Talon of God by Wesley Snipes, Ray Norman
The acclaimed actor makes his fiction debut with this enthralling urban fantasy in which a holy warrior must convince a doctor with no faith to help stop a powerful demon and his minions from succeeding in creating hell on earth—a thrilling adventure of science and faith, good and evil, damnation and salvation
Imagine that everyone you have ever known or loved was forced against their will into a state of demonic possession and spiritual slavery. Imagine an unholy cabal of the world’s richest and most powerful men directing this sinister plan in order to cement their unbridled control of the planet.
Imagine two heroes emerging from that darkness to do battle with the forces of evil.
Set in the mean streets of Chicago, Talon of God is the action-packed adventure centered around the Lauryn Jefferson, a beautiful young doctor who is dragged into a seemingly impossible battle against the invisible forces of Satan’s army and their human agents that are bent on enslaving humanity in a mission to establish the kingdom of hell on Earth.
But Lauryn is a skeptic, and it’s only as she sees a diabolical drug sweep her city and begins to train in the ways of a spirit warrior by the legendary man of God, Talon Hunter, that she discovers her true nature and inner strength. Facing dangerous trials and tests, it’s a true baptism by fire. And if they fail, millions could die. And rivers of blood would flow throughout the land.
Imagine such horror. Such pain. And imagine what it would take to fight against it. For only the strongest and most faithful will survive?
Get ready. Armageddon approaches quickly.
Published by Harper Voyager on July 25th 2017
Where to Find It: Amazon|B&N|Shop Indie|Goodreads
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Advance Reader Copy
FTC Disclosure: I received access to this book early through Advance Reader Copy (for free) in exchange for a review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Debut novelists (but no strangers to the written word) Wesley Snipes and Ray Norman, enter the urban fantasy fray with an unlikely pair drawn together in a battle against the forces of evil for the fate of Chicago and ultimately the world because if they fail, it’ll be Hell on earth…literally.
In most urban fantasy stories, there’s a minor struggle between the realism necessary to anchor characters in actual reality and the supernatural elements superimposed on the world that give life to the story being told. Whether it’s this writing duos familiarity with screenwriting or simply good story-boarding, Talon of God offers up its action-packed narrative with a straightforward writing style and through realistic and relatable characters. Everyone’s grown up with the Preacher’s kid(s) and seen how that can be a wedge in the familial relationship (and to their emotional development) if feelings of neglect and resentment are the dominate emotions brought to bear. We’ve all known someone who’s stridently analytical to the exclusion of all else no matter the evidence shoved in their face. Everyone’s been on the short end at least once with a relative or loved one who can’t check their job at the door.
Snipes and Norman, take these character traits and life experiences in hand to weave together an interesting and enjoyable story about facing the worst of humanity (and oneself) and still choosing to take up the fight to save a city’s soul in a vividly familiar world. Its tone is at turns irreverent, laden with the spiritual, frustratingly familiar, and at all times engaging.
Talon of God is the opening act in what (hopefully) becomes the chronicles of a stalwart warrior and his holy mission against the minions of hell.
When I started this book I was skeptical but interested. The premise felt very Wesley Snipes for lack of a better way to describe it. He’s always come across as equal parts samurai warrior and that slick cat from the neighborhood who always seems to know what’s going on without ever-moving from his front porch. So a story about a monastic warrior arriving in the lively streets of Chicago just in time battle the denizens of hell? I can see it…
I have a mother more than a little prone to quoting scripture to make her point; even if I don’t know what point she’s trying to make. Although, my mom stop short of using the Bible as a bludgeon, I readily identified with and understood Dr. Lauryn Jefferson. She’s a woman who pushed herself to achieve not only to escape a life under the thumb of a father more interested in his church flock, but as tangible proof that she didn’t need anyone or anything other than herself to prevail and succeed. She’s down to earth, ambitious, emotionally conflicted, and altruistic to the point of idiocy (trust me going in alleys is not the act of a person with great situational awareness). Her part in this saga is the fulcrum upon the entire world rests. Her job as a ER doctor, properly situated her to be pulled into a battle between good and evil playing out in the shadow of the everyday. She’s fully developed character it’s easy to invest in as narrator and lead. Her combative relationship with her father and brother serve to bring depth to not just her but the story arc as a whole. She feels real and her struggle to embrace things and ideas she’s spent a lifetime pushing away make her accessible even when the circumstances she faces are.
