Schaefer is apparently better known for a different urban fantasy series, Daniel Faust, and, according to the Afterword in Harmony Black, this new series is a spin-off from that one  – facts which were totally unbeknownst to me when I selected this book from Kindle First.

” ‘I like to think of our case files as a carefully constructed media narrative, where specific facts and incidents may be reedited or reframed in order to convey a deeper understanding and context.  Sort of like reality television.’ “

Harmony Black is an uptight, by-the-books little goody-good, but that’s okay, because she’s damn good at what she does, and her motley crew of misfits shakes up the story and effectively offsets her otherwise rather bland Detective Do-Right demeanor.  As the summary states, Harmony starts out solo, but that really doesn’t last very long – maybe just a chapter – before she finds herself working with the Vigilant Lock team known as The Circus: Jessie Temple, another tough-as-nails woman who is waging an ongoing war with some pretty nasty demons of her own; “Auntie” Alice, who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “quit”; and the hacker extraordinaire known as Kevin.

” ‘An old lady just tied me up and threw me in the back of my own truck like I weighed less than a sack of groceries,’ he said, his voice slurring.  ‘Then you hit my truck, beat her up, and almost shot a squirrel.  And the squirrel waved at you.  I think I’d like to go home now, please.’ “

The good?  Well, to begin with all of the characters – and I do mean all of them – are believable and interesting.  Agents Black and Temple play off of each other like another couple of capable agents I once loved: Scully and Mulder.  Harmony herself was efficient, adaptable, independent, and strong, though a little dry for me, but her partner – who was equally efficient, adaptable, independent, and strong – also maintained a quirky sense of dark humor that kept the story moving forward.  The “romantic interest” is just that, an interest rather than a focal point of the story, which is a lovely change for a book headed by a female character (and shame on us that it takes a male author to make a female agent as dedicated to her job as her male counterparts).  “Auntie” and Kevin don’t get nearly as much stage time, being supporting characters, but the few times they do appear their contributions are meaningful – and, best of all, despite having only a handful of interactions with these side characters, I was still able to get a clear picture in my head of who they were, what sort of people they were and at least some of their motivations, and what to expect from each of them.

And in these few hundred pages are a fair host of nasty baddies, from the Bogeyman mentioned in the summary to the cambion, from body-snatching demons who float from host to host to incarnate demons who fly their mutant-beast flags with pride.  There’s magic and those with the ability to wield it like a weapon (or a defense, depending on what team they play for), and there’s even a bit of dabbling in the quantum theory pool.

” ‘You could forge your pain into a sword,’ Nyx said, ‘and persecute your enemies.  Triumph.  Survive.  But fear imprisons you.  Fear of breaking rules.  Fear of what people will think of you.  Petty little fears.’ “

The bad?  Well… not a lot, to be honest.  The world’s a bit more mundane than The Hollows – I mean, it’s essentially our world, and all of the baddies that Harmony & Co. deal with are all handled on the down-low.  Overall, it’s just a bit more simplistic than urban-fantasy heavy-hitters like Harry Dresden and Sandman Slim – not “dumbed down,” just… simpler.  The story is less complex than the brainchildren of Butcher and Kadrey, but it does still have that new-series feel to it – it hasn’t quite hit a spare just yet, but the pins are set up and the ball is slowly making its way down the middle of the lane.

Overall, you can just color me surprised that this was a Kindle First book – I’ve only had one other thus far that I’ve read that didn’t leave me feeling as used up and sullied as a two-dollar whore the morning after the big New Year’s Eve bash in Las Vegas.  Harmony Black is quick, entertaining, and a book I would definitely recommend to anyone who likes their crime with a twist of the occult.  And if you try it out and like it, the great news is that the second installment, Red Knight Falling, is due out April 26th!

Elle read the Amazon Kindle (Kindle First) version of this book.

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