Alek Fitz is a reaper, a collection agent who works for the supernatural elements of the world, tracking down debtors and solving problems for clients as diverse as the Lords of Hell, vampires, Haitian loa, and goblins. He’s even worked for the Tooth Fairy on occasion. Based out of Cleveland, Ohio, Alek is the best in the game. As a literal slave to his job, he doesn’t have a choice.
When Death comes looking for someone to track down a thief, Alek is flung into a mess of vengeful undead, supernatural bureaucracy, and a fledgling imp war. As the consequences of failure become dire, he has few leads, and the clock is ticking. Only with the help of his friend Maggie—an ancient djinn with a complex past—can he hope to recover the stolen property, save the world, and just maybe wring a favor out of the Great Constant himself.
It’s a hell of a job, but somebody’s got to do it . . .
One of my favourite things about Brian McClellan’s books is how easy they are to read. That might not sound like much of a compliment at first glance, but there’s something special about a book that can act as a one-way time machine. You sit down for a few chapters after lunch and before you know it, it’s time for dinner.
This binge-able quality is something which McClellan’s books share with some of my favourite urban fantasies, such as The Dresden Files and Rivers of London. So when McClellan announced that he was self-publishing a short urban fantasy novel… it was almost like two of my worlds had come crashing together.
Uncanny Collateral has a lot in common with the titles I mentioned above. It’s fairly short, very readable, and has a lot of personality. It’s written from the perspective of Alek Fitz, a part-troll collection agent who is actually straight-up owned by his boss through a bit of a legal loophole. Alek is a big guy who is more than capable of handling himself in a fight (and he has some magical tricks up his sleeves, too), so in most physical confrontations he’s the guy with the advantage. This is a bit of a contrast to the likes of Harry Dresden and Peter Grant, so I actually found this to be a little refreshing.
On a ring on Alek’s finger lives a Jinn named Maggie. She’s trapped there, save for one day a year, and so in the meantime she’s formed something of a secret partnership with Alek that was honestly my favourite part of the book. The pair are in almost-constant dialogue over the course of the novel — with most of this taking place within Alek’s head — and their relationship is as wonderful as it is weird.
The story focuses on the theft of some souls from the Lords of Hell. Alek is contracted by Death to recover these souls, and he’s on a bit of a deadline. There are a number of complications, a bit of a murder mystery, and a whole lot of fighting. The world is interesting in that it’s pretty much our world, but with a whole lot of magical creatures and happenings. Unlike most urban fantasies I’ve read, the general public is aware of this “other”, although they don’t really want much to do with it. Understandably.
Taken as a whole, Uncanny Collateral is a pretty straight-forward story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and its length works to its advantage as a quick, satisfying read that leaves you wanting more. The cover is styled as the first book in the “Valkyrie Collections” series, so it does look like there are more books to come, which I’m excited for!
A lot of readers will likely be wondering how this compares to McClellan’s Powder Mage books. But to be honest, I don’t really know if that’s an appropriate comparison. Not only are the books so different in content, but they’re drastically different in length. This isn’t a 600+ page epic, it’s an 150 page urban fantasy. It’s quick, it’s fun, and there’s plenty of room to further explore the characters and the world in the future.
If you’re a fan of quick-paced urban fantasy, physically capable main characters, and quickfire telepathic banter (admittedly a niche audience), then Uncanny Collateral might be the book for you.
Uncanny Collateral is scheduled for release on April 2nd. Get your pre-orders in now from various outlets as detailed over on Brian’s website.