We’re eight (and a half, there’s a novella) books into Craig Schaefer’s Daniel Faust series and I’m still as huge a fan as I was when I cracked open the first book a couple years ago.
Schaefer’s Daniel Faust series is urban fantasy that blends the supernatural with elements that wouldn’t be out of place in heist/gangster movies. Daniel Faust is a con-man, a practitioner, and a pain in the ass to a whole bunch of powerful people in the supernatural and mundane parts of Las Vegas.
Following Daniel’s super satisfying defeat of the ridiculous and revenge-focused necromancer Damien Ecko and his successful attempts at (temporarily) thwarting schemes from the man with the Cheshire smile and the back-stabbing rakshasa Naavarasi in the previous book, The Neon Boneyard picks up while both antagonists are still busy licking their wounds (which aren’t so metaphorical in Naavarasi’s case) and aching for revenge.
One of the coolest things about Schaefer’s writing is that he’s got three interconnected series all set in the same world (so far) and there are elements that cross over in the different books.
If I’m remembering correctly, the Network (a former urban legend among the criminal communities that appear to be the product of several “kings” and their… boredom?), first shows up in his Harmony Black series. The Network’s been making attempts on Las Vegas for a few books now – primarily with the spread of their magically delicious and frequently deadly drug Ink – but in this book we find out more about the King of Worms’ angle. Mostly, because of his interest in Daniel Faust and a sick game he intends to play with Daniel’s life – or death.
The Neon Boneyard reintroduces elements of Daniel’s past that have so far only been seen in flashbacks or alluded to briefly in previous books. At the most inconvenient time, Daniel’s past waltzes right into his present in the form of the only family member he’s ever cared about, the memories at his first and last apprentice, and an obsessive enemy out to get him. Much of the series deals with Daniel looking out for his found family in the Las Vegas crew, the people that have come to care for him over the years, so learning more about Daniel’s past and how it shaped him was a pretty great aspect of this book.
Every single Daniel Faust book brings something new to the table, for me. Be it the villains, Daniel’s relationship with his darling demon love interest Caitlin, the choices that he makes to keep his family safe, or the frankly extravagant violence that Daniel and his crew sometimes have to enact.
I’m also a huge fan of Schaefer’s worldbuilding. It unfolds so smoothly that even though I know there have to be holes in it somewhere, I can hardly see them. Schaefer writes immersive, punchy prose that keeps readers on their feet and ready to toss their kindles with glee (or… maybe that’s just me). On top of that, Daniel is charming in his own way and I’ve honestly noted that he’s an urban fantasy character type that’d be so easy to dislike if written the way many of the male protagonists in the genre are. (I’m looking at you, Harry Dresden…)
And remember, Schaefer’s got three different series set in this world and each book is another piece for the overarching puzzle.
By now in an urban fantasy series going on for this many books, I can usually make assumptions about where the plot might be going. But with this one… not so much. I’m not lost, Schaefer has made these books majorly easy to get into and keep up with, but I’m also not able to mentally “skip ahead” to figure out what comes next either. Which is pretty neat.
If you like urban fantasy with a well fleshed out plot, sleek worldbuilding, a powerful cast of characters, and an imperfect main character worth rooting for, check out The Neon Boneyard today. Or better yet, start with the first book in the Daniel Faust series, The Long Way Down, and work your way forward. Schaefer is a prolific writer and he’s darn good at what he does. I’d love to see more folks invested in his interesting and (so very) messed up books!
Content Warnings/Notes: graphic violence that includes scenes of body horror, mutilation, and giant roaches (you can send me a message asking me for specific warnings because it’s all connected to spoilers), flashbacks/mentions to childhood abuse including at the hands of a parent and at the hands of an orderly at a facility for juvenile delinquents
Are There Sex Scenes/Sexual Content?: No
What I Liked Most About It: When we realize how ruthless Naavarasi is thanks to the translation of the final words she said to Kirmira, Fleiss’s realizations about how her wannabe master sees her, Daniel’s “welcome to hell’s hierarchy” party, the satisfying as hell epilogue, the one appearance of the King of Worms, Daniel’s whole thing about his missing 1970 Hemi Cuda (missing because Harmony Black “borrowed” it in her series a few books back) gets a mention and that’s hilarious, and this is another book where Daniel questions his approach to things and asks himself hard questions… I’ve got one hell of a weakness for protagonists that ask themselves the hard questions.
What I Could’ve Done Without: This isn’t a serious complaint because the use of body horror in this series is something I personally like about it but I can’t listen to the audiobook while I sleep because I will have nightmares. Also, I just feel like Jennifer needs a girlfriend… I’m just putting that out there.
Where Y’all Can Buy It: Amazon
Author’s Website/Social Media: Craig Schaefer @ Twitter | Website
Rating: Highly Recommended