Reader Beware: Backstreets by Lyle S. Tanner

I’m a huge fan of the Urban Fantasy genre.  The Dresden Files is one of my favorite series of all time… Wait… I feel like I’ve gone through this before.  Oh yeah, it was part of my review of Syndicate by Lyle S. Tanner.  If you recall, that was a set of short stories connected by the world that the author created.  It was a gritty world full of magic,  murder, and mystery.  Well, that world is back in a new collection of short stories titled Backstreets.

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If you recall, the first book in this series had stories that all somehow involved the police force of this world known as the Syndicate.  This set of short stories has a similar connection device in the form of the Backstreets of the city.  From what I can tell, the Backstreets act basically as magical transportation for the more “morally ambiguous” characters of this world.

The things that I liked in the last book are definitely still present in this book.  The world of these stories feels very rough and tumble.  As we get a better look at the shadier side of the streets this time around, we do get a good sense of this town’s criminal underbelly.  The use of magic is still very creative and vivid as well.  There was one particular story where a character is given the ability to fly and you could feel the quickness of the character and the feeling of freedom she has while flying.  The magic and illusions of the stories are definitely my favorite part of it as it all just has a unique feeling that just sets it apart and keeps it from necessarily being compared to other types of Urban Fantasy stories.

The characters of these stories are, again, all very good.  One of my biggest complaints with the last book was that we didn’t seem to get a sense of closure for any one character.  That’s definitely different here as each character has a definite ark, each featuring a unique climax and conclusion.  Granted, they still feel like they have stories to tell… (well, ones that are still alive do, anyway), but the stories themselves feel like they’ve been better resolved.  Instead, this time around, I have one pretty major complaint that tainted the book for me.

The setting, the backstreets themselves were where the book really slowed down a lot for me.  There’s only so many ways to describe an alleyway or a character turning a corner in an alleyway before it gets repetitive and mind-numbingly dull.  I get that these are “magical alleyways,” but they’re still alleyways and there’s only so many times you can use this as a setting before it gets old.  I kept wishing for something different and found it a breath of fresh air whenever the scenery changed.

Still, this is by no means a bad set of short stories.  The world of these stories is extremely intriguing.  However, I do recommend going back and reading Syndicate first.  Otherwise, a lot of the characters in this book (who are returning characters from THAT one) will not really make too much sense to you.  Either way, you’re in for a hell of a time in the Backstreets.

(HA. I got through the entirety of the article without ONCE mentioning the Backstreet Boys! …Wait… DAMN.)

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