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Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford

Black Dog Blues
Ahh… I don’t know what to say about this book. First, I’m a huge Rhys Ford fan‐ I’ve read everything she’s written, liked all of it, and downright fell in love with a lot of it. So when I was told I was getting to read this book, I was just thrilled.

To be honest, I remember reading the description for this book a while back and thinking I’d like to read it, but it had been a while, and I’d forgotten what it was about, so I went in a bit blind. But it didn’t matter, because it quickly became apparent that this book covered pretty much every single thing I want to read about‐ sidhe, hot guys, guns and action, dragons, fantastic monsters, magic, beautiful, smart women, and the struggle about what humanity is and what it means to be human. Plus, it takes place in San Diego, which is basically my favorite place ever. This book and me… We were bound to get along.

And we did. ‘Black Dog Blues,’ I will admit, reminds me a bit of the Borderlands series by Terri Windling, in that, in this story, the fae/fairy/sidhe/unsidhe world has collided with the human world, so there are some places that belong to humans, some that belong to the sidhe, and some that belong to the Dusk Courts, or the unsidhe. And there’s a kind of uneasy truce going on between these three groups as they try to live side by side. But Rhys Ford has done a great job creating a world that’s familiar but unique enough that it never felt like she’d taken the idea from anywhere else. She made it her own. The San Diego in her book was comfortable and amazing and scary and totally new, and I loved it. I wanted to live there. I never wanted to leave‐ I definitely didn’t want to stop reading about it.

I also loved Kai, our main character. He’s a sidhe, but, after being raised by and with humans, is much more human‐like than sidhe‐like in his thoughts and actions and loyalties. He’s also hiding some pretty dark secrets, but he keeps them tucked away behind his tough exterior and his job as a Stalker, hunting down things that go bump in the night and taking on other difficult or dangerous tasks. Things get complicated for him when a sidhe lord contracts him for a tough job. He struggles with his attraction to the lord, Ryder, and also the many memories about his sidhe past that job brings up, and I really enjoyed reading about it all.

So, the setting was incredible, Kai was fantastic‐ well constructed, completely alive, someone I fell in love with immediately‐ and the writing was great. I always love Rhys, always, but sometimes she has a way of… kind of getting tangled in her own words? I don’t know how to describe this except for saying that she could use a stronger editor to tell her to chop unnecessary words and phrasing out of sentences and paragraphs, or to put some words in an order that flows more naturally. But the writing here, aside from being as lovely as usual, also felt a lot tighter. Which was definitely nice. No one wants to edit while they read.

But at about half way through the book, I started to love it a little less. I’m not really sure why. The story didn’t get boring‐ if anything, it got more and more exciting‐ and I certainly didn’t mind that the romance was a very, very slow one (which never comes to any kind of fruition in this volume‐ I don’t think that’s a spoiler because it’s pretty obvious it’s not going to happen.) I think the problem was the characters, aside from Kai.

Rhys Ford writes some of the very, very best characters I’ve ever come across. She’s just… masterful at it. Usually, I’m crazy about not just her main characters, but her side characters, as well. And like I said, I loved Kai. And I enjoyed Jonas and Cari and even Dempsey, because he was interesting and complex. But I kind of… I hated Alexa. I wasn’t super in love with Dalia. And I didn’t really like Ryder, either.

I tried to make myself like these people, especially Alexa and Ryder, because it seems that they’ll be the love interests‐ either or both, I’m not sure‐ but I couldn’t. They just… annoyed me, and the more I read, the more I disliked them. They never seem to want to really listen to Kai. They jump in and make assumptions (that he doesn’t bother to clean up, but still.) And they do these small, annoying, sometimes kind of awful things that just made it very hard for me to feel for them, or to want them around Kai.

So, half of me was deeply in love with this book and Kai and Kai’s story. But the other half couldn’t connect to the side characters or the romance, which I suspect, although not a large part of this book, may be more important in any following books. So I ended up feeling a bit torn about the whole thing. At the end of the day, I guess I have to say that I really, really did enjoy this book. And I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series. But there’s also a kind of slight bitter taste on my tongue over this.   -SEL

You can purchase 'Black Dog Blues' from DSP Publications: DSP

More HfC reviews on books by Rhys Ford:
The Cole McGinnis Series
Ink and Shadows

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