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- Author: Tom Doyle
- Publisher: Tor Publishing
- Book Genre: Military/Magic Urban Fantasy
- Format: Hardback, 320 pages
Book Review: American Craftsmen
The popcorn munching Need for Speed of black ops magic
By Chuck Francisco
June 14, 2014
American Craftsmen by Tom Doyle
© Tor Publishing
Imagine the rough and tumble military fiction of Tom Clancy combined with the urban detective wizardry of The Dresden Files, and the result would be the broad pastiche that is Tom Doyle's American Craftsmen from Tor Books. This new series details a black ops world where is magic inherited through genetic lines, and all of America's empowered families have entered into a compact with the newly formed United States in exchange for not being witch hunted into oblivion. In the present day they're utilized for specialized magical ops dictated by several precognitive entities within the Pentagon, though these future seers visions don't always align.
When Captain Dale Morton's mission is switched at the last minute by a precog named Sphinx, everything seems to go as catastrophically wrong for him as it potentially could. He survives the botched mission, but at what cost to himself and his men? To make matters worse Dale is a Morton, and as his family has the black stains of evil magic centuries in the past, the god fearing Puritan Craftsmen of the Endicott line are vigilant for any excuse to permanently retire him. Dale is thrust into an off the grid espionage plot which threatens to unravel the very fabric of the country as he works to even the score against his enemies while trying to evade death or capture.
American Craftsmen is very strongly written, and it's clear that Tom Doyle has a knack for leveraging descriptive language against the need for sharp pacing. This story moves at a cinematic pace, never dawdling for too long or becoming wedged in a bog of details. This isn't to say that details make for a sluggish reading experience across the board, nor that American Craftsmen is bereft of them, only that Doyle solidly understands that certain genres benefit from a more succinct writing style that is purposeful and efficient in the word count department. The pacing strikes with the statico rhythm of automatic fire, transitioning from action to exposition with the balletic poise of Neo during the lobby scene from The Matrix.
The outcome is not all weapons bloom fire roses though, as the appeal for American Craftsmen is a bit hampered by the nature of its military framework. This doesn't not dominate the narrative, but is an integral put of its central nervous system. Those who don't really get down on Uncle Sam's recruitment jam may not be as excited to read this as those folks who always play the latest Call of Duty, or those who rush out to see the latest military film "based on a true story". There's absolutely nothing divisive built into the story, but the general vibe predisposes toward a specific audience. The great news for that audience is that this will be a very welcome treat which they're likely relish with the gusto of a precision air strike (though it won't shake the foundations to the core).
At the end of the day American Craftsmen is a quick, solid, and enjoyable adventure that will absolutely appeal to military/spec ops fiction aficionados, as well as fans of magical urban fantasy romps. This won't bust the bunker of your brain pan, but not every book has to as long as it entertains for the runtime. Let's call this the popcorn munching Need for Speed of black ops magical novels (which is absolutely a compliment on its fun quotient).
American Craftsmen by Tom Doyle is out now from Tor Books for $24.99. Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Shock-O-Rama, which looks into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.