tl;dr: I finished this book in a single day (yes it was short, but more importantly: I just couldn’t put it down.)
The Younger Gods features a strong narrative voice, right from the start. From there, the plot moves at a ridiculous pace, in very intentional sort of way.
It follows the advice of South Park creators Trey Park and Matt Stone on the importance of putting “therefore” and “but” between your story beats instead of “and then.”
Go watch the two-minute video. I’ll wait. It’s my favourite bit of writing wisdom.
Instead of the muggle boy heading to a magical school, we have a boy from an old, deep, archaic tradition attending college in NY and trying to navigate the subways, dorms, and online jargon of modern life. It’s no less magical for this, and Jacob’s mannerisms are endearing rather than annoying.
What worked for me personally was that I recently visited New York for the first time. It was the most intriguing city I’ve ever been to, and Michael R. Underwood captures its essence brilliantly for such a short book. He calls it his “love letter to the five boroughs that taught [him] what a city can be” and I have to agree.
The magic is neat (think along the lines of blood, gemstones, spirits, and demons) and draws inspiration from a bucking fucketload of mythical traditions, but I do wish it was a bit father down the “awesome” scale.
However, easily the best part about The Younger Gods is the diversity. It’s big and a naturally assumed part of the world, and it deserves to be recognized. Let’s all collectively tip our hats to Mike for writing the kind of book that genre desperately needs to see more of.
My only thing is that for how short, easy, fun, and compelling this novel is…it’s missing a certain spark. A certain magic.
On paper, it looks great. As a student and practitioner of creative writing myself, it is satisfying to notice all the boxes and watch them get checked off. Try-fail cycles. Motivation. Conflict. The South Park method I linked above. Countless others.
But for all that I’m not 100% convinced. I can’t put my finger on what can be improved specifically (which is why I review books instead of editing them), but there is an inexplicable leap from the precepts of fiction to a legendary story, and The Younger Gods hasn’t quite made it.
However, for all of that, don’t let it stop you. It’s short enough that you won’t regret reading this punchy urban fantasy set in New York.
The Younger Gods will be published on October 13, 2014 by Pocket Star, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. It can be preordered at most reputable ebook retailers.
Exciting news: there will be a giveaway on my blog for two free copies of this book starting on October 13, so stay tuned for that!