A few weeks ago I reviewed a book in which vampires roam the countryside in muscle cars. This week I’m reviewing a book in which the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse emerge driving around in possessed muscle cars. Is there some trend in fantasy books lately that I’m unaware of?
Okay, these are only two books, and in the latter case, one of the Horsemen actually drives a pickup truck. But as it’s possessed by a speed demon like the rest it doesn’t really matter, and this book is a slightly more enjoyable read than the other one. It Happened One Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton is a fast-paced adventure that keeps the reader anxious to see what happens next—and willing to overlook the book’s faults.
Dru is born in a magical family in a world in which sorcerers exist alongside normal humans, yet she doesn’t want to take part in the magical lifestyle such as her monster-hunter friend Rane. Instead, she prefers to run a shop focused on her skill to harness the powers found in crystals in order to help others. Business is slow and she has a hard time making the rent. It probably doesn’t help that her boyfriend Nate, a successful dentist, doesn’t believe in magic.
One day a young man named Greyson enters her shop, complaining of constant nightmares. He’s skeptical of magic but comes to Dru after all of his other solutions have failed. Through testing of how different crystals react to him, Dru determines that he’s possessed by a demon and gives him a crystal to hang onto overnight to help drive the demon away. Through a series of events, including embarrassing herself in front of Nate at an important business dinner, she realizes that Nate is not just possessed by a demon but turning into one.
We discover that Nate’s disbelief in magic drives a wedge between him and Dru, furthered by her developing feelings for Greyson. It doesn’t help that Greyson is turning into one of the Four Horsemen and also born of magic himself (although he never realized it). Through physical contact he amplifies Dru’s powers to the point where she can fight the other Horsemen. By using his possessed car Hellbringer and bringing Rane along for the ride, the group attempt to solve the mysteries surrounding the coming of the Apocalypse and how to stop it.
Like so many other modern fantasy novels, the characters can be cliché. Rane especially doesn’t stray from her rough-and-tumble, fearless and largely clueless archetype, constantly telling Dru to “cowgirl up” when the goings get tough. Discussions among the characters sometimes dip into cheap high-school drama. Sometimes this provides a bit of comic relief as the characters are talking about their problems, sounding like mall-rats, while catastrophic events are happening around them. Sometimes this balance is missing, however. Also, one-sentence (complete or not) paragraphs abound throughout the book. I’ve made my thoughts clear on this subject before so I’ll just link to that blog post instead of taking up space here. And the book sometimes gets a bit obnoxious with both the dialogue and exposition explaining every last detail of everything, leaving little up to readers to figure out on their own.
Yet the story is so well-crafted that these faults are easily overlooked (and in the case of short paragraphs they sometimes help with the pacing). The book builds the sorcerers’ world expertly while maintaining action-packed adventure, keeping the reader wanting to see what happens next. The book is the first in a series and I gladly anticipate the next installment to see how Dru solves the problems left hanging in the air—quite literally—at the end of this one.