During my Christmas holidays I had the pleasure of reading the first novel written by my friend Davide.
He worked on it for a long time and chitchatted about it on his blog at length. By the time the book was actually published, it felt like some distant relative about whom you know lots of weird and funny stories, even if you never met the guy in person.
Then, when Acheron Books opened up shop and published The Ministry of Thunder, I finally met the guy, well, the guys and gals, in person.
And it was better than the weird and funny stories.
Set in Shanghai in 1936, Davide’s novel is a fun, fast romp, choke-full of action and mayhem. There’s History (with the capital h) in it, and a lot of folklore, plus magic, rickshaws, a treasure hunt, the self proclaimed daughter of Baron von Ungern-Sternberg (look him up on wikipedia, if you don’t already know him: you’ll love him!), a mouthy Italian pilot, an ass-kicking Chinese fox lady (but maybe she’s not a fox, who knows!), a blue-haired fake Russian royal highness, places beyond space and time, zeppelins, ancient scrolls and ninjas.
Because everything’s better with ninjas.
What I liked the most was the fast pace the novel kept, the fact I always felt like I was spying on a small fraction of a bigger, more complex world that’s almost identical to ours, except for those minutiae like dragons and spirits and magic.
The nice touch about magic, here, it’s that it basically is Taosit magic. And Felice Sabatini, our protagonist, knows nothing about it, and can’t believe it, but he must, even if it’s all a mess. He’s a reluctant hero of sorts, one who will try and understand the rules of the mess around him just because there is no other option than letting the bad guys win. I liked Felice’s attitude, the fact he had a backbone that felt… not stereotypical.
And let’s not forget the characters’ wit. Reading Felice narrating the story was great, I often cracked wide grins at his jokes and self-mockery, but reading him and Pat Neil argue and banter and plan and simply interact was even better.
The chemistry between them was perfect and seemed so, so natural… I really envy Davide for this little, big feat.
Aside from some formatting issue, my only complaint, all in all, is that a follow up is absolutely mandatory. Absolutely.
You can’t leave me hanging like that, Dave, I need to know what happens next, how he (you know who I mean) got where he got, and what did he (you know who I mean) do next, and…
Bollocks, I need a sequel, now.
Write it, Dave, pretty please!
Oh, and if you’re wondering about the reason behind the title of the post, well, you’ll have to read the novel!