Matt Wallace – Pride’s Spell

Trust Sin du Jour to get me out of a reading slump. What with so many great and long-expected books coming out recently (the last Fairyland book, the last Raven Cycle book, tons of fantastic new stuff…) I had a bit of an overload or books and didn’t feel in the mood for anything. Except Matt Wallace’s novella, the third in his series about a catering service for the supernatural.

prides spell

PRIDE’S SPELL
by Matt Wallace

Published by: Tor.com, 21st June 2016
Ebook: 240 pages
Series: Sin du Jour #3
My rating: 7/10

First sentence: The lights burn brighter than any layperson can imagine, but Bronko is used to sweating in kitchens far hotter than this studio.

The team at Sin du Jour—New York’s exclusive caterers-to-the-damned—find themselves up against their toughest challenge, yet when they’re lured out west to prepare a feast in the most forbidding place in America: Hollywood, where false gods rule supreme.
Meanwhile, back at home, Ritter is attacked at home by the strangest hit-squad the world has ever seen, and the team must pull out all the stops if they’re to prevent themselves from being offered up as the main course in a feast they normally provide
Starring: The Prince of Lies, Lena Tarr, Darren Vargas. With Byron Luck. Introducing: the Easter Bunny.

divider1

We all know something sinister is going on in Hollywood, right? I mean, why do the most vapid movies get three sequels when the best TV shows are cancelled after only one season (Firefly, I will never forget you!)? Matt Wallace knows what’s up in his latest Sin du Jour story which takes the crew to Los Angeles for a big catering event with surprisingly ordinary food. Well… ordinary by Hollywood standards, I suppose. There’s a vegan option for everything, the food has to correspond with all the famous people’s particular diets and whatnot, but there are no supernatural ingredients this time, so you’d think Ritter and his people would catch a break.

Except Ritter and the others who remained back home are all visited by, let’s call them interesting guests. It won’t spoil the fun when I tell you that the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause are not like you expect them to be. They offer a few very action-packed, hilarious chapters in which Ritter and Co. show just how awesome they are in the face of danger – even if that danger is so crazy you don’t know whether to laugh or grab a sword first. Hollywood, apart from all the insanity you’d expect anyway, also has some surprises in store for our kitchen heroes.

It’s a movie poster.
The title is Authority over Unclean Spirits and the one-sheet is dominated by an image of a very pretty actor the makeup department has tried very hard to make unpretty (which seemes ludicrous to Lena, among others, considering how many talented ugly people there already are in the world) kneeling in the mud in front of barbed wire, looking to the sky.

So while Bronko, Lena, and a handful of others are trying to survive Hollywood Hell (literally) and Ritter and his team fight off all sorts of creatures gone mad, there is actually quite a bit of character development going on. Lena is still a skeptic, despite having witnessed angels, goblins and horny lizard monsters. Her relationship with Darren has been strained ever since Lena started sort-of-dating-but-mostly-just-sleeping-with the sous chef Dorsky. He knows this relationship isn’t good, Lena knows it’s not good, we readers know it’s not good, at least not in the long run. But why not let Lena have some fun?  Matt Wallace doesn’t judge what his characters do, he simply offers up a situation and, through his characters, different perspectives on the situation. I like Lena, I like how she handles things, I totally get why she hooked up with Dorsky in the last book (it was a very heated moment, after all), and I also understand why Darren doesn’t like it. Considering the ethics of sleeping with a sort of superior from your work place already makes this a bad match, but then there are the vibes going on between Lena and Ritter. It’s a lot of fun to read about.

With the crew split apart between cities and the plots happening pretty much seperately from each other, the book doesn’t feel quite as fluid as the first two did. The back story for the Hollywood plot was a little neglected because I guess then the novella would have grown into a novel. With all the characters already introduced, Matt Wallace still had a lot of work showing the readers new settings and the scary dream world that is Bronko’s mind. He did a great job, although the story drifted more into horror territory than humor this time. I still can’t get enough of Sin du Jour and although I hope the next volume will be more focused (maybe not having all characters in each volume), I enjoyed reading this a lot.

