Brian McClellan, known for his Powder Mage epic fantasy series, gives us something very different in Uncanny Collateral an urban fantasy featuring a bounty hunter/private investigator as the main character. This is a quick read. It’s also an enjoyable urban fantasy adventure with some building blocks that promise interesting turns in subsequent novels.
In Uncanny Collateral the main character is Alek Fitz, he works as a collections agent, collecting souls that are owed to certain of the Other. However, Alek is himself enslaved to his boss, so it’s not exactly like he chose this life. He’s a bit of a tough guy persona with the huggable teddy bear underneath. He also has some rad tattoos that give him certain powers and extra strength during fights. It’s not overdone, if anything perhaps a bit understated, but his powers and strength help make the fight scenes cinematic at times. Alek is also friends with Maggie, a Djinn that lives in a ring he can’t take off his finger. I thoroughly enjoyed Maggie’s character and backstory. In some ways, she actually outshone Alek in terms of interesting character background. I loved her banter, and thought that McClellan did a great job of giving her depth even though we never see her, merely have her voice speaking inside Alek’s mind. The story itself is fun and engaging. The mystery elements are very well done, and the reveals always felt interesting and compelled me to keep reading. The pacing was another part of the novel that was very well done. It had that action adventure feel where you never quite feel like putting the novel down because you want to get to the next plot point or the next reveal when the main character figures something else out about the mystery. That’s always a fun feeling, and reminds me a bit of summer blockbuster movies. Actually, as I mentioned above, some of the fight sequences are rather cinematic, so a summer blockbuster movie isn’t a bad comparison.
Unfortunately, that summer blockbuster comparison also works for some of the weaknesses of the novel. While the story is fun, the setting felt a little vanilla to me. Some of this might be corrected in future volumes, but in this first entry I didn’t find anything particularly interesting about the world building. Alek also didn’t grab me as a character. He was fun, but I didn’t feel much connection with him and was actually much more interested in Maggie as a character. The side character felt underdeveloped as well, more like caricatures than fully realized characters. Some of that is probably down to the type of novel and its relative brevity. This is still a fun story, and there was plenty to keep me reading, but there were definitely moments when I wished for more fully realized side characters.
Uncanny Collateral is a fun, quick read that reminds me of a summer action flick. It’s worth checking out for those who love urban fantasy or for those who are looking for a fantasy private eye story. Also, Maggie is pretty awesome and you should meet her.
Review by Calvin Park
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