What’s a man to do when he’s been betrayed by his magician’s circle and cast into Hell? If you are James Stark, you use your rage, ability, and thirst for vengeance to fuel your dominance in gladiatorial combat and win your freedom. That’s when the fun starts…
James Stark (aka Sandman Slim) was a dilettante in a group of mages attempting to gain power by practicing the dark arts and exerting their will on the world. Stark was used as a bargaining chip in a power grab by the leader of the circle, and then tossed into Hell. After eleven years of fighting, he has come back to Earth. His mission: avenge the death of Alice, the love of his life before his ordeal.
It’s hard to like Stark at first. He’s arrogant, thoughtless, a jerk, and steals whatever he needs whenever he feels like it. As you watch him work his way towards vengeance, you start to learn about his experiences before and during his stay in Hell, and you start to understand his morality, such as it is. He gains new friends as he slays former ones, working his way to the main antagonist with sarcasm, brutality, and a little whimsy.
As with many urban fantasy books, his otherworldly interactions are set in a real-world place, Los Angeles. LA will never look the same once you link it to Hell and Hell’s minions on Earth. It takes the heavy “LA Noir” feel to an even darker place. The story reaches its crescendo with the stakes higher than ever imagined for Heaven, Hell and Earth.
Darkly entertaining, Sandman Slim is the first in a series starring James Stark and his ragged band of friends. It’s well-written and well-paced, with a complex yet ultimately likeable central character.