Saturday, December 28, 2013

Coyote's Creed (e-book) by Vaughn R. Demont

Coyote's Creed is urban fantasy. I suppose you could call it m/m urban fantasy, but Spencer, the main character, is bisexual. For those who'd like details: he only ever has on-page sex with a man, although he kisses a couple women; also, he's not at all conflicted about his sexuality.

This book is published by Samhain Publishing and is 91,526 words long. It's the first in Demont's Broken Mirrors series.

Review:

I bought this book ages ago and only just now got around to reading it. I had some trouble with it, at first. Although I usually like snarky first-person POV in urban fantasy, Spencer was almost too “gray area” for me, and his relationship with Rourke was too much, too soon. I sometimes had trouble following what was going on, because snark tended to win out over clear descriptions, and I wish some things had been explained sooner (I never did catch what the deal was with Shiko and Spencer's coat). By the end, though, I was enjoying myself and happy that my weakness for Samhain's “new releases” sales meant I already owned the next two books.

Almost every single character in this book is a trickster, and almost no one can be trusted. This includes Spencer. He's 18 years old and the only person in the world he really loves is his mother. His father walked out on the family a while back, and his mom's mental state is fragile. Spencer keeps things going as best as possible with money earned from short cons. He's particularly good with cards.

His life becomes much more dangerous when “Uncle” Rourke visits and tells him that his father has died and has requested that he give the eulogy. Spencer learns that his father was not human. He was a Coyote, Spencer is half-Coyote, Rourke is King of the Phouka, and Spencer has a bunch of family members he never knew about who trick him into having to steal back his father's ashes from the Kitsune, the Foxes.

It's a big mess. There's a feud between the Kitsune and the Coyotes, and the Phouka are supposed to be neutral. Spencer's in the thick of things right away, and he has no idea what's going on. One of my problems with the book was that, while Spencer pulled off a bunch of amazing tricks, in many cases it was more dumb luck than actual cleverness and skill. For example, he “tricked” Rourke multiple times without even trying to do so – he often didn't realize what he'd accomplished until someone told him later on. Does it count as a con if the con artist wasn't aware of what he was doing?

I had a hard time liking Spencer. He was a bit too obsessed with TV tropes and zombies (I thought the zombie thing was a joke, at first, but I think Spencer might have been completely serious about all of it). He couldn't seem to go near people without lying to them or conning them – sometimes it was as if his body acted on its own, cheating people out of their money without any input necessary from his brain. And he was unbelievably horny. I'm hoping that future books tone down this side of him, because he tended to be more interesting when he wasn't focused on sex to the exclusion of nearly everything else. Yeah, sure, so part of the reason for that was that he was a Coyote, but it's like the ardeur in Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake books: it's really just an excuse for the author to include lots of sex scenes.

Spencer and Rourke's relationship did not appeal to me for a good chunk of the book. When Rourke was first introduced, it was as Uncle Rourke. Spencer was quick to tell readers that he wasn't a blood relation, just a friend of his father's who'd been teaching him card tricks for years. This detail should have been my first clue that they were going to hop into bed with each other, but, to be honest, I didn't catch any kind of sexual vibe between them. Rourke was a charmer where Spencer's tutor was concerned, but that was it. And then Spencer and Rourke got a taste of satyr's wine, and it wasn't long before they were all over each other. Meanwhile, my brain was still stuck on “Uncle Rourke” and “he's been around since I was born.” Those details plus graphic sex scenes did not mix well. And that was before other details were revealed that added new icky dimensions to their relationship.

Spencer and Rourke's relationship didn't even make all that much sense to me. I mean, okay, sex. But then Rourke started talking about love. Rourke, the King of the Phouka, who's been around for hundreds of years, maybe thousands. Spencer's an 18-year-old mortal half-Coyote who's sometimes a bit of an idiot. I couldn't see why someone like Rourke would be so stupid as to claim to love him after a few rounds of good sex. By comparison, Spencer was surprisingly level-headed. He knew that what he felt for Rourke was lust, maybe affection, but not love. And, because he was a Coyote and therefore lied as easily as breathing, he lied to Rourke about his feelings. On the one hand, I hated him for doing that. On the other hand, Rourke, a supposed trickster, was stupidly leaving himself wide open.

Although I never completely got over the icky elements of their relationship, I did eventually grow more comfortable with them being together, once it was revealed that Rourke wasn't quite as stupid as he seemed. I look forward to seeing how things go in the next books.

I also hope that future books flesh out the overall world more. Coyote's Creed focused mostly on Coyotes, specifically Spencer's messed up, back-stabbing family. Beyond what little Rourke says about himself and his own abilities, not much information is given about the Phouka. Since they were participants in the Feud, the information on the Kitsune was a little better (whereas Coyotes are short con experts, Kitsune prefer long cons). Even if he didn't realize exactly what he'd accomplished until he'd done it, Spencer's trick on Kazuhiro was fun, and I hope Shiko becomes a recurring character.

The ending was probably my favorite part of the whole book. It was beautiful and bittersweet, and it fit perfectly. While the bulk of the book was on the good side of “okay,” the ending was wonderful. Here's hoping the next couple books are at least as good.

Sorry, no m/m suggestions in my read-alikes/watch-alikes list.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Anansi Boys (book) by Neil Gaiman - American Gods came first, but Anansi Boys is less dark and, in my opinion, more fun. Those who'd like something else featuring gods trying to scheme and trick their way through modern-day America might try either book.
  • Blast of Tempest (anime TV series) - I'm currently watching this and haven't finished it yet, so I can't tell you if the ending is any good. However, if you'd like something else featuring a clever, fast-talking character and lots of scheming, lies, and trickery, you may want to give this a try.
  • Going Postal (book) by Terry Pratchett - This came to my mind as I was trying to think of books featuring con men main characters. Moist is a fun and charismatic main character who starts off at rock bottom (scheduled to be executed) and does his best to stay alive and somehow come out on top.

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