[Book review] Brooklyn Knight by C. J. Henderson

Brooklyn Knight by C. J. HendersonOne of the hottest properties in urban fantasy these days is Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.  It’s inevitable that imitators will crop up, and indeed I’m pretty sure that Butcher’s influence has been a huge help in the flowering of the genre.  But that doesn’t mean that every novel measures up to the high standards that a lot of readers have come to expect.  Brooklyn Knight makes a valiant effort, but ultimately falls flat.

Professor Piers Knight of the Brooklyn Museum is pleased to hear from an old friend on an archaeological dig in Syria, and especially pleased to hear of the great discovery coming to light.  Only one thing is needed to help with the work: the Dream Stone, long thought nothing more than a curiosity and relegated to museum storage.  Knight readily grants permission for his friend to view the stone.

But Knight and his new assistant, the lovely Bridget Elkins, are quickly plunged into a nightmare nobody could have foretold.  From an attempt to steal the artifact from the museum to attacks by demons and wraiths, events make it clear that the Dream Stone is far more important than anybody realized.  And someone will stop at nothing to get it.

I had high hopes for this book.  I like the urban fantasy that runs along the same lines as the Dresden books.  But I was exceedingly disappointed in this novel.  It didn’t live up to its promise.  In fact, I can think of one word to perfectly describe this book: clunky.

Let’s start with the dialogue.  Both Knight and Bridget speak in a constant barrage of quips, one-liners and bon mots.  There’s almost nothing natural about their verbal interactions with each other, or with anyone else.  Knight himself is the worst offender, with his dialogue being florid and overbearing as well.  One of his opening sentences serves as a good example: “Now, of course, understand that all that you can see before you, every building and warehouse, every street and lane and alley, indeed, every inch from here to the water’s edge, all of that is New York City, or as we here humbly, but correctly, like to call it, the greatest city in the world.”  One of Knight’s pet phrases, meant to indicate surprise, is “Bless all the tiny monkeys”, which makes no sense and would get annoying if it was more used often than it is.

You can likely tell from the above quote that the author is fond of commas.  Sentences such as that one are not at all uncommon.  There were quite a few times that I had to stop and re-read a sentence because by the time I’d gotten to the end of it, I’d lost the sense of where it had started.

The issue with commas leads into the other major technical issue with the writing—the sheer clunkiness of the sentence construction.  Oftentimes it’s not that the sentences are technically incorrect, but they seem to have been written in the most convoluted manner possible.  There are extra details that don’t need to be there, and they clutter up the writing even further.  A sentence that jumped out at me (and, upon cruising the internet, jumped out to a lot of others as well) is the following:

“I take your meaning,” answered Knight, his tone meant to imply he might actually be considering their offer, the accent he suddenly began using letting them know he was not, “but, this being Brooklyn, what can I say, but, well, you know, youze gotta do what’chu gotta do; I gotta do what I gotta do—youze know what I’m sayin’?”

Eventually, I found myself skimming much of the novel out of sheer self defense.  And you should see the conniptions my word processing program is having as I type out these excerpts.

I was somewhat interested in the plot, which involved a lost city and an artifact that was supposedly key in understanding what ancient disaster had overtaken it.  But in the end, I felt that the Dream Stone was nothing more than a Maltese Falcon of a sort—something for the characters to chase after, but something that ultimately has very little meaning in and of itself.

I could go into more details about this novel’s flaws—how Bridget is little more than a screaming, tremulous redhead apart from a few conveniently timed moments, the fact that every character repeatedly “chuckles”, conveniently appearing magical items—but I think I’ve said enough.

As much as I truly hate giving a review as negative as this one, I just don’t feel like I can recommend this title.  I have to wonder if the author was trying to mimic an older style, possibly one that’s more noir or fanciful, but it didn’t work.  It makes me sad to see an interesting premise so thrown away in a morass of bad writing.

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