After reading everything Jim Butcher wrote (especially the Dresden series) and all the contemporary magical school fantasies out there (including Lev Grossman’s The Magicians: A Novel on Audible–I gave it 4 stars), the last thing I thought I needed was another novel about a misfit PI discovering his magical talents.
Dark Waters was a very pleasant surprise! Todd Menesses’ deep, sardonic narration gave the work a twist that made the Audible version better than the printed word. The most ordinary statements echoed with subterranean meaning.
The detective plot was a clever framework for all the interesting character development. PI Devon Sanders discovers in his early 30’s that he is actually capable of magic…that his best friend in childhood was actually an abused child vampire…and that there is an entire reality he never knew which will reshape his identity, definitions of loyalty and friendship, and make him more powerful than he ever wanted to be. Sharing his growing awareness chapter by chapter is an oddly compelling experience, even once you guess where the plot is heading. I particularly enjoyed Devon’s continual questioning of the morality of magic–when is it not abusive to use power over others?
The second book in the series, Hungry Earth, is not as tightly focused or surprising as Dark Waters, but I was curious about the characters so read it anyways. I believe the two novels would have been outstanding as a single work extending Dark Waters instead of going for the endless serialization of everything. That said, I truly enjoyed my time with Devon and his new friends–well worth a credit.