Another peer review of one of Matt Forbeck’s 12 for 12 trilogies. This time, it’s “Shotguns & Sorcery,” Matt’s noir-esque fantasy world. As always, full disclosure: I’ve traded drinks and emails with Matt, and I was a backer for the Kickstarter to fund these. Also, like his last trilogy, while the first book stands largely on its own, the three books are pretty heavily connected, so I’ll review them as a collection.
The main character is Max Gibson, a retired adventurer/mage who is down on his luck. He and his former group of treasure hunters landed the big score and called it quits ten years ago. Since then, he’s lost touch with most of his friends, and broken it off with the love of his life. And that’s all before he’s called in to investigate the murder of the entire family of one of his best friends.
The entire setup is “Chandler meets Tolkien,” and I was in love with the premise of a hard-bitten investigator in a fantasy noir world. And the first book is a lot like that. But then, around book two, the story starts to slide into a more traditional fantasy tale, and by the time you’re into End Times in Dragon City, it’s a full-on fantasy adventure.
At first, this bugged me. I am a fan of noir, even if it’s hazily defined, and I felt like I wasn’t getting what I wanted. And yet, the series’ tone reminded me a fair bit of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files novels which also use noir detective trappings to tell a more traditional fantasy tale (albeit a modern fantasy one in Butcher’s case). Once I wrapped my head around the fact that Matt was using noir as set dressing and not as a plot structure, I got over my concerns and enjoyed the mad race to the end of everything. Plus, Matt does something with his fantasy that I don’t see much these days — he keeps it concise, and that gets a lot of points with me in these days of 800-page doorstops.
You can get all three books from Matt’s site, including a free short story if you’re not sure about the tone.