In Low Town, where elves, fairies, trolls, werewolves, vampires and other manners of supernatural life are happily walking among humanity, everything has its price. Gage Powell just wants to run his tattoo parlor and live a quiet fuss free life with his girlfriend, but Gage has learned that the warlocks and witches who command the Ivory Towers are never going to leave him in peace. Gage was allowed to leave the towers only if he never used his magic for anything but self defense. However, circumstances cause Gage to break this rule time and time again.
Now, Gage is back and neck deep in trouble. Gage has managed to indebt himself and his employee Bronx to the dark elf mob boss, Reave. Reave has discovered Gage's big secret and demands Gage's help in exchange for not selling him out to the highest bidder. When Gage has problems with Reave's latest request, Gage rebels, causing a chain reaction that leads Reave to include someone from Gage's past in his plan to bring down the Towers. Now the Towers are after Gage, figuring his sacrifice is enough to quell any uprisings. But Gage isn't one to hide when the going gets tough. With the help of some surprising allies, Gage finds himself once again having to make the choice between himself and the world.
Reluctant heroes are a favorite trope of mine and Gage Powell is the ultimate reluctant hero. The sole proprietor of the Asylum Tattoo Parlor and magical tattoo artist, Gage is forced to live under strict conditions. A former apprentice warlock who didn't agree with the cruel indicts of the warlock/witch community, he escaped that world only to find himself under a death sentence. His life is contingent upon his promise to never use his magic in any shape or form except for self defense. As Gage struggles to remain under their radar, his altruistic nature often places him on the path of no return. He has a strong moral compass. He will fight to his last breath (which he proved in Angel's Ink) to keep his friends and the world safe from injustice.
Dead Man's Deal is the second installment in Ms. Drake's Asylum Tales series. Similar to Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series, Ms. Drake pens an interesting story revolving around Gage Powell, a warlock whose life choices has left him persona non grata in the wizarding world. Fast pacing keeps the story moving at a brisk pace as Drake continues to expand upon her modern magical world and the characters inhibiting it. Plenty of action and mystery will keep you guessing as Gage once again finds himself stuck between saving himself or saving his friends.
Gage is an interesting protagonist. Somewhat of a loner, his time spent in the Tower taught him not to form lasting attachments to anyone. Yet he has managed in spite of that to gather a group of friends who mean the world to him. He has to keep a low profile yet is constantly placing his life on the line. As a former warlock, he feels responsible for the horrors the Ivory Towers have inflicted on the human and supernatural world. He has absorbed their crimes and seeks to make amends in the best ways he can.
Though we are only in the second installment, I found Gage more open both emotionally and mentally. We are given a deeper look at his pain and suffering from his childhood and the vulnerabilities he carries inside of him. I also enjoyed the continuing romance between him and Trixie. It's not emotional soul sucker that manipulates the reader into making it more then it is. They are stable, secure and it remains a small subplot, even when Gage makes a magnanimous gesture to insure Trixie remains out of the Summer King's hands.
A strong personable cast continues to provide us with an eclectic mixture of good and evil personas. A group whose intentions are well hidden behind a devious mask of indifference, greed, and self interest. Drake is slowly drawing out their intentions through the arc, leaving Gage struggling to expose their true motivations. From Gage's unsympathetic warden, Gideon, to a mercenary collector of magical properties, Gage is learning he has allies in the most unusual places. But Gage's greatest asset continues to be his friends. Though Gage feels he doesn't have many in his corner, he has more power guarding his back then he ever imagined.
I still have concerns with the overwhelming amount of conflict surrounding Gage. It's hard to stay focused at times with the onslaught of new and recurring situations. I also can't help but wonder why more aren't stepping up to the plate in a visible manner to combat those in the Towers.
Dry humor and wit is sprinkled throughout the book as we learn more about Sophia's state of being and meet some new friends. As stated earlier, there is a plethora of subplots in here that continuously cascade over you. As the story progresses, I feel Drake does a better job in this installment of tying them all together in a manner that makes sense. The world building is expanded upon and more background information about Gage's childhood and the inhabitants of the Ivory Towers is given. The ending wraps up the main conflict nicely, leaving us with the next book's storyline and faint feelings of dismay and hope mixed together.
Regardless of any misgivings, Jocelynn Drake's newest Urban Fantasy series continues to be a whirlwind of action, intrigue, and suspense with a strong base of hope, love, and humor to keep readers firmly engaged in this adventure. I look forward to book three, title and release date to be announced.
Overall Rating: B