Domino Finn—a great writer and author of the Sycamore Moon Series—is doing a relaunch for his book Shade City, which is a terrific and very unique read. It’s been several months since I finished Shade City, but I thought now was the perfect opportunity to release a review.
Shade City: A Dante Butcher Novel (from the back cover):
“They call it the City of Angels. Well… angels, demons… I don’t really know the difference.”
For Dante Butcher, Los Angeles ghost hunting isn’t a business, it’s a pastime. Going to clubs, knocking back a few drinks, even taking the occasional punch are all in a night’s work. But cool confidence doesn’t prepare Dante for what begins in a piss-soaked bathroom. The Dead Side opens up a whole new world to him, and for the first time, it’s the ghosts that are hunting Dante.
The MC: The main character, Dante Butcher, is a young, upwardly mobile computer programmer, who loves the LA nightlife—hip clubs, trippy techno, even more trippy drugs. He’s a good guy at heart, but he’s not overly concerned about moral superiority, nor is he the classic hero by any stretch of the imagination. He likes to party hard, is fine with one night stands, and is completely unapologetic for his lifestyle.
Dante certainly loves the nightlife, but he also has business with the dark streets of LA: Dante has the strange ability to see Shades—the ghosts of people who haven’t quite passed on. Most Shades are pretty harmless, but a few get a little rowdy, possessing the bodies of the unwary—particularly highly inebriated or supremely stoned club-goers. Dante, along with his ghostly friend Violet, hunts down these misbehaving shades and sends them back over to the Dead Side.
What I love most about Dante, is that he’s not a caricature. He’s not a great guy, but nor is he your typical anti-hero. He’s a late twenty-something bro, who you might find at just about any nightclub, except he’s also just a little more. At the same time, I personally found it a little bit difficult to connect with Dante. He seems perfectly real, but very unlike me. I’m a parent who calls it quits at 9 PM on the nose—I haven’t seen the inside of an LA club since my Marine Corps days—and techno and dub-step aren’t really my jams. Still, overall I enjoyed spending time with Dante.
The World: The world building is subtle. Most of the story takes place in contemporary LA, though there are several scenes in the Dead Side—an otherworldly dwelling place of shades. When reading, you get the sense that there’s much more to this world than is revealed throughout the story. The lack of detail, however, perfectly mirrors Dante’s experience with this strange land of the supernatural: namely, he really doesn’t know all that much about the Dead Side or even about his powers. The world exists, but Dante is just a visitor.
The Story and Writing: The story is great—a little slower paced than the hundred-mile-an-hour shoot ’em ups I typically enjoy, but still a fun read. Though there is action, and well-done action, mostly Shade City is a mystery. Dante encounters a new brand of Shade, one with more power than he’s ever seen, and this Shade is connected to something much bigger and far more sinister. Naturally, Dante needs to figure out how all the pieces fit together before bad things happen. Lastly, the writing … Let me just say that Domino Finn can write. I like his Sycamore Moon books, but I think the writing in this book is the absolute bee’s knees. He’s got a style that makes me more than a little jealous as an author and which makes Shade City a genuine pleasure to read.
The Rating: Four and a half stars. A subtle, well-crafted novel that mixes things up and treads new ground in the Urban Fantasy genre. Definitely worth reading. Buy it here: Shade City