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I Belong

Review: Deadworld by J. N. Duncan

Title: Deadworld

Author: J. N. Duncan

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Deadworld (Book 1)

Publication Date: April 5, 2011

Format: Paperback, 420 Pages

ISBN-10: 9780758255662

ISBN-13: 978-0758255662


She’s as tough as anything haunting Chicago’s streets. But to deal with an inhuman power that won’t stay buried, this FBI agent needs help that comes at an immortal price. . .

Jackie Rutledge has seen her share of supernatural killers. But her latest murder case is what recurring nightmares are made of. Brutally exsanguinated human victims, vanishing-into-the-ether evidence, and a city on the edge of panic mean that she and her psychic partner, Laurel, are going to need more than just backup . . .

So Jackie is fine with any help rugged P.I. Nick Anderson can give–even if that includes the impish ghost and sexy vampire who make up his team. But Nick is hiding secrets of his own. And Jackie’s investigation has plunged them both into a vengeful game reaching back centuries–and up against a malevolent force hungry for more than just victory. . .

Quick & Dirty: Deadworld misses the mark with an unlikable heroine and a forgettable supporting cast.  As far as urban fantasy novels go, this one isn’t a great success.

Opening Sentence: A misty rain swirled down into the darkness between the two brick buildings.

Excerpt: Here

The Review:

FBI agent Jackie Rutledge and her psychic partner, Laurel, have been assigned to a new murder investigation.  There is nothing normal about the crime scene or the way in which the victim was killed.  As luck would have it, Nick Anderson, a private investigator, is already working hard to track the killer.  Jackie, Nick and their rag-tag group of supernatural friends set out to stop the killer.

The introduction to this urban fantasy world isn’t particularly well executed.  The world-building is superficial and the foundation for a compelling plot never materialized.  Urban fantasy tends to be character driven, but I was unable to connect with any of these characters.  The narrative is tedious and the meandering plot developed far too slowly, causing me to lost interest.  The characters fall flat and I just didn’t care about any of them.

I think many readers might find it difficult to really connect with Deadworld’s protagonist, Jackie.  She lacks an authentic female voice.  With a simple find and replace command you could quickly change the gender of the protagonist and no one would notice.  Jackie isn’t the type of dynamic urban fantasy heroine that I enjoy reading about.  I don’t mind reading about a flawed heroine with baggage, but if the personality and attitude are off – it just doesn’t work for me.  For a character with so many flaws, Jackie isn’t remotely interesting or likable.  Jackie’s damaged past translated into some pretty outrageous behavior.  Sleeping around with random strangers and getting drunk seem to be her favorite pastimes.  Jackie comes off as brash, immature, bitter, miserable, and angry with no self respect. These are some pretty deplorable attributes for anyone, especially an FBI agent. I just couldn’t find any redeeming qualities and I think her character really lacked authenticity.

Overall, Deadworld isn’t partially exciting and mostly unoriginal.  This story doesn’t know what it wants to be.  It straddles the line between hard-boiled detective fiction and urban fantasy and ends up being Dresden lite.  The characters didn’t feel authentic, the plot lacked depth and certain aspects of the story were revealed too slowly.

Notable Scene:

Nick reached over and grabbed the mudroom door’s handle.  “Be wary.  We’re walking into a trap.”  She nodded, and Nick opened the door.  At that moment, the ringing thrum of Deadworld began to abate.  “He’s stopped feeding.”

The heavy, metal basement door was unlocked, and Nick shoved it open and leaped down to the landing.  Jackie tried to run after.

Summoning up the bit of extra strength he could, Nick braced himself for the landing so he would keep from slamming into the opposite wall.  He had both guns out pointing out across the basement floor when his feet touched down.

A single fluorescent light burned in the middle of the room, an all-too-familiar setup.  Its blue-white glare cast a ghostly cone of light down on the cadaver’s table, upon which the Agatha lookalike lay.  She was still clad in Winnie the Pooh pajamas, and her listless arm hung over the side of the table, fresh blood dripping from the small puncture in her arm.

The Deadworld Series:

1. Deadworld

You can visit Jim around the web here: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

FTC Advisory: Kensington provided me with a copy of Deadworld.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.  In addition, I don’t receive affiliate fees for anything purchased via links from my site.

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4 Responses to “Review: Deadworld by J. N. Duncan

  1. Diana (@Offbeat Vagabond)No Gravatar

    Great review hon. I just got this for free yesterday from Amazon, really nice finding a review. Now I am a little apprehensive, but I will gun for it, might as well. But just so you know, I am scared LOL! Thanks for the review hon, will definitely keep my eyes open :)

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  2. Justin GustainisNo Gravatar

    This just occurred to me: time was, some women who wrote genre fiction (except romance, of course) would put their initials on the cover instead of their first name — I assume to avoid being “ghettoized” as, well, female writers by both bookstores and readers. But now, because the authorial presence in urban fantasy is so heavily female, a guy writing UF with a female protagonist feels the necessity (or his publisher does) to conceal *his* gender behind initials. Interesting, no?

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  3. AngelaNo Gravatar
    Author Comment

    Justin – yes, I’ve thought about this as well. I always assumed that it was a marketing decision by the publisher.

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  4. J.N. DuncanNo Gravatar

    Yes, it was mostly a publisher decision, though I obviously agreed to it. I believe it was more to do with predominance of female authors in current urban fantasy than with the fact my protaganist is female. It is interesting, I agree, but outside of seeing the cover on a site or on the shelves in a store, it’s clear pretty much right away who I am if one does a little poking around. Does the ambiguity work for me? Honestly, no clue at this point. It certainly gives me an idea for a blog post though, as to what sort of expectations there might be inherent from readers going into a book.

    For instance, in my book, I’d be very curious how Jackie is viewed from readers knowing she’s written by a male compared to those who assume otherwise. Angela commented that one of the reasons she didn’t care for Jackie is that she came across as too male. This is certainly a concern as a male writer, at least it has been for me, and perhaps more so because this aspect of her character was done on purpose. She has some definite identity/self-respect issues, which can make her difficult to sympathize with initially. It’s been very interesting to see this kind of love/hate feeling about her play out with readers and reviewers thus far. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground with a character like this.

    And Diana, I hope you enjoy the read. Jackie is a little hard around the edges, but hopefully, sympathetic enough that you want to root for her to find her way back to being a healthy person again.

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