MY RATING: 7/10 – Very good

divider1

Matt Wallace – Lustlocked

I just read and adored Matt Wallace’s first Sin du Jour adventure, Envy of Angels. Thanks to the friendly people at Tor.com, I was given a review copy via NetGalley of the second in this (hopefully long) series of hilarious culinary monster stories. It says on Tor.com that books 3 and 4, Pride’s Spell and Idle Ingredients will both be published in 2016. YAY!

lustlocked

LUSTLOCKED
by Matt Wallace

Published by: Tor.com, 2015
Ebook: 224 pages
Series: Sin du Jour #2
My rating: 8/10

First sentence: They aren’t biting today.

Love is in the air at Sin du Jour.
The Goblin King (yes, that one) and his Queen are celebrating the marriage of their son to his human bride. Naturally the celebrations will be legendary.
But when desire and magic mix, the results can be unpredictable.
Our heroes are going to need more than passion for the job to survive the catering event of the decade!

divider1

Holy shit, David Bowie is the actual goblin king!! I’m sorry for that outburst but in Matt Wallace’s world and in this story, the king of the goblins is David Bowie and his singing and acting career is just a fun way to pass the time among us unsuspecting humans. Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies ever and “meeting” its goblin king Jareth again in a story where I really didn’t expect it was just wonderful, especially in the light of Bowie’s recent passing. I giggled with joy and then I almost cried.

Okay, now on to the actual review. The New York catering restaurant Sin du Jour is hired to cater the wedding of the goblin king’s son… so, the goblin prince, I guess. Goblins, apart from not looking the way we’d expect from fantasy stories, have interesting dietary habits which involve lots of precious metals and gemstones. Of course, the Sin du Jour crew have done their very best to create an unforgettable meal for the wedding.

My expectations for this second adventure in Matt Wallace’s hilarious series have been surpassed in some respects, and met in others. Darren and Lena are now official chefs, although still in their probationary period. Darren, other than being gay and much slower in the kitchen than Lena, doesn’t have much personality and he stayed mostly in the background in Lustlocked. I’m totally fine with that – he has potential but there are a lot of other characters that I fell in love with and want to see do stuff all the time.

Lena resolves her tension with sous-chef Dorsky, who is still a little shaken by having lost to her in their knife-fight. You know, because Sin du Jour is that kind of place. When gigantic, horny lizard-monsters attack (read: try to hump everyone to death), Lena and Dorsky have to work together to survive. And we all know how near-death experiences and being forced to cooperate can create a bond between two formerly bickering characters. I get a big fat grin all over my face just thinking about it.

“This giant lizard thing in a tux is trying to bone that dude from Grey’s Anatomy,” Pacific says, totally unfazed. “You know, the one with the hair.”

My other favorite part of Sin du Jour is the stocking and receiving department, consisting of Ritter, badass Cindy, idiot (but lovable) Moon, and Hara. I liked these four right from the start and seeing them on one of their missions is always fun. Ritter also shows aspects of his personality that were only hinted at in Envy of Angels. I am really curious where all of this is going.

Lustlocked – which, by the way, sports another perfect cover and title – also introduces some new characters. Little Dove and White Horse are just the kind of bickering grandpa/granddaughter team I love to read about. So the cast is growing to a considerable size which makes me hope for a novel-sized story about Sin du Jour, sometime in the future.

Also, without spoiling anything, that ending was totally not okay and I need the next instalment or short story or something RIGHT NOW!!! Please, Matt Wallace, and please, Tor.com, give us more of Sin du Jour. These are seriously funny stories with a great cast that plays out like a hilarious action movie in your head. I want more of the same. A lot more!

MY RATING: 8/10 – Excellent!

Bonus short story: SMALL WARS

small warsMy review copy of this novella also included a surprise bonus short story which was just published on Tor.com and which you can read there for free.

It’s a sort of double-prequel, telling – in one timeline – the story of how the stocking and receiving troupe acquires ingredients for the goblin wedding, and in an earlier timeline, how Ritter recruited Cindy, Moon, and Hara to work for Sin du Jour.

