Though Colin McCool does try several times to point out that he is not, in fact, a druid. It’s a title that has been bestowed upon him both by his author and by the supernatural community in Austin, Texas in Junkyard Druid.
I asked on Facebook if folks would like me to occasionally review the books I read, and so here is the first installment— unless you count my mention of Dead Man in my little rant last week… That post was more about the rant than the book, though, so I don’t count it. So! Here are my thoughts on this one.
It starts out with a flashback. No, that’s not right. It actually starts out with an author’s note, which was both interesting to me as a person, and kinda annoying to me as a reader. I like the information presented and it did actually get me curious about some things, I personally think that it should have been put at the end after the story had concluded. It was more background on the author’s process for developing the character than anything else and ended up (for me) being slightly distracting while I read. That said once I started the story itself, it starts with a ‘two years ago’ sort of chapter, in which you follow Colin in the moments just before Very Bad And Traumatizing Things Happen. We then get to follow him into therapy, which I thought was brilliant.
I mean think about this for a moment. Urban Fantasy as a broad genre tends to contain mostly normal(ish) folks saving the world. Being put in that sort of situation is bound to mess a person up, even if they’ve been Top Demon Vampire Hunter of the Year three years running. When all your peers are also badass demon vampire hunters, suddenly being the only one who can be the hero can’t be good for the psyche, and Colin is nowhere near that sort of top-tier hunter at the start of this book. And when things go wrong, I mean the guy’s cursed hard, and when he comes out the other end of the fight even his teacher has PTSD from the experience.
Anyway. It takes a few chapters for the book to catch up to “now” and it’s all really great character building stuff. We get to keep up with the back-then storyline with top-of-chapter journal entries, which is actually kind of nifty. Once we join Colin in ‘now’ he’s living in the titular junkyard and using his skills and training as a menial laborer in lieu of rent. His mentor lives in a broken down van out back, often drunk and high. Colin has sworn off basically anything to do with paranormals, although he can’t avoid them altogether it seems. He has, apparently, three friends: a half-paranormal woman, another hunter, and the owner of his favorite cafe-slash leader of the local vampire coven. It’s his first day of college.
Antics, as they say, ensue. Without giving much away he gets dragged very reluctantly back into the many troubles of the paranormal community. And here, I have to say, is where my trouble started. I’m really tired of the powerful-hero-manipulated-by-well-everyone-honestly thing. It’s almost always combined with the never-able-to-breathe-let-alone-think trope, which we’ve already covered here.
Fortunately, Colin gets ample time to breathe (and sleep! And go to the gym to fight someone and blow off some angry energy!) AND he (seems to…) end the book with more friends and allies than he starts with, which makes me very happy. The manipulation really bugs me, though, so if I get to the second book, it probably won’t be for a little while.
On the whole, I rather liked Junkyard Druid. Colin is a pretty charming, likable, messed up guy who is both broken and clueless in completely understandable ways. His hunter friend is pretty badass in her own right, and— as much as I loathe saying it— gets sidelined and demoted by her C.O. in a completely believable way, which says something about the state of badass women in a testosterone-heavy hero-organization org chart. The vampire barista was amusing and the fairy queen was in my opinion entirely loathsome. I feel that overall the characters were worth reading and I was glad to spend some time with them. I’d give this book four out of five rutabagas.
Trust me. That’s pretty good in this house.