The first installment in a new urban fantasy series from Roc Books, A Devil in the Details is K. A. Stewart’s debut novel. Jesse James Dawson is just your average American samurai with a wife and child. Well, okay, maybe being a samurai isn’t exactly average, but neither is putting your soul on the line to save those who get in trouble with demons. And that’s what Jesse does as a member of a loose organization of champions—an organization whose most experienced members are getting killed off at a higher rate than usual. Someone changed the rules, and Jesse has to figure them out if he doesn’t want his next battle to be his last…
Original, yet a tad familiar
The premise of A Devil in the Details is quite original and intriguing. Stewart put a lot of thought into the magic systems and demonic order, and it shows. The various types of demons are glossed over, shown but not fully explained, leaving much to the reader’s imagination while setting firm groundwork for future expansion. The order of champions of which Jesse is member is similarly developed, leaving the reader with questions.
However, the worldbuilding feels a tad familiar. It is original, yes, but it’s not a setup which leaps out and just strikes you with its originality. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing; it just is. As urban fantasies go, this is one of the more subtle in terms of the circumstances, where it is extremely easy for the rest of the world to ignore the supernatural. It’s a different flavor of urban fantasy, and one I’ll continue to read with great interest.
A well-developed cast
The true beauty of the novel lies in the character work. For the first novel in a series (and a debut novel, no less!), there is an obscene amount of character development. From Jesse’s observations, keen details are acknowledged about those he interacts with. Of special import are Jesse’s wife and daughter, Mira and Annabelle. Much of Jesse’s time is spent with his family—something of a rarity for an urban fantasy protagonist—and it has all of the ups and downs of a real family. Jesse’s “boss” in the organization of champions, Ivan, provides much of the comedic relief in conjunction with Jesse’s wit.
My favorite part of the novel, however, lies not in the world or the characters, but rather in the demonic entities. Specifically Jesse’s personal demon, Axel. Initially coming across as a more garden-variety demon, Axel takes some serious turns in personality throughout the plot—which drives Jesse up the wall. However, while being a demon, Axel isn’t completely of the “I want your soul” mindset. He attempts to both aid and annoy Jesse, and succeeds with flying colors on the latter. It’s a beautiful piece of humanity within the demonic system, and I can’t wait to see where it leads.
Why should you read this book?
A Devil in the Details isn’t the most flamboyant book out there. Nor is it the most droll. It finds a happy medium and stays there fairly well. Exceptionally well, for a debut novel. The premise is original but not overwhelming, and the character work is absolutely wonderful. All in all, a very good start to Stewart’s writing career.