“Charming” by Elliott James (Pax Arcana #1)

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Charming has been on my TBR pile for years. I think it’s safe to assume a minimum of five years. Potentially, the main reason is my commitment phobia for new series, whether it’s books or TV shows. The series, Pax Arcana, totals five novels and multiple novellas. What if I liked the book? Then I would be committed for the rest of the series. And, for whatever reason, the idea of that terrified me.

If I’m being honest it’s most likely because I’m running out of space on my bookshelves.

So a small part of me was hoping that I wouldn’t like Charming. Just to escape being sucked in.

Oh, boy, was I wrong. I loved this book. Which was such a refreshing change of pace after Deadly Hemlock

The premise of Charming is brilliant, which is why I have it in the first place. “What if there wasn’t just one Prince Charming, but a whole family line?”. John Charming, the narrator, is the latest Charming, sworn to protect the Pax Arcana, the thing that keeps all things supernatural hidden from regular people. 

The plot is quite complex, so I don’t really want to reduce it down here. But what you need to know is that John is being “hunted” by the Knights Templar for a **massive spoiler reason**. But, while John is trying to avoid the Knights, he gets sucked into the hunt for a new vampire queen and her twisted plans for the town of Clayburg.

This book is like Supernatural. But with the main character starting out with powers, rather than having a whole bunch of stuff happen to him. Charming is also like Supernatural in that the main character is one of my favourite types of characters: the rough diamond. The badass with a heart of gold. I love this type of character because it allows for so much flexibility. James often demonstrates John’s heart of gold through his actions, but has John’s inner monologue be snarky and sarcastic. It’s beautifully balanced.

Similar to Supernatural, all mythologies seem to be represented, not just the fantasy staples. I also sense a bit of a “monster of the week” vibe, where each book might involve a different “hunt”, but the main character’s journey happens in among these hunts. I am definitely here for it.

I think what impressed me most about Charming were the fight scenes. Often, I have trouble visualising fights in novels. They’re either too vague or too detailed to really help my imagination translate the words to images. I usually just end up reading the words with my brain visualising a fight scene from whichever action show/movie I’d scene most recently. But James actually somehow managed to keep John’s voice steady through each fight scene, while also having vivid details and procedural exposition. Such a tightrope to balance on.

I am pretty excited for the rest of the series to arrive. I really want to see which mythologies will be explored next time!

★★★★

 

About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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