Friday, May 24, 2013

Geekomancy: Urban Fantasy at its finest!

Geekomancy has succeed where many urban fantasies have failed miserably. It surprised me. Not a small feat when I’ve been reading in this genre for over two decades, and was all but done with the recycled ideas. Honestly, there are only so many blood you can get out of a turnip of a genre that is based on recycling old, sometimes tired tropes from other genres. Yet Underwood came up with an original idea I had never seen before, and he won my heart with his leading lady.

Despite the title, premise and overwhelming amount of geek culture references this book never once jumps the shark into ridiculous. If anything once the layers are peeled back readers will find a very real, relatable human story. It has depth, a compelling plot and vibrant characters who defy the very conventions and tropes that inspired them.

Before I wax poetic about how this story wooed my pants off, let’s talk about how it went a long way toward redeeming the urban fantasy genre for this very jaded fan.

Let’s hear it for a female leads who are complex human beings!

In a sea of one-liner dropping, two dimensional approximations of female empowerment that too many authors in this genre have been trying to pass off as women for decades, a real, complex female lead is a rare find. Not for a lack of looking. I’ve been searching like a one-woman archaeological expedition pickaxe and shovel in hand, digging through this genre for decades trying to find one and have come up empty handed more often than not.

Ree is funny, flawed, relatable and best of all authentically geeky. It never feels forced or affect. She isn’t just a pretty girl in glasses regurgitating famous lines from Star Wars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In fact, everything about Ree is real and natural. Underwood never has to tell us she is strong, because the story itself runs her through the ringer and she comes through with banners flying.

Geekomancy is a heroes journey with a woman (finally) front and center. Ree faces all the challenges, terror and trials befitting classic heroes, but never once did I feel the story was tailored to her gender. No dumbing down (in fact, quite the opposite for the non-geeky reader), no emphasis on her hair, clothes or makeup. In fact, I’m not even sure she wears any make up, because I was too busy falling in love with her personality.

Despite the strange world and circumstances she’s plunged into Ree handles every situations with a very believeable grain of salt. She’s rational, intelligent and sarcastic as hell. Though, her sarcasm and snarky comments never come off as flippant, but rather as a realistic coping mechanism we all might use when faced with the frightening reality that Trolls or Demons are real. Plus her jokes are actually funny. I laughed out loud more than once.

Sweet baby Jebus, Ree is the kind of heroine I’ve dreamed of reading about. One who I could show to my fourteen year old, extremely geeky, female cousins and say “Look, she’s just like you and she’s a hero, not the hero’s girlfriend.”

All right, I set down my fangirl pom poms for two seconds to actually talk about the story, because it is fantastic.

Underwood created a reality that is just slightly to the left of the one we know. A world where every tiny scrap of geek culture has real tangible power and can be used as weapons in a shadowy war happening right under our noses. There is no nerdy stone left unturned in this story. I went dizzy from listing the movies, tv shows, games, and various other geeky pursuits that were referenced in this novel. Some were even new to me.

Despite all this nerdtastic name dropping, we never get pulled out of the story. Quite the contrary actually. With each new reference the magic of this world unfurls a little more, giving it depth and heart. It’s the kind of world dreamed about as a kid. Where a Magic: The Gather card can save your life. Where you can download the skills of your favorite characters just by watching a few scenes of a movie. Where a true believer could actually become a Jedi knight, and even a nerdy barista can become a hero.

I was very surprised by how deeply this book affected me. It is after all a fun, fictional adventure and wonderful tribute to geek culture, but more than that it is a very real story of a woman coming into her own power. I think that is something that I’ve been yearning to read from the moment I first learned how to read.
Ksenia Solo of Lost Girl is my choice for Ree.

I would recommend this book to fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (or anything by Joss Whedon really), Doctor Who, The Dresden Files, and strong female leads.

Where to buy it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo
Michael R Underwood's official site


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