Premonitions by Jamie Schultz

PremonitionsPremonitions

by Jamie Schultz
Series: Arcane Underworld, #1

Mass Market Paperback, 384 pg.
Roc, 2014
Read: September 9 – 12, 2014

I spent a lot of time staring at a blank screen trying to figure out how to talk about this. I came close to just posting, “This is seriously effed-up. But in a good way. Read it!”

Really, that might have been the way to go. But let’s give this a try…

Premonitions is not your typical Urban Fantasy. Karyn isn’t full of spunk, battling her way through some challenges with only her wits, a snappy line and her powers in a quest to defeat evil/save a life/protect justice. Nope, all she’s trying to do is survive. Same for the rest of her gang — they steal, they work only to make it to the next day. They’re not well off, they’re really not even comfortable — borderline desperate, really. So when they’re given the opportunity to split a 2 million dollar score, it’s an offer they cannot refuse (in many ways)

In this world, magic — or precognitive abilities — come with a price. A nasty, dirty, life-altering price. Neither the magic or the precog life seems at all worth it — and with one possible exception, everyone we meet in these pages with some sort of ability realizes that. Yet, those who can choose to pay that price or not, keep coming back to it. Karyn, on the other hand has no choice. Her abilities come with horrible hallucinations that she has to keep suppressed with a drug. Which is, of course, hard to find and only available on the black market. So like any good junkie, she steals to support her habit. Karyn’s psychic ability is like a less-pretty, less specific and more unreliable version of Alex Verus’ magic. Not that I think for a second that Schultz was going for that — it’s just what occurred to me as I read. I like the slightly different take on the idea.

Premonitions is a Heist story — so, of course, things go horribly wrong (that’s the point of these, right?), it’s watching how this particular band of thieves respond to this that makes this compelling. In fact, the broad brush strokes of the plot are pretty apparent within the first few pages — this isn’t a knock on Schultz, it’s just evidence that he knows what he’s doing. This is a classic Heist story, told in his own particular way, with his unique blend of characters — thieves, marks and obstacles.

We have two central characters — Karyn and Anna, with a crew of others — magicians(is that the word?), an ex-Marine and — well, some others they pick up along the way. Years ago, Karyn and Anna become friends, and for reasons we’re not privy to, and Anna may not fully recognize, Anna hitched her wagon to Karyn. She could’ve gone off and had a successful career, family, and whatnot. Instead, she’s a criminal scratching by, doing all she can to help her friend make it to the next day.

That’s the heart of this novel — the friendship between these two. Their dedication to each other, to each other’s needs, wants, desires and lives — and by extension, those members of their team, romantic partners, and miscellaneous allies. There’s no flashy swords, or government conspiracies, or prince to rescue — but this is really a one for all and all for one group. As long as they remember that.

There is a pervasive atmosphere that characterizes this novel, a mood. The whole thing is dark and moody. In my mind, it looks like the sets from Season 1 of The Wire, lit by whoever picked the look for Blade Runner. This gives it a different feel than most of your Urban Fantasies on the market. Not that they’re all rainbows and unicorns, but there is a “blue sky” feel to Urban Fantasies by Underwood, Butcher, Hearne, Harrison, Briggs and whatnot — that is not shared here. Schultz is not Richard Kadray-dark, but he’s close. Honestly, this reminded me of the Twenty Palaces world of Harry Connolly. Obviously, the magic system is different — but I’d have no problem at all seeing Ray Lilly and Annalise Powliss bump into Karyn and her crew (thankfully, I’m pretty sure their magic isn’t the sort that Annalise would feel compelled to eliminate anyone).

When I was 34 pages from the end of the book, I jotted down a note: “Not only do I have no clear idea how all this will end (frankly, I didn’t see what happened three pages ago happening), but I also have no clue what a sequel to this looks like.” That’s not normal, that says a lot about how Schultz is working. Now, by the end of the novel, that wasn’t the case — I had a clear idea what to expect Splintered to be like (I’m also prepared to be totally wrong). But to be that close to the end, and not sure what’s around the corner? That’s pretty cool. To be fair, it could be that I was being dumb — but I’m going to give the credit to Schultz for keeping me on my toes.

Give this one a try, folks, don’t think you’ll be sorry.

—–

Note: I was provided a copy of this by the author, who seems like a pretty cool guy — which made the fact that I really enjoyed this a relief.

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4 Stars

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