The New York Magician by J.B. Zimmerman
Hey, here’s a new novel — brand-spankin’ new, actually — that I think you’re gonna love.
The novel — well, really more of a collection of interconnected short stories — follows the exploits of Michel Wibert, a lifelong New Yorker working in the finance industry. But his real job is in communications. You see, Michel is able to see and speak to the gods, spirits, and magical beings who call the Big Apple home. His grandmother taught him about the city’s secret residents, and he now uses this knowledge to negotiate and bargain his way across New York, offering some of these beings their own lost possessions, some vital information, and many the one thing they crave the most — a friendly, sympathetic ear.
So Michel ends up meeting everyone from Baba Yaga (dishing drinks in a trendy bar), Cthulhu (hangin’ in the sewers), Malsumis (an evil Algonquian god), Hapi (the friendly god of the Nile), and Shu (Hapi’s much less friendly brother). He also encounters plenty of other interesting characters, though a bit more mundane — firemen with an unusual haunting, the Jamaican arms dealers who sell him guns, and Kevin, a big Irish immigrant who saves Michel’s bacon when he gets in over his head.
Michel himself makes a pretty interesting, distinctive character — almost always found wearing his custom enchanted Burberry coat, bandolier, pocket watch, ancient spearhead, and Desert Eagle handgun, just about his only special talents are his ability to see and talk to supernatural creatures and his lightning-quick wits. Even the few spells he can cast are tricky work-arounds using special magical items, along with the energy generated by a blast or two from his Desert Eagle. He functions as something of a hard-boiled private eye combined with a medieval knight, always looking to improve things — sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally — for the supernatural entities of NYC, as well as the everyday citizens who need him.
Verdict: A very enthusiastic thumbs up. It’s an incredible book, wildly charismatic and likable, with great glorious tons of action, excitement, mystery, humor, everything you want from great fantasy. It’s completely steeped in the feel of New York City — Zimmerman is a native of the City that Never Sleeps, and the description of the setting is close to perfect. This is perfect urban fantasy — you couldn’t separate the fantasy from the urban setting if you tried.
Characterization is a massive strong point — yes, Michel is a great character, as I’ve already said, but everyone else we meet is a great character, too. Baba Yaga has the loneliness of someone far from home, the wisdom of someone incomparably ancient, and the cruelty of, well, Baba Yaga. Malsumis is an absolute bastard and yet still intensely likable. The djinn who can’t stop switching bodies combines the desperation of someone who just wants someone he can talk to with inhuman intelligence and motives. Even Cthulhu manages to come across as someone who’d be fairly cool to have a beer with — except for the whole “vastly monstrous elder god who will drive mankind insane and destroy the Earth” thing. The humans are just as unique and fascinating, too.
I’m putting this in the strongest possible terms, people. This is an outstanding book, and I think you should read it. Go pick it up.