Unshapely Things

Reviewer: Jake Beal

Author: Mark Del Franco

Published: 2007

Reviewed: 2007-08-26

Publisher: Ace


"Unshapely Things" is a good first novel by Mr. Del Franco and a
venture into the area of urban fantasy, a genre that, if you have read
some of my other reviews, you may know I have a soft spot for. One of
the interesting things about this genre is how many different
directions it can be taken, and Mr. Del Franco takes it in one that I
have not before seen: a noir detective fantasy.

The main character, Connor Grey, is a mage type who used to run with
the big boys, but now supports himself as a private investigator,
following a crippling accident. The setting is a fantastic Boston,
where faeries and other fey creatures tend to congregate in a slum
zone called the Weird. Somebody is killing fairy prostitutes and
Connor gets called in to help the non-magical cops, and the story runs
from there, mostly running on a fairly standard "rogue with a history
and a bad attitude" sort of track.

Because it's moved into Mr. Del Franco's gritty fantasy world,
however, the old is fresh, and there are a lot of interesting nooks
and crannies of the world to explore. There's a bit too much
revelation of secrets for my taste, but it's actually in character for
the world he has created, where most magical knowledge is carefully
hoarded away in people's heads and not passed on to someone unless
their mentor judges them "ready" or they discover it themselves.
Thus, each magic user in Mr. Del Franco's world must hit a series of
revelations throughout their life and there is no encyclopedia to make
things easy.

The novel proceeds along quite smoothly, with puzzling leads,
witnesses with secrets, blind alleys and unfortunate side incidents,
all the way right up until the end, when the epic level gets kicked up
about five notches very suddenly and the world is imperiled. Then,
worse, after that has been resolved a piece of otherwise innocuous
backplot comes up and sets things up for a very contrived-feeling
sequel.

Overall, though, I loved the book, and especially Mr. Del Franco's
carefully thought out world. I'll just pretend the last few dozen
pages never happened, and we'll get along with one another just fine.