The plot wasn’t as funny as the novellas, but it is used instead to shine some light on Moon’s character. I found his actions and words during the crazy battle that invariably ensues to be touching and thought-provoking. Usually, he makes stupid comments, angers Cindy, annoys Hara and Ritter, and is generally a dick. Except there might be some humanity inside him and we get to see it during this trip to Wales. Looking for Welsh gold, the Sin du Jour guys discover the little creatures that live under the earth. And leprechauns are no joke, believe me…

I appreciated this story for the background information and for Moon’s character getting some spotlight. Other than that, it was a usual trip for these guys. Which doesn’t mean it was boring. They don’t do boring at Sin du Jour.

divider1

Second opinions:

Matt Wallace – Envy of Angels

This was SO MUCH FUN! Before I say anything more about this Tor.com novella, let me tell you that if you feel down and you just want a quick adventure with great humor, go pick this up. I’m so excited that a sequel novella is coming out this year.

envy of angels

ENVY OF ANGELS
by Matt Wallace

Published by: Tor.com, 2015
Ebook: 225 pages
Series: Sin du Jour #1
My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: A hotel room in São Paulo is the third worst place in the world in which to go into cardiac arrest.

In New York, eating out can be hell.
Everyone loves a well-catered event, and the supernatural community is no different, but where do demons go to satisfy their culinary cravings?
Welcome to Sin du Jour – where devils on horseback are the clients, not the dish.

divider1

The Sin du Jour is a New York catering service. For demons. Darren and Lena, two chefs out of work, can’t believe their luck when they are hired by celebrity chef “Bronko” Luck to help out for a big event but when they arrive at Sin du Jour, things are… weird. They’re not allowed to get fresh ingredients themselves because, well, let’s say they don’t only stock meats and vegetables here but also giant killer monsters that want to eat you. Hilarity ensues.

Matt Wallace has written a seriously fun and funny story about a restaurant for the supernaturally inclined. Throwing Darren and Lena into this formerly unknown world is a great way to introduce readers to the craziness that is Sin du Jour. A parallel storyline tells of four Sin du Jour veterans who go out to get more ingredients – and “ingredients” could mean literally anything in this case. I immediately fell in love with the dynamics between stoic Ritter, quick Cindy, Moon, and hulking Hara when they do one of their missions.

The big conflict of Envy of Angels is the fact that, for this big diplomatic meetings between two enemy demon tribes, they are supposed to serve angel. A real coming-from-heaven angel. And while preparing all sorts of wild creatures for demons may have a detrimental effect on your morality code, that is something most people at Sin du Jour feel a bit uncomfortable with. So they need a plan.

Apart from characters with great potential (yay for the sequel!), Matt Wallace is really good at writing funny dialogue and scenes that play out in your head like an action movie. There are a few twists and surprises along the way that always hit the mark and were usually as creepy as they were hilarious. The writing is worksmanlike, the pacing is perfect, this adventure is impossible to put down. I also loved the references to a certain fast food restaurant chain and its famed-for-its-secrecy recipe. And once you read the story, you realise just how perfect that cover is.

This novella also makes me appreciate Tor.com all the more for offering such a variety of stories in their 2015 novella line-up. We’ve had stories with the purplest of prose (Sorcerer of the Wildeeps), urban fantasy about modern small-town witches (Witches of Lychford), a first contact story in space (Binti), a fairy story about changelings (Domnall and the Borrowed Child), the gorgeous perfection that is Angela Slatter (Of Sorrow and Such), and all sorts of other fantasies that I haven’t discovered yet. The often rather dark tales are interrupted by this funny urban fantasy romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Tor.com know their readers and they also know we don’t only like one thing. I loved Binti and Witches of  Lychford to bits (nothing needs to be said about Angela Slatter, you know I’d read her shopping list and love it), but I also adored Matt Wallace’s fictional restaurants with its chefs, busboys, and ingredient-hunting crew. Let’s hope Tor.com continue giving us such varied stories in 2016.

MY RATING: 7,5/10 – Excellent fun!

divider1

Second opinions: