Reading level: Adult
Genre: Urban fantasy
Trade paperback: 336 pages
Release date: July 24, 2012
Series: Paranormal Scene Investigations #4
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed by: Jenn
WE KNEW THE JOB WAS IMPOSSIBLE WHEN WE TOOK IT...
In my time with PUPI, formally known as Private, Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations, I've seen a lot. Learned a lot. And not all of it's been good. But what we do-make people accountable for crimes committed with magic-is important work.
Still. Even I need to take a break every now and again. Or so I've just been told (ordered).
So hey, vacation. Maybe I'll finally figure out what's going on with the "special bond" between me and the boss man, Benjamin Venec. Venec seems to like that idea-he's invited me down to join him on a jaunt to Philly. But no sooner do I arrive in the City of Brotherly Love than we're called in to look at a dead body.
And that's when life gets really complicated....
I've been a fan of Laura Anne Gilman's writing for many years. Her Retrievers series was some of the first urban fantasy I fell in love with and so I was quite excited to see a spinoff series emerge from it. DRAGON JUSTICE is the fourth book in this spinoff series and it stars one of the side characters from the Retrievers books: Bonnie Torres. I've liked Bonnie since the moment she set foot on the page in the Retrievers books and I'm so glad that Laura Anne Gilman decided to build a series around her team: Private, Unaffiliated, Paranormal Investigations, a.k.a. PUPI. Yeah, that's right, Bonnie and her colleagues are PUPIs ("puppies") and the jokes are endless. =) I read somewhere that the author hadn't intended PUPIs to be a spinoff until she was asked to write another Cosa Nostradamus series, which is why the series was re-branded as "Paranormal Scene Investigations." While I personally wouldn't have minded a series called PUPI, I can see why the folks at Harlequin would encourage a different series title, to grab some new readers for such a great author.
Readers who are familiar with the Cosa Nostradamus will settle into DRAGON JUSTICE with ease. If you are new to the series, I'd suggest checking out this helpful Cosa Nostradamus Q&A from the author's website. In any case, here's a little refresher: In this world, there are two types of people: Talent, who can use Current (magic that works a lot like electricity) and Nulls (who can't use Current and/or don't know about it or the Cosa Nostradamus, a.k.a. the magical community). Talent have a mentoring tradition and are divided into two main groups: those who are Council and those who are lonejacks. Bonnie is considered Council because her mentor was Council but most of the rest of the team are from the lonejack camp. There are also fatae, (non-human) supernatural creatures who live among us. PUPI was established to be a CSI team for the Cosa, using Current spells or cantrips to forensically examine crime scenes. To say they weren't exactly popular when they started is an understatement. But by the start of DRAGON JUSTICE, the PUPI team has been together for a couple years and they're more accepted in the Cosa community. They're led by their founders or Big Dogs, Ian Stosser and Ben Venec, and there are four other original team members besides Bonnie: Sharon, Nifty, Nick, and Pietr. Bonnie and Venec have something called the Merge going on, which basically means their Current is extremely compatible and, according to lore, they're supposed to be soulmates. But they've maintained a mostly professional relationship up until now. There's obviously a lot more to it but that's the basic scenario, in case you try to jump into the PSI novels without going back to the start. (I strongly recommend going back to HARD MAGIC, though, because it's fun to watch the series build, and it makes some of the references a lot clearer, though you'll still be able to follow along because Laura Anne Gilman provides enough information for everything to make sense.)
And now that I've gotten all that out of the way, here's what I thought of DRAGON JUSTICE:
Wow. Just wow. This book was so good that I read it in a single sitting, much to my regret the next day at work when I was operating on too little sleep.
DRAGON JUSTICE is a game changer. All good series have one book that really changes the landscape and I think this is it for the PSI novels. In previous novels, Bonnie's kenning (she gets vibes about the future) had been hinting at major events and I think this book is what they've been foreshadowing. There are some major changes for Bonnie and Venec and also for the team as a whole. Plus we get some quality Wren time, which I love. I've missed her a lot and have enjoyed the glimpses we've gotten of Wren and PB in previous novels but she's actually got a bit of page time in DRAGON JUSTICE and I couldn't be happier. I fell for the Cosa world when I met Wren and her Null partner Sergei and it was a real treat to have them back.
While I can't say exactly what these changes are because I want you to experience the book unspoiled, I will say that this is probably my favourite Cosa book so far. I loved how the book really focused on Bonnie and Venec, how the move to Philadelphia changed the PUPI's operations, and how the stakes were higher than they've ever been. We finally get to see Bonnie and Venec really deal with the Merge, in a situation where they're not in grave danger, and it's about time! I've been waiting for the conversation to happen without an immediate threat hanging over them and it's everything I could have wished for. And moving the story to Philadelphia, since Bonnie goes down to visit Venec when he's doing a side job, was really clever. It put the characters out of their element and forced them to deal with a new group of people, some more helpful than others. And if that's not enough, Laura Anne Gilman has also done a fantastic job of incorporating the various threads that have appeared in previous novels, like Stosser's relationship with his sister Aden, and pulled them more closely together. She's even thrown in a few scenes where I was left slack-jawed because I couldn't believe that (a) the author had done that and (b) just how she did it. You'll know the moments when you read them, believe me. And this is what really makes a novel shine for me. I love it when unexpected things happen, particularly when they're done so deftly. (If you want to talk details, hit me up on Twitter!)
DRAGON JUSTICE is another wonderful instalment in the Paranormal Scene Investigations series. There's romance, there's action, and there are some major did-she-really-just-do-that moments, which means I loved it. Laura Anne Gilman always delivers a true reading experience and DRAGON JUSTICE is top notch.