In one way or the other, all the other players branch out from Dr. Jefferson.
The laser-focused, most-likely to stand you up because of work, police detective ex-boyfriend Will Tannenbaum further expands the realistic layers of Chicago by actually being a cop portrayal that doesn’t divorce itself from the rules that underpin real police procedures. This guy’s dealing with budget cuts, backed-up labs, red tape and a boss intent upon blocking his investigation in order to adhere to procedure. His frustrations are understandable, his attitude brash and bull-headed, and the part his plays in this multifaceted and necessary. He’s an alpha male with an awareness of his shortcomings and faults. That alone kept his efforts to control things from being an annoying read. His failed relationship with Dr. Jefferson and his unresolved feelings around it add emotional layers to him (and the story) without distracting or forcing him to the forefront of this chronicle in a way that undermines Dr. Jefferson’s agency or importance. From two male author’s that feat is both refreshing and (sadly) noteworthy.
The sword-wielding, (of course there’s a sword people) scripture-quoting warrior named Talon shows up just in time to save Dr. Jefferson from a deadly situation and convince her completely out of his mind by claiming her patient isn’t so much sick as possessed by a demon. As introductions go, that’s an excellent way to end up on a 72-hour hold in a psych ward and being slapped with a restraining order upon discharge. But as you learn more about the battle their facing and what lies behind his stoic mask Talon seems like a bible-thumping, proselytizing, missionary and exactly as he appears; a warrior chosen by god (big G if you’re Christian and sensitive about that) to stand in the breach and fight evil wherever it may rear its head on the earthly plane. He sharply written to be plain spoke, wise, and irrefutably dedicated to both the cause and his duty to see Dr. Jefferson embrace the task he believes she been called to complete. Talon calls to mind such characters that have come before him without coming across like a written caricature of a man rather than a flesh and blood feeling person.
I did want to know much more about Talon and his past – especially after the scenes with his nemesis Lincoln Black – by the end of the book but I’m pretty sure the authors won’t see that as a complaint so much as a call to arms.
I don’t know why given the amount of fantasy I read, but I’m always hesitant with the a story that uses Christianity as part of its magic system. The spiritual hierarchy seems simultaneously too well-known and too prone to shove “religion” over story in my face. But in Talon of God, if felt like a natural part of the story and the characters. The way in which evil gains a foothold on the earthly plane ingenious in its simplisticness. A world where the rich, powerful, and depraved joined together in an evil cabal and cut a deal with hell to bring the world to its knees and bowing to their will, is well, really believable.
But by switching point of views between characters often enough to grant insight into the various actors, their feelings and the role they play in the greater mystery, the spiritual aspects of this supernatural tale felt completely rooted in the story and action. Like any other magic system despite being a highly recognizable one, it has rules and limitations its players must adhere to. Most importantly, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Snipes and Norman keep the world-building simple but do more than color with broad strokes. Their Chicago carries all the hallmarks of the real city, populated with real people, and sometimes hilariously recognizable community figures and moments.
Bottom line, it’s difficult to hold the liberally offered spiritual parables against a story that finds a way to aptly work “they need Jesus” into dialogue and mean it…literally.
Talon of God is a quick-paced, character-driven thriller of the supernatural written with in a direct and relatable voice and told with easily visualized imagery. It’s an interesting mix of philosophical beliefs and the warrior’s way that seems very fitting for Snipes’ debut as a novelist.
If this pair continues writing together, I imaging a deepening of the layers and nuances driving this world as they settle into a rhythm for sharing Talon’s adventures.
The open and engaging writing style are sure to appeal to a broad audience. Who can resist a good journeyman’s tale with a real prophecy and surreal conspiracy theories already in motion?
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5