Sunday, 19 April 2015

Book Review: Bad Mojo by Shane Berryhill


About the author:
Shane Berryhill is a novelist and comic book writer. His work has been praised by Publishers Weekly, NPR, NBC Today.com, Wired Magazine, Horror World, and others. He's been a guest and speaker at events ranging from the National Council of English Teachers conference to San Diego Comic Con. Find Shane online at Amazon, Goodreads, www.shaneberryhill.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

My rating:
Excellent (10/10)

My review:

Bad Mojo is Shane Berryhill’s first novel in the Zora Banks series and if I had to describe it in three words, those would be ‘gripping, suspenseful, and (freaking) awesome’. In fact, I’d go so far as to call it my favourite Urban Fantasy novel of the first half of 2014, even counting the latest Harry Dresden offering. Yes, it is that good. The plotting, characters and world-building are all superb, and Mr. Berryhill is nothing short of a writer-extraordinaire. The whole time while reading Bad Mojo I felt like I was watching a movie play out in my head. The writing has a way of coming to life, which is sure to keep you awake late into the night as you hunger to see what happens next…

But first thing’s first. Bad Mojo is the story of Zora Banks – a beautiful, Southern conjure woman of mixed race – and her partner, Ash Owens, a pretty boy-redneck cursed with a monstrous alter ego.

When Tennessee State Representative Jack Walker hires Ash to find his missing, drug-addicted wife, Ash finds himself at odds with Chattanooga’s various underworld gangs – both the living and the unliving – as he and Zora become embroiled in a far-reaching occult organization’s grab for ultimate power.

Unlike most other Urban Fantasies, Bad Mojo – the first Zora Banks novel – is told through the point of view of Zora’s partner, Ash. This helps build a sense of mystery around Zora’s character, which for me personally was one of the highlights of the novel. Mind you, I'm not saying I didn't enjoy Ash’s narrative. On the contrary – he’s badass, sarcastic, and tough, while also showing enough vulnerability to win one’s sympathy. Plus, he gets some of the best one-liners in the novel. As a long-time fan of True Blood’s Pam, I can’t help but like a character like that. 

Besides the two protagonists, Bad Mojo offers a colourful cast of supporting heroes, both human and supernatural alike. Highlights for me included Ash’s friend ‘Baby Shit’ (best nickname ever!), who I’d love to see as the hero of his own short story, the mouthy and tough-as-nails Earlene, and the Faye woman Autumn. The latter plays only a minor role, but will definitely leave a lasting impression in your minds… trust me. 

The antagonists of Bad Mojo are also quite exotic and well-realized. There are zombies, vipers (aka vampires), a particularly creepy necromancer, and… wait for it… politicians. Yes. I’d argue that the latter were the worst, but you’ll probably think I'm bias… so I’ll keep my opinions to myself and let you judge for yourselves as you read.

One aspect of Bad Mojo I particularly enjoyed is the rich mythology introduced throughout the novel, and Shane Berryhill’s ability to make the setting of Chattanooga its own character. The landscape is painted beautifully and masterfully, while the author manages to maintain a fast-paced plot full of twists and turns, as well as sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll. It’s like Sons of Anarchy and True Blood had a bastard child with American Horror Story: Coven, and… Wait. Need I even continue? There’s so much to like in Bad Mojo that whether you’re a fan of Urban Fantasy, horror, or suspenseful thrillers, you won’t be disappointed. 

Now, all I've said so far doesn't mean that Bad Mojo is perfect. There were a few small things that irritated me, including a bit of language and a rather explicit scene I found unnecessary, but ultimately those minor annoyances didn't in any way lessen my overall enjoyment of the novel.

In conclusion, I’d say that if you’re on the lookout for a new and exciting Urban Fantasy, you need look no further. Bad Mojo is a striking beginning to a promising series that hopefully will continue for many years to come. Shane Berryhill is an author of considerable talent, and his characters are like new friends you’re only just getting to know and can’t wait to ‘see’ again. 

All in all, the Zora Banks series is yet another thrilling addition to Ragnarok Publications’ growing catalogue, and a ‘must-read’ for anyone who loves the fantastic and the macabre.

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