Amazing Stories

Daggers and Steele series has fans and detractors

red-hot-steeleIn June, Alex Berg came out with the 6th in his fantasy detective Daggers and Steele series, Steele Faced.  When Berg released the first novel in the series, Red Hot Steele, 75% of 350 Amazon reviews were 4 and 5 star. Yet there was a consensus among a passionate group of very articulate dissenters. Negative reviews of Steele Faced are fewer than 10% and the consensus among the majority is that both the author and his two main characters have matured. Positive reviewers also approved of the developing romance between veteran detective Daggers and his new crime fighting, half elf partner Steele.

On imitating Glen Cook’s Garrett, and similar stories

“The author seems to be trying to mimic Glen Cook’s Garrett, P.I. series, but doesn’t have the skills to do it. The main characters are all unlikable clichés, from the gritty hard-boiled detective protagonist to the tough but fair chief, to the rookie partner. ”

“The lead character in Steele is identical to the lead character in Garrett, even having the exact same foibles, verbiage, and nearly identical background.”

“Completely unoriginal, with much of the same plot lines as Garrett, PI.”

“Alex Berg does a good job with characters and the basic mystery was solid. However, Glen Cook set the standard for fantasy mysteries with the Garrett, P.I. series and while Jake Daggers may be snarky, he can’t pull it off like Garrett. Daggers even has a beloved truncheon, just like Garrett.”

“The author must be quite familiar with Glen Cook’s The Garrett Files. The strong similarities between Berg’s cast of characters, worldbuilding, and invented terms and the far more skillful work in Cook’s series left me feeling dissatisfied and somewhat annoyed. It’s one thing to learn from the masters. An homage or a pastiche could be entertaining. This book is neither.”

“This novel pulls a lot from Glen Cook’s Garrett, P.I. books, right down to the main character having Garrett’s eyebrow raises and hatred of wine (even calling it ‘spoiled grapes.’) The Garrett books are themselves a sort of fantasy fusion of Chandler and Stout, so the third-hand borrowing is fairly jarring.”

“You’ve read or watched this story before in multiple formats. Lethal Weapon, Garrett, Markhat, Spade, Marlow, Spenser/Spencer, even Pratchett (Sgt Detritus); other supporting characters from other stories receive the retreading treatment…Butters (Dresden), Lacy (Castle), the corporate tycoons, the conniving family members, etc. …all recruited from Central Casting or *homaged* to the point of parody.”

On the Dagger character

“The noirish faux banter and tough guy posturing gets annoying very quickly.”

“The ‘witty banter’ and ‘clever quips’ are forced and painful, unfunny, uninspired, and at times flat-out misogynistic.”steele-faced-cover

“The story could have been a lot more interesting – if the author had backed off of bludgeoning the reader with the ‘hard baked detective’ rhetoric. I had a hard time enjoying/losing myself in the story, because there was some heavy-handed dialogue tossed in at every opportunity, to show that the protagonist is ALL MALE, and ALL DETECTIVE and ALL BRAWN.”

“The hard boiled dialogue was too pastiche. It had the dialect right, but the cadence and subtlety that is found in the best of that style is lacking. Maybe, a less ham fisted writing style to go along with the plot would make it a more successful, less stereotyped read.”

“The protagonist is supposed to be a police office with a dozen years and his internal dialog is more of a smart ass high school kid.”

“The plot was weighed down by the male detective’s constant snarky comments on every darn thing. He talked so much to everyone (including himself) that I just couldn’t take anymore. The plot suffered from his inane behavior.”

“This is yet another ‘Me Tarzan, You Jane’ variant, dressed up this time in fantasy AU straight from Tolkien. The latter has wit and a more interesting, well-thought-out AU. Liking Daggers is going to be an individual choice: if you don’t mind his crude, rude, ‘bull in china shop’ limited intellect, you’ll probably enjoy the series.”

“Jake Daggers also suffers from the ‘word vomit’; his voice isn’t that great with the noir and often wanders into mawkish kitsch. ‘I have a mistress, and her name is Lady Justice’?? Srsly?”

On the worldbuilding

“The biggest problem I had with the book was Berg’s universe: it’s loaded with jarring anachronisms and the reader is left wondering which elements are the anachronisms. One of the most significant is the police force for which Dagger works. The organization is very modern and such organizations didn’t exist prior to the 19th Century. Daggers uses a spiral notebook, something that wasn’t manufactured until the 1930s. There is thermite, which was discovered in 1893, seven years after the first automobile was patented. Yet transportation is by foot or rickshaw and the state of the art in weaponry is the crossbow. By the time the modern pencil, something else Dagger uses, was developed in the 16th Century, Beretta was already making firearms and Chinese soldiers had been using muskets for 300 years. So it seems the anachronisms are the rickshaw and edged weapons, because everything else is fairly modern. What makes things worse is that there’s no reason for them. Plenty of authors are able to incorporate fantasy elements into a modern setting, even if the hero or heroine still uses a sword. So, instead of a sense of wonder, I was left with a sense of wonder why? And it’s a shame because I liked Jake Daggers and this really is a pretty good mystery.”

“This story takes place after some type of apocalypse and there exists no electricity or technology. People ride around in rickshaws and the whole premise is absolutely absurd since it does not have anything (zero) to do with the story.”

“It had a number of incongruities that tended to be jarring. The society is just learning about coal and uses swords as weapons. Yet the medical examiner has ‘degrees in both chemistry and biology’ Dagger calls a retired Marine ‘an ex jar-head.’ A sexually aggressive older woman is called a ‘cougar’ and the gang of dwarven dope pushers are ‘gangbangers.’ Every time I ran into one of those my willingness to suspend disbelief had to be reset.”

“The world that is created is slapdash rather than a serious attempt to build another, different society.”

“The world was a strange mishmash of a little fantasy, Victorian New York, with some modern touches. I was not convinced that the author wasn’t just throwing it together as he went along.”

coldhardsteele-cover“The plot itself has little to do with the supernatural world. This book could just as easily be done without the whole supernatural.”

“What bothered me the most in this book were the inconsistencies. They apparently don’t have electricity, internal combustion engines, gunpowder or a working post office but they do have a rolodex, a fire extinguisher, and a legal system that includes a police department, a medical examiner, and legal rights that sound suspiciously like those found in the Bill of Rights. They are just enough off to throw me out of the story.”

“The worldbuilding is also all over the place; coal is a new discovery, horses and human provide transportation power, swords are as good as it gets besides magic (and Garrett’s world pops up again there with the elaborate wizard titles), but characters use modern slang and secretaries have rolodexes.”

“It was the world itself I couldn’t wrap my head around. Was it supposed to be Victorian times, medieval times or the 1930s. It seemed to be some nonsensical mixture or all three. I really wanted to like this book, it seemed right up my alley, but I just found myself confused by the world. Really, military grade swords that are supposed to be ‘the best, most dangerous sword’ and such is extra special bad. Really, while military grade may mean tough and reliable, it doesn’t equate to more dangerous. If this had been set in a alternate 1930s world and consistent it could have been good but instead it was confusing and illogical.”

On the humor

“I cracked a few smiles and could relate to some of the humor, but didn’t find it hilarious.”

“Though he tries hard, Daggers is not nearly as funny as Garrett.”

“Comedic writing offered some chuckles, but I didn’t have any real laugh out loud moments.”

“The screwball comedy elements hit about 40% of the time.”

“Though he tries hard, Daggers is not nearly as funny as Garrett”

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