Magic, murder and snark

A thrilling debut of contemporary fantasy


Logan DuCharme, Staff Writer

”Dead Man’s Hand”
Author: James J. Butcher
Genre: Fantasy
Hardcover: 384 pages
First published October 11, 2022

Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑ (7/10)

”Dead Man’s Hand” is a thrilling adventure filled with mystery and magic that leaves the audience captivated and at the edge of their seats.

 Fans of contemporary fantasy would be doing themselves a disservice not to check out this book. Son of the famous contemporary fiction author Jim Butcher, James Butcher released this book as his debut novel. “Dead Man’s Hand” can lean dangerously close to sounding like his father’s work, however this is more the exception than the rule and the book could easily stand on its own legs.

The book follows the life of Grimshaw Griswold Grimsby, a crippled witch that had his lifelong dream of being an Auditor (basically magic policeman) crushed by his mentor who found him unfit to join the force. After consigning himself to mediocrity and minimum wage hell, his life falls apart at the seams as his former mentor is murdered in cold blood and all evidence that is available points to him as the culprit. He seeks the help of The Huntsman, one of the greatest monster hunters of all time, to help him investigate the murder and clear his name, all while evading the auditors and the actual murderer to boot. 

Overall the plot is fabulous, but simple at times. It has enough twists and turns to keep the reader gasping for breath and wondering what’s next. 

The world building and magic system is superb, with proper limits and costs to the magic that helps elevate the conflict and plot, as well as a magical dimension that would cause H.P. Lovecraft to shiver. 

That being said, the greatest strength of this book is the main characters; they are so fleshed out that they feel alive. Each of their motivations are relatable, though what sets them apart from most other fiction is their reactions to the challenges that they face. It’s at the times of decompression that the characters shine the most and create that verisimilitude of life that is the hallmark of good fiction. 

Overall ,“Dead Man’s Hand” has the potential to be the start of something amazing though there are areas that could see improvement. The vast majority of the book hit the nail on the head and readers won’t want to wait to see where the story unfolds from here.