Dog Days (A Dog Days Novel) Plot Overview:
In San Francisco not everything is what it seems. Mason is a talented Jazz guitarist who scrapes by playing the odd gig around town. He is also part of a secret community of magical practitioners and although he has tried to leave that life behind him he is about to be dragged right back into the thick of it.
Leaving a gig late one night Mason is attacked by a supernatural creature, he narrowly escapes thanks to his companion Louie (an Ifrit – a magical being that looks like a small dog) and his talent for being able to improvise with his magic.
Mason realises that he is out of his league and reports the incident to his former boss, the self-appointed law for the magical community in San Francisco. Mason learns that there is something seriously wrong in the magical community, practitioners and Ifrits are in danger. Despite Mason’s initial reluctance to get involved in the end it will all come down to him and Mason will find himself tested to his limits – will he be able to save those he cares about?
What I thought:
I really liked Dog Days and have since read the next three books in the series, I read this one a while ago, but I went back and reacquainted myself with it so I could do a review. I figure if you have not heard of the series or have seen it but not given it a go yet then you will be more interested in the first book, especially if you are like me and like to read things in sequence.
First off I really appreciated the clear amount of effort that John Levitt has put into the storyline and details of Dog Days. The book has a very good plot, lots of interesting characters, the setting is described in detail and the magic system is creative and interesting. Dog Days is a fun and entertaining read with a lot of depth.
If you find yourself thinking it’s a bit slow to start off with, all I can say is please stay with it. Compared with some contemporary urban fantasy it’s not as fast paced, but if you stick with it you will find that it has more than enough action to keep you entertained along with some great twists and turns. I also thought that overall it was a bit darker than some novels in the same field that try to wrap everything up in a neat little happy bow at the end, there are real repercussions even for the winners.
I liked the feeling that you get from the setting, there are a lot of descriptions in the story so you can really appreciate that they are in San Francisco – Levitt describes the landmarks, the neighbourhoods and the feeling of the city - for someone who has never been to America this is great and it really adds to the atmosphere. You can feel like you are there, or at least get an idea of what it is like there.
The magical system in the Dog Days universe is well constructed; it is creative and well thought out. There are lots of things that are still a mystery to the characters such as where Ifrits come from and why only some practitioners have them. I think this is great as I like a good mystery. There are quite a few variations on how the practitioners use their magic and some have more talent than others, this is all well explained and seems fairly coherent so far.
The characters on the whole were well written and you get to know them during the story, they all have their own personalities, rivalries and issues so they come across very human. I did think that the women in the story were a bit light and stereotypical however there were only really only two, so I guess it’s not a huge issue. I liked that the characters responded to most situations realistically and that magic is never the be all and end all, it’s used as a tool and they need the skills and talents of many to help resolve the situation.
Mason is the narrator of the story and is not your typical first person hero (compared to a lot of Urban Fantasy nowadays); he’s much more laid-back and less of a smart ass than many of his contemporaries. While I do like that kind of character I still found Mason likable for the most part, he comes across as very real. Differences are what make the world go round and if all books had the same characters then I am sure we would all get bored in no time. I did find him a bit whiny and judgemental at times but I liked that even though he is magical, he is not all that powerful; he knows how to use what he has to his advantage but suffers no delusions of grandeur.
I think for a lot of people the hero of the book is not Mason but his ‘dog’ – Louie. Louie is a magical being called an Ifrit - some practitioners have these creatures but no one knows why or where they come from. They look like normal pets but are smarter and have talents of their own. Louie loves food and acts just like a dog most of the time; he cannot talk either physically or mentally. I think that’s actually a good thing as it adds to the mystery of the Ifrits and makes his relationship with Mason all the more interesting. I liked that even though they can't talk you still get a very real idea of their personalities, the animosity between Louie and Victor's cat Ifrit is a good example of this.
As with all books there were a few things that did not work so well. I found that there were some ideas that got rehashed to often - the idea that Mason treats his magic like his music and is much better at improvisation than planned study and that he has a lot of undeveloped potential if he could just focus. I felt that these two ideas were talked about a bit much, we get the hint you don’t need to bash us over the head with it every five minutes.
The other thing I noticed was that many times in the middle of the action Mason would go off on a tangent and fill in back-story. I know that sometimes this is necessary if the information is really needed but it often ended up being a distraction from the action. When a character is about to have his face chewed off by a monster, I don’t really need to know about a conversation he once had with his mentor. This might be something that the character could reflect on once the action has finished if it is really important to the story.
Final Comments and Overall Rating:
Overall I really liked Dog Days; I thought it was intriguing, suspenseful and imaginative. John Levitt has a nice and easy to read writing style - the mood and the details of the novel are great and this all adds up to a compelling read.
Dog Days Series: Dog Days, New Tricks, Unleashed, Play Dead