Drake by Peter McLean (The Burned Man #1)

I received a free copy of Drake from the author in exchange for an honest review. I would like to express my gratitude to Peter McLean and Angry Robot Books.

Don Drake is a London-based alcoholic magician hitman. This story starts as all narratives should with the first person protagonist playing this stories equivalent of poker whilst inebriated against a business owning notorious archdemon named Wormwood. They are wagering magical artefacts. Drake, who is often down on his luck believes he has unbeatable cards. Now the problem is that he doesn't have the money to call his opponents hand. Wormwood being the archetypal (or not!) nice-guy demon says he will spot Drake the money and of course, Drake agrees and loses. He now is in a very powerful demons debt which means he must source Wormwood his murdering skills. This is to carry out certain unsavoury roles including killing business rivals and other figures until the money owed is repaid via the assassinations. 

This novel is set in a gritty and despondent London. The veil between the city and the demon world is thin in certain places and sometimes abominable creatures lurk the foggy streets. Now, Drake lives in this area and has a deal with the local monstrosities that if he doesn't bother them then they will not cross him. He is quite a powerful magician but the majority of his power comes from The Burned Man who is a chained and bound figment of a very powerful demon who he keeps at his house. During rituals, enchantments, and with special ingredients (lots of toads!) Drake can summon some of Hell's most notorious horrors to help with his assigned killings. In trying to pay back his debt to Wormwood an unpredictable calamity happens in addition to this he later on saves a pretty lady from a dark presence in a London alleyway. This is where things then get really interesting for our hero.

First off, this was a book I needed to read. It is quick, witty, noirish, humorous and generally ticks a lot of boxes that I require when reading an urban fantasy novel. The main character, although respected and powerful is a bit of a bum. He has an on-off relationship with his teenage sweetheart (although it's mostly off), he drinks in a bar full of the damnedest criminals, gets eaten by his pet demon occasionally and other trivialities. I enjoyed the presentation and voice of Drake. He's a character I really got inside the mind of. A lot of the language used here is British and even cockney slang but the character often speaks to the reader. He will ask us our opinions and explain certain phrases and London lingo that we might not naturally understand. 

This was exciting all the way through and a breeze to read. It is dark, has some very adult scenes (including torture) and features some of Hell and myth's most notorious beings in a modern day environment. It also features a 'slipped' angel who is an excellent character and Don's relationship with her may affect whether she falls or re-enters Heaven. Sometimes, Don will go for a bacon breakfast and then get attacked by one of the Furies of Greek stories is just an example of the interesting and complex merging of ages and cultures that McLean easily and addictively presented here. Sometimes urban fantasy books will have a weak middle or a distracting or unfulfilling ending but I can confidently say that there are no such issues here. I read this in two days and I would have read it quicker if I had more time.   

This book acts as a complete standalone and the ending is ultimately intense, exciting and excellent. For anyone who likes urban fantasy (I'm looking at you, Emma) this is a book that needs to be read. This was designed to be a 5-book series and I want to make you aware that 3 books have been released and Damnation ends on a major cliffhanger. Unfortunately, McLean has advised me due to certain issues he may never get to complete the series. His excellent and recently released Priest of Bones is well worth your time too. My only real complaint is the blurb on the back cover (which wasn't written by Peter) gives away the whole spine of the plot. One point that is mentioned on the back cover isn't actually revealed as what would have been a surprise until only 30 pages are remaining. Although the blurb sounds good it is too spoiler-worthy for me to class as good marketing. 

All my experiences with McLean's books have been extremely positive and although I know this series is unlikely to be finished as the author would have of course wished, I will still buy Domination this evening. Recommend.

8/10 This story starts as all narratives should with the protagonist playing poker whilst inebriated against a business owning notorious archdemon.

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