I found Daniel Hood’s series about a dragon familiar while searching for dragon art.

Remove the text and I’d put that on my wall.

It’s one of those books I’d have checked out simply because of the cover, had I seen it, but sadly it seems to be out of print. In fact, everything of Daniel Hood’s is, or at least none of our local stores carry his work anymore. I had to order it used. My copy’s rather worn, but still functional. At least it’s intact and devoid of coffee stains and the like. The book’s only about 260 pages, but my edition has enough words per page to resemble a shrunken hardback copy. It’s a tad longer than it seems.

I began reading the book right before we left for a short vacation to Disney, and on the way there the car broke down. I must have read nearly half of it waiting in the lobby at Tuffy’s auto repair, all the while trying to tune out a TV playing a looping infomercial about replacing your wipers, and other repairs. I find it difficult to read if anything else, music included, is going on, and I kept “accidentally” turning off the TV. Once I knew I couldn’t get away with it, I went outside to sit in the hot sun for a few hours. The rest of my memories of it were done in our resort down at Disney or out by the pool, so I have a mix of frustrated and relaxing feelings attached to the book without even getting into the content.

I spent nearly a hundred pages changing my mind on how to pronounce Fanuilh, including seeing about halfway through that I had been swapping the L and U. By the time I settled on just saying Fa-Nyool, I realized he wasn’t the main character. The story is a murder mystery from the sole point of view of Liam Rhenford, a recent transplant to the town of Southwark where the entire book takes place. He stops by to see a wizard friend of his one evening, only to find him murdered. The wizard’s familiar bites him, thus stealing part of his soul so that he can live. There Fanuilh says he’ll help him out if he helps him find the murderer.

Liam isn’t too thrilled at giving up part of his soul, including the side effect of Fanuilh “hearing” everything he thinks, so he gets to work, even though he’s hardly a detective. Liam has a complex past that’s only hinted at, so we never fully know what he’s done and where he’s been, but we do get the impression that he’s had a more interesting life than wasting away in bed all day. He doesn’t care much for Fanuilh either, and even forgets to go feed him more than once. There were a few moments where it seemed they were bonding, but Liam went back to ignoring him and wishing he would go away, though he only sees him when he returns to the wizard’s house. Usually he’s out and about in town trying to figure out whodunnit.

He meets a handfull of characters who actually feel like individuals, and not simply filler to give Liam something to do. I sensed there was far more to all of them than what we learned. I particularly liked, and kind of felt sorry for, the overly religious Viyescu who seemed to be using his faith to compensate for something. I also really would have liked to have seen Fanuilh more, and though he does get one heck of a scene near the end, it was a shame that even then Liam chose to ignore him for a while.

While I didn’t get much of what I came for, the dragon, I did enjoy the book quite a bit and look forward to the sequels. This felt like a set up to much more. Daniel Hood writes well, and it’s refreshing to see a more modest fantasy story, one wrapped up in a mystery.