Rating: 3.25 stars
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Miles Shavoldeshve knows exactly what kind of power it takes to summon a demon and control it. It’s not a task for the faint of heart and Miles doesn’t take the responsibility lightly. His demon, Havoc, has been a part of his life for hundreds of years. They have a grudging respect for one another, but Miles is careful to never let Havoc have the upper hand. When bodies start turning up, Miles reluctantly enters the fray with Havoc at his side.
After an attack gone awry, Miles is left viciously wounded and for the first time in their long association, he and Havoc are forced to reassess the nature of their relationship. Are they merely mage and demon? Or have they become something more? As enemies surround them on all sides, Miles and Havoc must redefine themselves and stop a nightmare from the past from destroying the future.
Happy Endings has one of those plots that tends to catch my eye right away. The idea of a mage working in tandem with the demon he controls was one that definitely left an impression. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always a good one. Happy Endings suffers from a rambling plot, grammar issues, and two characters that I wanted to love but never felt I knew well enough to do so.
Let’s talk grammar first. This is usually not one of my hot buttons for the simple reason that my own grammar isn’t quite top notch. It’s just not something that tends to bother me, save for one particular aspect: tensing. I generally loathe books written in the first person, present tense. There have been some exceptions to that, but on the whole I don’t feel this writing style flows smoothly and Happy Endings is proof of that. The writing feels jagged and without polish. Part of this stems from an inconsistent use of tenses. Most of the time it’s first person present, but it tends to switch mid sentence creating unwieldy actions that pull the reader right out of the moment. I found myself rereading sentence after sentence just to double check that it made sense. The end result was I found it impossible to get into the rhythm of this book.
The strongest part of Happy Endings is the by play between Havoc and Miles. They bicker and flirt like an old married couple, which in some sense, they are. Three hundred years is a long time to spend with one another and there is an easiness between them I really enjoyed. Their romance falters though. Havoc and Miles have never been intimate and when they decide to, it feels more like a shrug rather than an act of passion. Kind of a “You’re here, I’m here, I guess we should have sex,” moment. There is no bridging between the friendship they share and their romance. It just happens. This might have been fine had we known more about either character, but both are distant and somehow incomplete. Miles reads as a bit hollow and his interactions with everyone save Havoc felt forced and artificial. We know about Miles’ past, but not really about him as a person, and as a result the story and his relationships suffer. Havoc seems more well rounded, but again when taken alone from Miles, there just isn’t enough information to fully understand why he would remain bound to Miles for so long and why he suddenly elevates their bond.
The plot itself is rather messy and ungainly, like an octopus reaching in every direction at once. The author does a decent job of moving the story along and pacing is never an issue, but everything needed tightening and sharpening and there are side stories that simply don’t fit within the wider plot. These could have easily be trimmed. There is a wide array of secondary characters, but they’re surface and stock characters that fail to add anything to plot.
On the whole, Happy Endings reminds me a little of Jim Butcher’s excellent Harry Dresden series. It wants to be an urban fantasy with bite, but misses the mark in this first novel. There is a second novel due out in 2018 so perhaps some of these issue will be resolved. The bantering between Havoc and Miles is a definite plus and if you love that kind of interplay then you’ll find something to enjoy. Otherwise I’d have to recommend giving this one a pass.
Well, I have to admit that I do like banter …. I’ll be interested to learn what you think of the second book when that is released later this year. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sue.