Edition 28: Book Review: Night’s Champion series by Richard Parry
Reviewed by Lee Murray
New Zealand author Richard Parry has been on my radar for a while now. A former finalist in New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Awards, he’s part of a friend’s critique group, someone who lives only a few blocks away, and, as it turns out, once worked with my brother. With those close yet nebulous connections you’d think our paths might have crossed at least once, but in fact we have never met other than via our novels. Recently, I read two of Richard’s titles: Night’s Favour and Night’s Fall (June, 2016).
First off, let’s assign them a genre. It’s harder than you might think. Night’s Favour opens with all the hallmarks of a police procedural, but it’s not really a crime novel. There’s a mad scientist sort with a secret lab in the forest, but Parry’s stories aren’t really science fiction either. And while you couldn’t describe either novel as romance, they are most certainly romantic with love and family or pack the underpinning themes. What Parry’s series does have is a strong paranormal aspect; a given when the key protagonists are were-wolves. And where there are were-wolves disrupting and defending the peace, then you have the perfect recipe for some all-out, no-place-for-squeamishness, bone-grinding action. So rather than boxing Parry’s Night’s Champion series into a single rubric, let’s call it a blend: a combination of Patrick Freivald’s Matt Rowley novels and Amanda Pillar’s Graced.
Looking briefly at the story arcs, in Night’s Favour it seems someone has crashed into the Elephant Blues, Valentine Everard’s favourite drinking hole, leaving total carnage. Val had nothing to do with it, too drunk to even remember being there, but Melissa call-me-Carlisle Carlisle comes asking questions. Pharmaceutical giant Biomne is taking a sudden interest in Val, too. Is the virus they claim Val carries the reason he’s getting so strong?
The second novel in the series, Night’s Fall, opens five years later. That’s five years of Val trying to come to terms with the creature he’s become, dealing with the emotional fall-out of killings carried in the name of the Night. Separated from his lover, Val’s been sharing an apartment in Chicago with his best friend John and John’s girlfriend Sky. He’s been doing the superhero thing, his innocuous day-time persona turning into an angel of darkness by night. But stories of Val’s prowess have reached ambitious Talin Moray, who steals Val’s powers using Vodou and trickery. Val’s lover Danny is also struggling with her new self. She’s taken her daughter, Adalia, 14, and is hiding in Alaska with Carlisle. But now Talin and his minions have discovered her, there is no hiding. With Val diminished and Chicago overrun, it is Adalia who must bring them all together.
What appealed to me immediately about Parry’s Night’s Champion series was his development of the characters, even the minor ones. In Night’s Favour, for example, I loved the pissy, smarmy boss, who pretends to have Val’s interests at heart, when in reality he doesn’t give a rat’s arse about anything but the company productivity. He was so recognisable, I was a bit sorry the character didn’t make an appearance later in the novel, and even sorrier he didn’t get his come-uppance!
John Mills is everyone’s favourite best friend. He’s the saga’s sidekick, someone who has stepped up for Val ever since the pair roamed the school playground. John’s a player and a gym junkie, and a little too glib for his own good, always holding out for the last word, but I still looked forward to his scenes because he’s simply too likeable to take offence.
There’s Volk, Val’s nemesis and creator, a wookie werewolf, who’s been incarcerated for centuries ‒ which means he’s not your lovable sort of wookie, having degenerated instead into an evil-to-the-core, violence-for-the-pure-sake-of-it character. This evil undercurrent makes Volk an excellent foil to Val. In fact, all of Parry’s baddies have well realised backstories, which give credence to their actions and allow the reader to suspend disbelief.
Elsie, for example, could been just an evil bitch corporate rich-lister, a cardboard cut-out character, but her deep-seated love for her dying daughter, for whom she would go to any lengths to save, rounds her out. After all, what parent wouldn’t do anything in their power to save their child from the ravages of disease? And if you have more money and power than you know what to do with, then your capacity for ‘anything’ gets interesting. Throw in a disgruntled right hand man and you know it’s going to end in explosions and pain. Because Parry, in true Die Hard fashion, loves the smell of cordite.
When you have a cast of thousands, often all in the same scene, keeping track of them can be a dilemma for a writer. Parry solves this by giving every character a distinct voice. The reader hardly needs a dialogue tag, because the speeches fit. They’re funny too, the banter between the characters what you would expect from family members, littered with in-jokes and derisory quips.
Not content with solid external dialogue, Parry throws in some internal dialogue too, with the werewolf side speaking into Val’s consciousness. The Night becomes a kind of Jiminy Cricket, holding conversations with Val’s conscious self, even smack in the middle of high action encounters when hordes of black clad villains are set on killing him. Shown in italics, these internal thoughts give the reader insight into a wolf pack’s collectiveness, a concept which, more and more, impinges on Val’s free will. It’s a clever technique, one which adds another dimension to the novel, and another layer to Val’s character. A couple of times though, I found them intrusive. They slowed the pacing when all I wanted to do was get-on-with-the-story. What can I say? I’m impatient. I think though, a little impatience is worth it for the added depth it provides the character.
I’d recommend Parry’s Night’s Champion, if you’re looking for gritty, high-action writing with richly drawn characters, pithy dialogue and plenty of blood—if you like the idea of paranormal with a difference. And Parry makes it easy for readers to sample the series by offering a free copy of the first book, Night’s Favour, simply for signing up to his website.
Night’s Favour (Richard Parry) (Book 1, Night’s Champion series)
Richard Parry publisher, 2014
Night’s Fall (Richard Parry) (Book 2, Night’s Champion series)
Lee Murray writes fiction for adults and children, winning New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Award for science fiction and fantasy writing no less than six times. However, she has only recently turned her hand to horror, and finds teenagers to be far more terrifying than spiders or zombies.