First off I feel there are two pertinent pieces of information I must share for this review. First, I love Jim Butcher's Dresden Files; it's my absolute favorite series and within the series is my favorite book. Secondly, I really am on the verge of hating vampires. I think they are overused and have become glorified sex obsessed humans in recent literature.
What's the point in knowing those two pieces of information? Well, the main characters in this book were vampires and I thought it [Hard Day's Knight] was on par with Butcher's Dresden Files. Now, that should give a bit of perspective on just how impressed I was with this novel.
I'm also moving the sequel to this onto my "release day read" list and on said day I will probably gobble it up in one sitting like I did with this one.
What makes this book so great was the characters. It's a relatively small cast for this first book, but they were all great. James Black, the character who's [whom?] we read the book through, is just plain awesome. Ya know, I've read so many urban fantasy novels and I'll keep reading them, but one of the main problems I see in these books is that the protagonist is always made out to be a badass. The authors go on and on about how awesome their character is and why - usually because of some clothing or weapons they carry or some traumatic past experience, but in the end it's always rubbish. Their characters are supposed to be these great, just plain ol' badasses, but they never are. This is where John Hartness excels with his characters. He doesn't need to talk about how awesome they are describe every pain staking detail about them, he let's their actions and their words speak for them. What Hartness has created here, is a genuine, monster ass-kicking badass.
His partner, Greg Knightwood, is equally awesome. He's a goofy, lovable vampire that you'll not expect much from at first, but will grow to really enjoy. He is definitely a great match for James Black. In fact, he's more than the typical sidekick and doesn't suffer from being left out of the spotlight. We've also got their friend Mike the priest, Phil the fallen angel, Lilith the ultimate feminist, and Sabrina the straight as a razor's edge detective. So that's the cast of the good guys, or the mostly good guys, and they seem like types of characters used before you say? Well, yes, we've seen these types of characters before, but we've seen every character type before. The different here is that Hartness has managed to actually capture what's great about them and make the characters feel real. They're not just forced cliches an author feels he or she needs to include in their book. They are real characters.
As for the story, it's your hero saving the day by having his butt kicked and then proceeding to kick some butt himself. It's simple, but effective and doesn't suffer from a convoluted plot or forced cliches. It's just good fun. What's also nice is that there were little things here and there that feel like hints of what could come in later stories. Mr Hartness has done what many authors have forgotten about - foreshadowing. He didn't try to throw every single idea into one book, but opted to show you that he had more ideas ready. Another great thing about the story, or characters?, was that there was stupidly, out of place sex scene thrown in for kicks. I love an author that understands that sex does not make for a more interesting book. I can't begin to describe how happy I was to not have to read about sex. Oh, and no true love at first site BS in this novel either.
Oh there's even a small appearance by God and ya know what? It's not groan worthy and is actually very touching - and that's coming from an atheist.
Only bad thing I can say about the book is that there were a few noticeable errors in the grammar department. I would have also liked to see a little less of the game references. Don't get me wrong, I love my 360, but for some reason I just didn't want to read about it. Maybe it's because it was just some of the largest gaming series listed... a lesser known title here or there would have me believing the guys actually played it.