Black City Saint by Richard A. Knaak is a historical urban fantasy set in 1920s Chicago starring Saint George and the dragon he slew! I feel like I can just end the review here with that sentence ;-). But I suppose I won’t, since I do want to tell you about how fun this mash-up of genres was to read and that includes a dragon and a great female protagonist to help out Saint George (who prefers to go by Nick).
Note: I received an advanced copy of Black City Saint from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Black City Saint by Richard A. Knaak (Black City Saint #1)
Published by Pyr on March 1st, 2016
Genres: Adult, Historical Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Page Length: 390 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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For more than sixteen hundred years, Nick Medea has followed and guarded the Gate that keeps the mortal realm and that of Feirie separate, seeking in vain absolution for the fatal errors he made when he slew the dragon. All that while, he has tried and failed to keep the woman he loves from dying over and over.
Yet in the fifty years since the Night the Dragon Breathed over the city of Chicago, the Gate has not only remained fixed, but open to the trespasses of the Wyld, the darkest of the Feiriefolk. Not only does that mean an evil resurrected from Nick’s own past, but the reincarnation of his lost Cleolinda, a reincarnation destined once more to die.
Nick must turn inward to that which he distrusts the most: the Dragon, the beast he slew when he was still only Saint George. He must turn to the monster residing in him, now a part of him…but ever seeking escape.
The gang war brewing between Prohibition bootleggers may be the least of his concerns. If Nick cannot prevent an old evil from opening the way between realms…then not only might Chicago face a fate worse than the Great Fire, but so will the rest of the mortal realm.
- Is historical urban fantasy becoming a thing? Because I really like it! I can’t imagine a more fun way to read about the 1920s than with exiles from Feirie hanging out and causing trouble in the middle of a bootlegger war.
- Seriously, what could make Prohibition-era Chicago better? Add a dragon :D. I was worried that the dragon wouldn’t feature much due to the whole being slain thing, but something funky happened during that troublesome event and now the dragon is sharing a mind and body with Saint George aka Nick Medea. And he doesn’t really want to stay as just a passenger to Nick’s very long life….
- What the synopsis doesn’t focus on much is that there is a strong female protagonist around to help Nick. I really loved this character (her name is slightly a spoiler, so I’ll avoid it). She is spunky, deals with finding out all about the supernatural world quite well, but is also believable for the time period she is in. She reminds me a lot of Agent Carter now that I think about it….
- Black City Saint doesn’t rely on the tried and true urban fantasy supernatural creatures. Instead there are a lot of spooky creatures from Feirie that have made it into our world one way or another, including a lycanthrope stuck in his very large dog/wolf hybrid form and really scary shadow monsters.
- The writing of Black City Saint came off a bit stilted at times. I got into the rhythm of it eventually, but I think it would have been a better read if the writing was smoothed out a bit. I’m not sure if this style was specific to this book, since I haven’t read Knaak’s previous work and I’m curious to hear from those who have.
- This story is definitely slower paced than a lot of urban fantasies, but faster paced than most historical fantasies I’ve read. As long as you know going in that it’ll be a slow but steady ride, I think you’ll be pleased.
- I’m in no way an expert on the 1920s and there are a lot of references to the important people of that time that went right over my head. I came to terms with simply not knowing enough about these historical figures to follow those sentences, but it could be frustrating if you feel the need to know everything referenced. Prep Wikipedia!
Black City Saint is a refreshing blend of urban and historical fantasy in a unique setting. I love breaking out of the well-established tropes of a genre, so getting to read a story that took my favorite parts of urban fantasy, but mixed in a lot of new ideas was great. If you like the mystery plots of urban fantasy, but want something different, this is definitely one to check out.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
Black City Saint by Richard A. Knaak
© 2016, Anya. All rights reserved.