Author: James Bennett
Series: Ben Garston, #1
Released: September 6th 2016
Length: 464 pages
Source: Publisher for review
There's nothing special about Ben Garston. He's just a guy with an attitude in a beat-up leather jacket, drowning his sorrows in a downtown bar. Or so he'd have you believe.What Ben Garston can't let you know is that he was once known as Red Ben. That the world of myth and legend isn't just a fantasy, as we've been led to believe. And he certainly can't let you know the secret of what's hiding just beneath his skin...But not even Ben knows what kind of hell is about to break loose. A centuries-old rivalry has just resurfaced, and the delicate balance between his world and ours is about to be shattered.
Good urban fantasies with a male protagonist are so very hard to find. I can name no more than three series I truly enjoyed from start to finish, which is why books like Chasing Embers are not only fun, but also necessary and always welcome.
Chasing Embers is told in third person from more than one perspective, which is fairly unusual for urban fantasy. I sometimes wished for the first person narrative I’m more comfortable with, but I understood why Bennett made his choice and how it served his story. It would have been easier to form a connection with Ben had the story been told from his perspective alone, but the slight distance gave us insight into things we wouldn’t have otherwise seen.
Bennett did an excellent job portraying a centuries old character. He really took Ben’s age seriously and adapted his approach to life, his worldview and his whole reality accordingly. It didn’t seem fake like it sometimes does with ancient characters in urban fantasy, his actions and his way of life reflected both his natures, as well as his age. The depth of characterization is truly impressive. There are so many small things in Ben’s behavior that make us uncomfortable at first, until we realize that it’s actually his dragon nature at work, and not the part of him that’s human.
The author uses his characters (Ben’s love interest Rose especially) to challenge stereotypes. Being a dragon, Ben sees Rose as his damsel in distress and wishes nothing more than to close her in some tower and keep her safe for all eternity. Rose, however, adamantly refuses to be viewed as such, often displaying characteristics of a heroine in her own right. Ben himself isn’t what you’d expect from an ancient dragon. A bit awkward, essentially ordinary and emotionally stunted, he defies every expectation and belief.
Plot-wise, Chasing Embers is a bit rough and gritty at times, which is to be expected from urban fantasy. There is, however, nothing rough or unpolished about James Bennett’s writing – quite the contrary, in fact. There is a richness and a precision in his sentences, a beauty that isn’t flashy, but that’s very present nevertheless. As his protagonist flies from New York to London and beyond, Bennett provides us with an abundance of details that somehow never get in the way of the story he’s telling. The myths and legends are also well researched and not taken lightly, but the author takes liberties as he sees fit and the book is so much better because of his approach. The best urban fantasies entertain and educate, and one can learn a lot by reading this debut.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.