Nathaniel Moore is a myth. He’s a witch too powerful to exist and too clever to be caught. He’s kept himself young for two hundred and fifty years with life-stealing dark magic and left a long trail of bodies in his wake, but no matter how many Chasers the Magistrate sent after him, not one of them was the challenge he wanted.
Elton Willis, a model Chaser for the Magistrate, expected the ultimate villain when he cracked the cold case and tracked Moore to a cheap apartment in Yuma. What he got was an infuriatingly carefree man who smokes like a chimney, laughs at puns, and treats his young apprentice like a daughter. It’s an uncomfortable discovery for someone determined to bring the man to the Magistrate’s gallows.
Further complicating the issue, Elton has accidentally let loose one of Nathan’s old enemies–a lich with a vengeful attitude and a thirst for human souls. Now the Chaser is forced to choose between taking Nathan in, which would leave the murderous monster to roam free, or teaming up with the object of his obsession to take the lich down.
The obvious answer, of course, is also the option that’s the biggest pain in Elton’s ass.
A few weeks ago I got a hard craving for some witch based fantasy. I took to Twitter to ask for it, and one of the suggestions I received was for T.S. Barnett’s Mentor: The Left Hand Path. I was pretty confident my Twitter folks wouldn’t let me down, and let me down they certainly did not. Mentor was exactly what I needed: A straightforward and fun magical UF adventure with great characters, strong chemistry and funny dialogue.
Nathan Moore is a straight up sociopath, I can’t sugar coat it. If you like your MC to be dashing and noble, this ain’t it. But he’s also fascinating, entertaining as hell, and perhaps one of the most powerful witches ever to have lived. He’s taken Cora, a vulnerable young woman with a shitty family situation, as his apprentice. He feels genuine affection and tenderness for her. This confuses things somewhat, because it means he has actual redeeming qualities at the same time that he’s an unrepentant asshole. I love this kind of dichotomy and Barnett writes him with real skill – he’s hilarious, smug and infuriating, and I found myself both cheering him on and wanting him to be caught throughout the entire novel.
Elton Willis is an uptight magical law enforcement officer who has become obsessed with taking Nathan down, to the detriment of his own personal life. He’s a black coffee and oatmeal kind of guy to Nathan’s self-indulgent pastry loving hedonist, and their odd couple chemistry is absolutely wonderful. When Elton tracks Nathan down and confronts him, he doesn’t count on Cora’s intervention. Just as he’s about to take Nathan out for good, Cora hits him over the head and the pair escape. Our three main characters are then thrown together and forced to cooperate to take down a larger evil that one of them accidentally unleashes early on in the novel.
Mentor relies heavily on its dialogue for exposition and to drive the plot forward, and in some novels this would be a major issue. But dialogue is one of Barnett’s strengths, and I found myself happily carried along. Elton aside, most of the characters are morally grey and it’s interesting to find yourself rooting for people who are objectively pretty terrible but utterly charming. I expected it to be Cora, but as it turns out, Elton is our proxy within the story – as he comes to know Nathan better, he grows conflicted about turning him in. He’s wild and cruel and selfish, but at times he is also tender and caring and complex. It’s a tough call.
In terms of complaints, I have very little. There are some pacing issues and for several stretches of the novel not much happens, but as a character study it’s great stuff. I don’t want to give away the events of the story, but I found it to be engaging and enjoyable with one hell of an ending. This is an author who deserves a lot more attention, and I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel.
Bingo Squares 2018
- Fewer than 2500 GR Ratings
- Features the Fae