Unshapely Things by Mark del Franco

unshapely things coverConnor Grey used to be one of the most powerful druids in the Guild, until a run-in with a crazy environmentalist elf left him crippled with hardly any power. Forced out of the Guild and the only life he knew, Grey now lives in the Weird, a section of Boston teeming with fey. From there, he consults with the Boston PD on the fairy-related cases not worthy of the Guild’s time. Then he comes across a case that seems like the work of a psychotic fairy serial killer, but ends up being much more. Now Grey and his limited powers may be the only thing that stands between a lunatic serial killer and the destruction of the entire world.

I’ll admit, this book was on my “to-read” list for a long time before I got around to it. While I did like the idea of urban fantasy set in Boston with a male leading character, it didn’t sound very original to me overall. The fact that the sentence on the cover of the book that said “Down in the Weird, crime isn’t black-and-white, and that’s where Grey comes in…” was so eye-rollingly lame didn’t inspire much confidence. Even the first few chapters were meh.  But then, del Franco saved the story, by having a leading character I really came to like.

Connor Grey used to be an arrogant hotshot in the Guild world, until he lost almost all his druidic powers. Now, most of his old allies have abandoned him, and he must rely on favors from his few remaining friends to stay safe, and find work where he can get it, even if it isn’t as interesting or as fulfilling as his old work. At the start of the novel, Grey is bitter, and uses what remaining power he has left sparingly and without purpose. He has given up on many of his druid rituals that used to be a major part of his life. But then, thanks to the prodding of his flit friend Stinkwort and especially from his former mentor and friend Briallen (we’ll get back to her in a second) Grey begins to realize there is more he can do to help himself than sit and whine. He starts from the beginning, relearning how to use his powers, and starts acting more like a druid should. This helps him begin the healing process. Even if his powers aren’t coming back–and still may never come back–he is more comfortable with who he is, and isn’t wasting his life any more. While Grey may not have completely turned his life around over the course of his novel, he did recognize something he didn’t like about himself and worked to fix it. ALL IN ONE BOOK. It didn’t take him eleven *cough*rachelmorgan*cough* and that was gloriously refreshing. I’ll admit, if Grey remained the whiny, uninterested character he was at the start of the book for the entire story, I wouldn’t be bothering with the next book. But he didn’t, he developed and grew into someone I could like and become emotionally invested in. Hooray for smart characters (and even smarter authors!).

I liked the side characters in this story as well, like Stinkwort the flit. I’m still not sure I can picture what exactly a flit is supposed to look like, but I sure liked Stinkwort’s no-nonsense attitude, and the fact that he loved Oreo cookies. Who doesn’t like a character that eats Oreos like it’s his job? The druidess Briallen, former mentor and now friend of Grey was wonderful as well. I wanted to be her friend. She was powerful, beautiful, and didn’t let Grey sit on his haunches feeling sorry for himself. I want to see more of her in the next book. And Meryl. She’s a hard one to describe. She made me laugh though. I have a completely random suspicion she may turn into a love interest of Grey’s…but I could be way off base. Just a thought.

Overall, this was a good story. The different aspects balanced nicely, there was no one overwhelming element. It still wasn’t the best world building, or most spectacular urban fantasy novel I have ever read, but I liked it and Connor Grey enough to want to read the next one.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

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