Rhys Ford

Books: Fantasy | Mystery | LGBT | Romance

Black Dog Blues (2014), Dim Sum Asylum (2017), Ramen Assassin (2019)


Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy (2015)

Black Dog Blues (2014)

Black Dog BluesKai Gracen makes his way in the human world as a Stalker–someone who kills the inhuman monsters that crossed over when the world merged with Underhill.

Being elfin in a world of humans, following the war between the elfin and humans isn't easy, but it's his life, and one he can succeed at.

Unfortunately, a Dawn Court is being set up in San Diego, and the elfin lord setting it up wants Kai to join.

This story reminder me very strongly of two different supernatural fantasy series. One is Ilona Andrews Kate Daniel's world, because of change and destruction of the world as we would know it, caused by magic (in this case, the appearance of Underhill).

But even more strongly it reminded me of Rob Thurman‘s Cal & Nico series, only without Nico to soften Cal and help him remain human. Like Cal, Kai is a monster. Like Cal, Kai was tortured by the monsters that created him. Like Cal, Kai was part of an experiment, although for Cal it was the impregnation of human women in an attempt to continue the magical race, rather than here where the creation was… to create a being to torture.

And that brings me to part of the problem I had with the story. The monsters are monstrous but the reasons seem to be solely for a joy of being awful, which is NOT something I enjoy at all. This discovery came much later in the series, or else I might have stopped reading, because I really dislike torture seemingly for the sake of torture. The monsters have no cause other than to torture and destroy. (In the Cal and Nico book, they wanted a permanent gate into our world, which Cal would help provide. The monsters and their actions there are alien and incomprehensible. In this book, it seemed evil overlord human rather than alien. That might seem like a small difference, but it's significant.)

Also, Kai seemed to run hot and cold with Ryder, and I never quite understood why. Or rather, I understood why he wouldn't want to have anything to do with either court. I didn't get why he wanted to work with Ryder at all.

I also have a hard time believe that he was as good of a person as he kept being, considering how he was raised. He really should have been far more of a monster and a sociopath without having a decent being step in to show him care and kindness. Do I think he could function in society as he was raised? Yes. Do I think he could have learned to care about other beings beside himself? Honestly, no.

What I particularly liked about the story was the thought that went into why the elfin had such a low birth rate–and how that would shape elfin society.

I'm making a serious accusation; infanticide is one of the most heinous crimes a sidhe can be charged with. The justices haven't yet decided if the twins are even elfin.

I also thought the world-building was very well done, considering this was just on the edge of being a dystopia (and I do not like dystopias at all). I did want to know more about the world and how it came to be. But I'm not certain I believed why many of the creatures within that world behaved the way they did.

I borrowed this from the library, and unfortunately for me, they didn't have a kindle edition, so I had to read it on my phone, which is NOT my favorite way to read ebooks, so that didn't help me become fully immersed in the story the way I usual can, which may be why I had a harder time suspending disbelief.

Will I read the next book in the series? I'm undecided. I'm not interested buying it for the price its currently available, but I'm also not interested in reading on my phone.

So, we'll see.

Publisher: DSP Publications

Rating: 6/10

Dim Sum Asylum (2017)

Dim Sum AsylumRoku MacCormick is part of the Chinatown Arcane Crimes Division, and things are not going well for him.

He lost his love and his daughters, and there is nothing in his life anymore but following in his mother's footsteps and trying to be order to a deeply disordered place.

Gaines was the one who found me in the middle of the Riots to tell me my boyfriend, John, and our two daughters were killed in the raging block fires.

The story opens with him chasing his partner through Chinatown after catching him stealing a clutch of dragon eggs. And after that is finally cleared up with IA, he gets a new partner, Trent Leonard, who is seemingly without a lot of experience.

He shrugged off his jacket as I maneuvered the table into place. "I fucked up."

It took a steady soul to admit he'd screwed up, and an even bigger swallow of pride to sacrifice what looked like a custom-tailored job because of it.

This started as a novella that was then fleshed out onto this story. So I had read the first part, but then it took off and went some place different, filling in more or Roku's story, and giving his partner a past of his own.

There is boinking here (just as with the original novella) and I still don't like there being a relationship between two law enforcement officers. Especially with one being senior to the other. On the plus side, since this was no longer a novella, they knew each other far better before they started boinking, so that's something.

Another negative, however, was that Trent apparently had a thing for Roku and asked to be assigned to him as a partner, which just seems all kinds of wrong to me. I'd have to go back and re-read the novella to be sure, but I feel like that in making Trent more complex, he mostly just got complicated, and not especially in good ways.

The mystery was decent, although it did get pretty action/adventure-y at the end–possibly more than it needed to.

