Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Jackie Black, sorcerer and gunslinger, has a surprise for Roman, his lover of two years. Jackie has decided to move to the city to be closer to his boyfriend and makes a surprise trip to tell Roman the good news. But the surprise is on Jackie when he intrudes on a romantic evening Roman has planned with another man, a much younger man. Heartbroken and lacking a place to stay, Jackie heads out of Roman’s building and straight into trouble. In a bar in the poorer section of the city, Jackie is befriended by a man who claims to be a supernatural detective who needs help on a case. That case involves retrieving a magical object from someone who just might also be a killer.
Needing something to take his mind off his pain, Jackie agrees to help the detective and changes the course of his life forever. For nothing in Jackie’s life is as he wants it to be. His father is off somewhere in Asia, mourning the loss of his wife and Jackie’s mother, Jackie feels he is not made for love as his last three boyfriends have cheated on him, and his new found friend is dead, dying in his arms moments upon his return. What is Jackie to do but what a Black always does. Holster his guns and go get the person who done the crime, or crimes. He can only hope it won’t cost him his life as well.
If asked, I would be hard pressed to say which of Megan Derr’s fantasy universes is my favorite. but certainly her Dance with the Devil series would be in the top two. So you can imagine my delight upon hearing that her latest release was a return to that amazing universe and wondrous group of supernatural beings that inhabit it. Jackie Black and his father Jebadiah Black have appeared briefly in other stories but now Jackie is getting a central role in his own novel, Dance Only for Me (Dance with the Devil #6). And I have to say I loved it. It had everything I have come to expect from Megan Derr and this terrific series.
Jackie Black is an oddity in his world, an amazing thing to say given the creatures that roam the streets and bars of the City. He is over 70 years old, a sorcerer who wears a Stetson, cowboy boots, duster and uses magical revolvers of the old West to take down miscreants, human and non human alike. Thin as a whippet, “whipcord” thin as his mother would say, Jackie is a bit of an anachronism, just like his father. He speaks in the dulcet well mannered tones of a Sheriff in the old West, polite even when aiming his six shooters to kill, This is our first introduction to him and his story:
Jackie caught the goblin right square between its crazy ass eyes and sighed as the fool thing dropped like a sack of flour to the warehouse floor. He holstered his revolver in a single, smooth move and touched the brim of his hat to the cluster of goblins huddled in the corner. “Ma’am,” he said to the one at the head of the pack, who had hired him to do something about a goblin that had tipped from average goblin crazy to crazier than a pack of elves gone drunk and frisky.
He walked over to the body to make certain it was dead and wrinkled his nose at the smell wafting off it. He’d caught whiffs of it before, but now the thing was holding still it was a sight easier to catch. “Poor thing’s mind done been scrambled like eggs at Sunday brunch.” He tipped his hat back to look up at the head goblin as she approached him. “Ain’t got a clue how he was poisoned, but I were you, ma’am, I’d be checking right careful for a traitor in your midst. This sort of thing is near always personal.”
I loved the dialog that Derr has written for Jackie. It is so easy to picture him, a spare man of honor, like Gary Cooper in High Noon (google it). In fact, I loved everything about Jackie, from his background and family life to his current painful predicament as a discarded lover who thinks he will never find the person/being right for him. His singular code of honor drives his actions as well as his relationships. And people are drawn to him whether he likes it or not. The many layers to Jackie will draw in the reader as well, we just can’t help it!
Typical of Derr, it’s not just Jackie who is beautifully characterized but all the beings/people created for the story as well. Whether it be friend or foe, everyone you will meet between these pages feel real. They have hidden agendas driven by greed, pain, or a need to set things right. They want love or friends or a family or all three. From a demon called Ned whose pain will make you cry to a young boy, Wyatt, whose dark past has made him older than his years, each and every one will cry out for your affection and attention. And they will deserve it. Especially Ned, Wyatt Thorne and a vampire necromancer, Phoenix Fairchild, each so memorable in their own way. I loved them too.
One of the charms of this series is that couples, people from previous books make appearances throughout the series. Sable Brennus and Christian are here, as is Ontoniel Desrosiers, Johnny and Grim, and even a dragon or three. Seeing them here just made me want to go back and start reading each of their books all over again. Megan Derr has such a wonderful imagination and her creativity just flows through this series like a river of magic. Every type of magic or wondrous being is included here. Angels, sorcerers, witches, goblins and alchemists, that’s just a start. There are werewolves, vampires, ghosts and golems too. They are all present and involved in Jackie’s life and story and we are so much the richer for it.
I came close to giving this story a 5 star rating but there was just a few too many errors here. Spelling errors, repetition problems and sentences like this one. “Hope your right, Sheriff.” Instead of “Hope you’re right, Sheriff”. An editor should have caught these common problems and didn’t. That brought the rating down which was a shame. Tighter editing and better proofreading would have made this story a perfect read.
Those issues aside, I absolutely recommend this story to every person who is a fantasy fan, who love mythical beings come to life and men who hunger after love even though their past has told them it only brings heartbreak. If you are new to the series, you can read this as a stand alone. But reading the other stories first make this a much richer and fulfilling adventure. I really hope that Megan Derr brings back Jackie, Ned and the rest for a followup adventure. They are all so deserving of it.
The Dance with the Devil series:
The Glass Coffin
Sword of the King (Dance with the Devil, #5)
Dance Only for Me (Dance with the Devil, #6)
Cover Art by London Burden. Great job in branding the series by cover but I wish it was a little lighter in tone so we can see the guns.