Dead Man's Hand: Book Review - The Fantasy Review

Dead Man’s Hand: Book Review

Spoiler-Free: Dead Man’s Hand Book Review

My Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Dead Man’s Hand by James J. Butcher is a fantastic debut for the son of Jim Butcher. I have seen a few Dead Man’s Hand book reviews that have compared The Dresden Files with this first entry into The Unorthodox Chronicles, and I have decided not to do that.

This book and its author should be rated and reviewed on its own merit. So, let’s get to it!

James J. Butcher book reviews

Great Main Characters

Grimsby and Mayflower are a fantastic pair of main characters. A lot of the humour of this book comes from their interactions and I couldn’t get enough of it!

Grimsby’s character arc is fascinating, and he is the main point of view for the majority of Dead Man’s Hand. He’s witty, smart, and cares deeply about doing the right thing, even if he makes mistakes sometimes. And it’s him learning from those mistakes, taking those lessons on board and adapting, changing and improving that make me love him.

You can’t have pride and appropriately handle kids at the same time. It was some kind of universal, or perhaps cosmic, rule.

Mayflower is an older, grittier character, which balances out the messy, sometimes silly nature of Grimsby. He is driven and loyal, but a little bitter. The small number of times we read from his point of view are fascinating and I kind of wish we had a little more of it.

The Plot

For a story that is essentially an urban fantasy crime novel, there didn’t seem to be much crime. There is the inciting incident which drives our characters together and puts them on a path they can’t get off, but not much else.

As negative as that seems to sound, I think it works really well.

Because the story wasn’t always focused on the next exciting clue or whatever, we instead got to see the characters and the world. As the first book in the series, it made for a great introduction to how things work in the urban fantasy setting.

I’m sure that in later entries, when we don’t need such a learning curve with the world and characters, the plot will be more heavily littered with action etc, and I’m looking forward to it!

Easy Writing Style

For a debut novel, the writing quality was pretty good. Sure, it could be improved, but if you stop comparing the book to works written by authors with over 20 years of experience, you will realise that it’s actually pretty good!

I found the writing to be engaging and very easy to read. I flew through this book, and by the end of every chapter I was dying to read the next – that is all you want from a book like this!

Final Thoughts

Dead Man’s Hand is the start of the next big thing in urban fantasy. There. I said it. If you want to laugh your ass off while simultaneously being really creeped out by creatures of nightmares, read this book.

Related to this Dead Man’s Hand Book Review

Owner and Editor of The Fantasy Review. Loves all fantasy and science fiction books, graphic novels, TV and Films. Having completed a BA and MA in English Literature and Creative writing, they would like to go on to do a PhD. Favourite authors are Trudi Canavan, Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson.

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