This is an earlier book that Ramen Assassin, and although it's much better than Black Dog Blues, there are still a lot of weaknesses, and I'm glad I read the newer story first, else I might not have ready any of her later works.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Rating: 7.5/10

Ramen Assassin (2019)

Ramen AssassinTrey Bishop's life went up in flames, sprawled across all the tabloids. But he's been sober for several years now–slowly putting himself back together. So stumbling across two men moving a dead body–men who then try to kill Trey–is not what he wanted or needed out of life.

So long as he didn't put a whiskey bottle to his mouth, Trey was willing to put up with any kind of pain his body dished out.

Luckily for him, the owner of the ramen shop (who Trey has had a crush on for months) appears seemingly out of nowhere to save Trey.

Kuro Jenkins was forcibly retired from field work after his picture was plastered across the news worldwide.

"Well then, Jenkins, it appears as if you've just burned your own identity. There won't be a newspaper left in this world that won't have your beautiful face plastered all over it. Quite a feat. Saving a van full of stolen children held hostage by a terrorist organization. Pity about the photogs covering the garden opening, but that's how our lives go,"

Now he's enjoying the peace of running a ramen shop and not having anyone trying to kill him. But when Trey literally falls at his feet while being chased by men with large guns, Kuro reacts without thought.

I really REALLY liked this story.

"It also makes us pretty itchy when a noodle shop guy lays down five shots in a perfect line exactly a few inches higher than the heads of the guys he says he was shooting at."

"I figured it would be easier to identify them if I had an exact measure of the tall one's height,"

It's pretty brutal describing just how hard Trey fell–and just how much damage he did to everyone around him as he went.

He'd taken his first drink in that office, stealing a sip of something expensive from an unmarked crystal decanter. It burned going down. Much like it burned coming back up. But the numbness it left on Trey's tongue and eventually his brain was glorious.

"Oh yeah, eggs I've got." He blinked again, his lashes throwing spiky shadows over his cheek. "It's common sense that I'm missing."

That's what I liked so much about Trey. He knows he completely fucked up his life and burned every bridge behind him, and he owns it, refusing to make excuses for himself–even if he might have deserved one or two.

Kuro also owns who he used to be–and with a lot less guilt. And when Trey (who he's been quietly lusting after for months) needs his help, he jumps right in.

So there are two characters who I really like AND who are good for each other.

Then we get the mystery, which is ridiculously complicated, but also fascinating and good. The twists wouldn't have worked in a small town setting, but in LA it works.

And there were the secondary characters who were fully-developed and nuanced.

"If I owe someone something, you would rather it be you?"

"You are not wrong." She smiled. "But mostly, it showed me how lackadaisical I've become. You didn't feel as if you could come to me. That I wouldn't be able to find what you need. I didn't realize how much that would sting. How much a part of my presence in that sphere is so closely aligned with my identity."

And even the members Trey's family that we meet–who are difficult and complicated and possibly why he went so far over the edge–are complex.

And although Trey struggles and murder and death hang over everything, he and Kuro still managed to be sweet and funny (and adorable, but don't let them know I said that.)

"Who the hell says whereas?" Kuro stopped trying to open the condom's foil pouch, looking down at Trey with intense curiosity. "I don't think I've ever said that in my life."

Rhys Ford is another author I came cross in an anthology, and I am delighted with this discovery and look forward to reading more.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Rating: 8.5/10

Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy (2015) edited by Jordan Castillo Price

This is, like all anthologies, a variety of stories, some of which I enjoyed, one of which I utterly despised, and some of which were MEH. In other words, a good selection and variety.

"Dim Sum Asylum" (2015) by Rhys Ford

This is a parallel Earth story, where fae and magic exist in what is otherwise our modern world.

The main character is a cop who is half fae, and takes chances he shouldn't, because he is still grieving the murder of his husband and their daughters in rioting.

No matter how small something was, if it had teeth and it was angry, it was something to be reckoned with.

I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Chinatown–especially the actual dragons guarding the area.

We'd tapped for backup on our phones as soon as we hit the roof, but dispatch hadn't promised anything other best wishes and maybe a cup of hot coffee when we got back.

My only negative is that in most law enforcement agencies, there are reasons partners aren't supposed to be involved, but perhaps magical police have different standards.

I'd read another story set in this world or with these characters.

"Swift and the Black Dog" (2015) by Ginn Hale

I'd categorize this more as straight-up fantasy with a generous helping of dystopia, and I really dislike dystopias, so this story wasn't really for me.

That said, it was interesting. It tells of what happens to the heroes after the revolution.

"Wizard's Ways aren't like what they show in the films," Jack replied. "It's not like we sit down and decide. I didn't think to myself, I'm gonna work magic by smoking and being kicked through a six-story window. My Way just came out of that."

Publisher: JCP Books LLC

Rating: 8.5/10