Being hunted by a demon sucks, no matter how tough you are. After five years of peace and quiet, retired private detective Nick St. James has to find the demon that killed his sister-in-law, attacked him and now has its sights on an innocent mother and child.
If that weren’t enough, Heaven and Hell have a job he can’t refuse. To find a missing fallen angel.
Even with his unusual “gifts,” Nick’s going to need some help from a voodoo houngan, a vampire coroner, a Norse goddess, and a few more unlikely allies if they’re all going to make it out of this alive.
- Book Title: Demon Dance (A Sundancer Novel Book 1)
- Author: Brian Freyermuth
- Genre: Urban Fantasy
- Length: 345 pages
- Release Date: November 17, 2013 (Middark Press)
Contacts and Buy-Links
My review: 5 out of 5 stars (plus a venti latte) for Demon Dance (A Sundancer Novel Book 1) by Brian Freyermuth
These are great times to be a book reviewer, because (along with astonishing amounts of crap), authors regularly send me 5-star books to review. But every now and then, I get something more. A book I literally can’t put down, one that I know will have me stalking the writer for my next fix. I get to meet characters who follow me around in my head and have me worrying about whether they’re going to be okay. Do they have enough to eat? A safe place to sleep? Will they ever be happy?
And that’s where I run into rating issues. The problem with rating scales is that as soon as you establish them, you want to step outside those oh-so-useful-limits. For example, my criteria for a 5-star book is “Author goes straight to my auto-buy list, books I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone, books I would buy hard copies of and not lend out.” But what if I have one that I want to rate “Would trade last chocolate bar for and might even replace coffee?”
Take Brian Freyermuth’s urban fantasy, Demon Dance. While it’s true that he had me right from the terrific first line—“Leave it to an ancient god to ruin a perfectly good afternoon.”—Freyermuth proceeded to stack the deck where I’m concerned with three of the things that define me: Seattle, coffee, and writing. Please consider the following:
When we meet protagonist Nick St. James, he’s sitting in one of my favorite places on the face of the earth: the hand of the troll eating the (actual) VW Bug under Seattle’s Aurora Bridge. [Okay, technically it’s the George Washington Bridge, but the only people who call it that are the tourists who actually read the road signs. You can tell who the tourists are—the ones with umbrellas. Everyone else just calls it the Aurora Bridge, and gets wet when it rains.] That kind of thing makes Seattle perfect for an urban fantasy.
- But in case you still have any doubts about the Seattle setting, Nick’s friend Thelma is a magic-wielding barista. Of course.
- Nick himself used to be a private detective, but after his wife’s death he became a romance writer. Apparently, he’s very good at a genre with only one real requirement: creating characters who get the happily-ever-after that Nick will never achieve for himself.
Nick St. James is a cross between Sam Spade and Harry Dresden—with, maybe, a Native American grandmother, his dead wife, and the ghost of Raymond Chandler as his spirit guides. Narrated in a wonderful first-person detective internal monologue, Nick’s constant refrain “I’m just a writer” doesn’t sell with anybody but his publishers. To ancient gods, to his dead wife’s sister Caitlin (a vampire), and to the dragons and demons and other nightmares who come after him, Nick St. James will always be a detective, always be in ‘the game’. When he finds the decapitated body of Caitlin—his former business partner and sister-in-law—Nick gives up the pretense and starts looking for an explanation. While he’s obsessed with the two women he couldn’t save from death—wife Ann and her sister Cait— we see Nick get regularly beat to a pulp as he rescues a growing list of people, from innocent bystanders, to a mother and daughter, to an assortment of paranormal creatures spanning a universe of pantheons and supernatural belief systems.
Archetype detective monologue—Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart: “When a man’s partner is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it.”
Nick’s monologue rushes us from one disaster to the next, usually resulting in him getting beaten up by various demons, vampires, and no-eye things. There’s a lot we don’t know about Nick, from why he’s always wearing one of his seeming endless collection of baseball caps, to why he’s called the Sundancer, or even to what he is. But whatever that might be, it helps him heal quickly, a lucky thing since his frequent doses of pain (lower case) threaten to set free the Pain (upper case, presumably loss of his wife) and the Hunger (also uppercase, although not really explained except that when it gets out, there are bodies. Lots…). He manages to keep a lid on The Pain through sheer willpower, but the Hunger requires massive doses of meat. We see Nick’s other special abilities come into play, but are left to guess what those abilities add up to.
As I said, this story pulled me in from the first line and I literally sat up all night to finish it at one go. The pace will leave you breathless, a rollercoaster ride of emotion and snark and nonstop action. When I came to the end, the only thing that kept me from screaming for more is that there IS more. The first chapters of Mind of the Beast are not only included, but (thank you urban fantasy gods!) it is also now available online.
Obviously, I’d give Demon Dance five stars. And (for Seattle, for the troll, and for getting the coffee part right), I’d also give it a latte. Venti. This is a fantastic, confident, and completely entertaining book. I’d say more, but that sequel—Mind of the Beast—is calling my name. I just have to grab my coffee first.
**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
My interview with Brian Freyermuth
I’m so excited to have Brian Freyermuth join us today to talk about his life and his writing. But before we get started, please join me on congratulating Brian on being accepted into the prestigious SFWA, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.
- What was your first car? It was a light blue, 1972 VW Bug. The car was really cheap and had a lot of issues, but I loved that old thing. [Until it was eaten by the Fremont Troll, of course.]
- Star Wars, Star Trek, or Firefly? (Or…?) Star Trek will always hold a special place in my heart because I worked on the video game Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, but I have to admit I’m an avid fan of the Browncoats.
- Who would you most like to sit next to on an airplane? Neil Gaiman, so we could chat about mythology and writing. I’ve been a fan of his since his Sandman comics.
- What is the one thing you can’t live without? Writing. I get pretty cranky if I haven’t written in a while, as my wife can attest to.
- As a child (or now!), what did you want to be when you grew up? Video game designer and author. I started designing games back in 1994 with my first game, Fallout.
- Are the names of the characters in your novels significant? The names of the gods and goddess have to be similar to their real names. Fay’s real name is Frigga. Most of the names of the characters come to me and just fit.
What is the single biggest challenge of creating the settings in your novels? [More specifically: why is Seattle a good location for urban fantasy?] I lived there when I began writing Demon Dance. I like the fact that open area surrounds Seattle, like the urban meeting the wild. Many of the towns surrounding Seattle have large parks or lakes, with Snoqualmie Falls only 45 minutes away and Mt. Rainier being Seattle’s backdrop. I used some points of interests like the Fremont Troll but created modification of neighborhoods too.
- What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard? Every scene has to have a polarity between negative and positive to keep the action moving. I learned this from reading Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.
- What are you working on right now? My wife and I are working on Book 3 of the Sundancer Series. We’re also working on a novella prequel that takes place as Nick is planning his wedding.
- Will we ever find out how Nick St. James came to be called Sundancer? You will find out more about Nick’s past in the sequel, Mind of the Beast, but you’ll also continue to unravel his secrets throughout the series.
- Why can’t Nick go without one of his seemingly endless supply of caps? His late wife Ann bought him his first cap. Think of them as a kind of a memorial to her.
About the Author
Since 1994, Brian Freyermuth has designed and wrote for bestselling video games such as the award winning Fallout, Star Trek: Starfleet Academy and WGA Award Nominee Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. Now, he has added novelist to his bestselling career. In April 2013 he released a hot new urban fantasy, Demon Dance, and in August of 2014 he released the sequel, Mind of the Beast, co-written with his wife, Juliet.
Brian currently lives in the Bay Area with his wife, Juliet and their son.