Burn Artist and Blood Hound – a prequel novella and Book I of the Alexi Sokolsky: Hound of Eden Series
Genres: Action, Mafia, Magic
It’s 1986. Alexi Sokolsky is a 25-year old Spook, a hitmage for the Russian Mafia, and he is about to face his most difficult challenge yet.
The Yaroshenko Organization is neck-deep in a multimillion dollar Wall Street heist when an unseen mage levies a terrible curse against one of Alexi’s comrades. The mage demands that the Russians release his client from the deal, cancel his debt, and forfeit their earnings, or they will suffer the fatal consequences.
After the first victim burns to death from the inside out and the deadline closes in, Alexi is sent to hunt the murderer in a feverish game of cat-and-mouse and stop him before more people die. But to save his friends and family and honor his contract, Alexi must also save his worst enemy, the one person in his life who truly deserves to die in a fire.
Set 5 years before Blood Hound, Burn Artist is a prequel to the series which reveals more about Alexi’s past.
Alexi Sokolsky is not your everyday hitman. Witty, intuitive, and fiercely intelligent, he is also a mage capable of shattering wards with his voice and the power of his will.
However, arcane ability comes with a price: The same powers that make Alexi indispensable to the Russian Mafia also make him a social outcast, an object of fear and superstition. When a high-ranking Sicilian Mafioso is sacrificed to the Demon of Feuds and dumped on Russian territory, the Russians blame the only mage they know – Alexi. Forced to play detective to clear his name, Alexi discovers that the gruesome sacrifice is only the opening move of a very dangerous game. Every underworld mage in New York City is on the hunt for a Gift Horse, a mysterious creature rumored to carry the secrets of all creation in her flesh and blood… a creature who is calling to Alexi for help.
If Alexi heeds the Gift Horse’s call, he stands to lose his place in the Mafia, and probably his life. If he doesn’t, the world will be held hostage by whoever finds her first – and given that a demon-summoning murderous psychopath is in pole position, the odds are not in the world’s favor.
What I think of the books:
This is a first for me – writing a review on two books instead of one. Why did I decide to do that?
Because I planned to review both books and when I started writing, I realized the reviews are very similar.
Without further ado, here’s what I think about Burn Artist and Blood Hound.
The first book that I read was Blood Hound and the first thing that comes to mind when I think of it is surreal.
The criminal aspect is prominent in both books, as is the magic, but it was while reading Blood Hound that I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Things get weird towards the end – really, really weird – and thanks to the writing style, they also seemed real. It’s like that feeling you get when you are partially awake, but still dreaming. If you are into stories that temporarily make you question your reality, this book is for you.
As I said, magic is also present in Burn Artist, but we haven’t quite entered Looney Land yet. If you decide to read the series – and I strongly recommend you do – you’d better start with this one.
Things are simpler in Burn Artist, both when it comes to the inner workings of the crime world and the magical one. However, both of those worlds are well-developed. That was what grabbed me when I began reading Blood Hound: well-written and with a HUGE, in-depth stress on magic. The characters are also developed, although back when I started Book I, I was wondering what was so special about Vassily that Alexi kept putting up with him; I found the answer to that in the prequel novella and I even developed a great liking to Vassily thanks to it.
I got to warn you: you’ll probably have a hard time with all the Slavic names. I know how unfamiliar names are harder to remember so you might mix up who is who because of that. There are only a handful of important characters though so remembering probably won’t be a big problem for you. Pronouncing on the other hand… I’m a Bulgarian and some of the names are similar to those in my country, but even I don’t have a clue how to pronounce a few of them.
Another thing that was somewhat off-putting was the magic. Yes, I know I said that it was one of the reasons why I love the books so much, but it has a downside to it too: it’s complex. Alexi would occasionally do something without the author going into details of how it was done and why it worked; it can get a bit confusing – especially in Blood Hound – but it wasn’t enough to make me stop reading and enjoying the books.
Who would I recommend these books to? I’d recommend both books to escapists, to people who are interested in magical rites and to fans of the Crime genre.
My rating for Burn Artist: (5 out of 5 magical sigils)
My rating for Blood Hound: (4.5 out of 5 enchanted revolvers)
Would I re-read these books? Yep.
Would I buy other books in this series or by this author? I’m interested in the rest of the series.
Where can you buy the books?
The links will take you to the books on Amazon.
Other books by James that I’ve reviewed:
- Stained Glass – Alexi Sokolsky: Hound of Eden, Book 2
- Zero Sum – Alexi Sokolsky: Hound of Eden, Book 3
Have you read either of these books? Maybe both?
What did you think of them?
Share in the comments!