Black City Saint
by Richard A. Knaak
This is a fascinating setting: Chicago in the 1920s, the height of prohibition with bootleggers and gangsters warring for turf, and very few electronic devices. [SPOILERS] Nick even humorously ponders about how great it would be if there were such things as portable devices to contact people from their automobile, among other things. [END SPOILERS] The two gangs and name dropping of some real gangsters gave readers something to connect with in such a foreign world. A detective noir set in this world isn’t so much of a stretch, but adding in magic, fantasy creatures and more makes this very different from most books. But not all.
Fans of the Dresden Files by Butcher wont be able to miss the obvious parallels. [SPOILERS] An out of time detective that only solves fantasy problems, with fantastical, and not always trustworthy sidekicks, tied to a ruling council from another, hidden world, tries to stop the big bad from using their magic to destroy a Chicago. [END SPOILERS] As a fan of Dresden, more is usually better. But Knaak’s Nick isn’t the same as Butcher’s Dresden, though for one very big reason: the addition of Christian characters into the mythology.
I was introduced to Knaak in my adolescence via his contributions to the Dragonlance saga. Legend of Huma is a favorite all these years later. One thing a Christian who loves fantasy has to do is to distinguish between fantasy “gods” and the real “God.” I dislike (very much) when an author takes real Christian characters and changes them and their theology/ the theology they represent to fit the fantasy of their world. This was a real concern for me when [SPOILERS] Nick turns out to be Saint George (who fought the dragon), who believes in the real God, but also fights to keep the realms of humans and faeries separate. Faeries aren’t allowed to enter churches, holy water and blessed items hurt them, Saint Michael/ Michael the Arch Angel shows up possibly, and so on also conflate the issue. While I’m not usually a fan of this, Knaak did a good job walking a line here of being respectful to the characters while integrating them into the mythology. Nick Medea, for instance, is grounded even by his name – he is named after the real place of St. Georgius’ death, Nicomedia. [END SPOILERS] But the main issue for me still exists: the Christian characters have been merged with fantasy characters and included and treated like mythology. As a Christian, and acknowledging that the battle between St. George and the Dragon is very likely legendary, I prefer that Christianity not be included as just another source for mythology, because to me it isn’t.
This is a fast paced, fun fantasy noir that fans of both genres will enjoy.
Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.
This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.