Book Review: Lawrence Davis’ “Blunt Force Magic”
By: A.E Santana
Janzen Robinson has been trying to forget his past and move forward with a boring, mundane life as a delivery man. This intention is interrupted when he saves a young woman from a Stalker—an evil from the Abyss—and is thrown back into a life of magic, monsters, and the pain he was trying to forget. With help from old allies and new companions, Janzen does his best to save the life of an innocent while not getting everyone killed in the process.
Blunt Force Magic is the debut novel of Lawrence Davis, a U.S. Army infantryman who served three tours overseas. This novel is the first in the Monster and Men trilogy and was written partly to assist in expressing the struggles associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Set in Cleveland, Ohio, Blunt Force Magic is an urban fantasy: Stalkers invade our world from the Abyss, half-elves own magic trick shops, and unidentified nonhumans thrive in plain sight. Davis does an excellent job of melding fantasy themes into a contemporary metropolis. The supernatural situations and characters are convincing without having to stretch the reader’s beliefs too far. This is done by having the protagonist and narrator, Janzen Robinson, comment and give brief explanations on the magical background. The information feed feels natural as Janzen explains the situation to the reader as if he or she is standing next to him.
Janzen narrates the story with an honest, direct, and humorous outlook. With this type of narration, the novel incorporates diverse characters with a straightforward attitude. Novice witch Maria is Hispanic, warrior Grove is deaf, and half-elf Kaycee is no lithe creature. The book does not shy away from pointing out the diversity of these characters, but welcomes it and showcases the best of humanity in each of their qualities (strength, compassion, loyalty, bravery, etc.) as they assist the protagonist. Also, Janzen, who isn’t given a definite ethnic background, is not the typical hero from fantasy lore. He’s out of shape, out of practice, and considers himself to have never been good at magic in the first place. He initially comes off as crude and at times insensitive, but, like his companions, he exhibits positive qualities that demonstrate the best of the human spirit.
The main antagonist of Blunt Force Magic is a Stalker—a dark, almost unstoppable entity hell-bent on death and destruction. The Stalker is an interpretation of PTSD, in which Davis personifies the struggles related with the disorder. Stalkers come from a dark, terrifying place. They appear overwhelming, too strong to defeat, and utilize surprise attacks, seemingly coming from nowhere to devour their prey. Stalkers are given a physical appearance, but the way they affect people tells more about the character: “There was a weird drumbeat of darkness fraying the edge of my sight as my body battled with my brain’s desire to shut down.” In contrast, a person’s inner strength is portrayed by the characters who deal with the Stalker directly. These characters all have difficult pasts: there is an allusion to Maria’s losing her mother and dealing with bullies, Grove is a war veteran, and Janzen lost his surrogate family as a teenager. They fight this unrelenting, overpowering darkness, yet manage against it. The title of the book is a play on the words “blunt force trauma,” the term used for physical impact of injury or attack, referencing the painful themes of the novel.
Blunt Force Magic is a witty, action-packed fantasy adventure, with heartwarming and humorous moments. The novel’s use of magical motifs helps to present a metaphor for the power and perseverance of the human will and heart. Readers who are fans of urban fantasy, quippy characters, and stories with thought-provoking themes may find Blunt Force Magic entertaining, captivating, and clever.
A.E. Santana is a Southern California native who writes horror, fantasy, and science fiction. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications, with a minor in script writing, from California State University, San Bernardino. She taught fine art, theater, and writing at the middle school level and writes media content for a not-for-profit organization. A. E. Santana is also part of the theater group East Valley Rep in Indio, CA, as one of their founding playwrights. She has quite an affinity for cats. Publications include short stories in various anthologies and one-act plays. A. E. Santana and her work can be found at www.aesantana.com, on Twitter (@foxflur), and on Facebook (facebook.com/authoraesantana).