Review: Black Dog Blues (Kai Gracen #1) by Rhys Ford

Ever since he’d been part of the pot in a high-stakes poker game, elfin outcast Kai Gracen figured he’d used up any good karma he had when Dempsey, a human Stalker, won the hand and took him in. Following the violent merge of Earth and Underhill, the human and elfin races were left with a messy, monster-ridden world and Stalkers were often the only cavalry willing to ride to someone’s rescue when something shadowy and dark moved into the neighbourhood.

There certainly were no shortage of monsters or people stupidly willing to become lunch for one.

It was a hard life but one Kai liked. And he was good at it. Killing monsters was easy. Especially since he was one himself.

After an accident retired Dempsey out, Kai set up permanent shop in San Diego, contracting out to the local SoCalGov depot. It was a decent life, filled with bounty, a few friends and most importantly, no other elfin around to remind him he wasn’t really human. 

That was until a sidhe lord named Ryder arrives in San Diego and Kai is conscripted to do a job for Ryder’s fledgling Dawn Court. It was supposed to a simple run; head up the coast during dragon-mating season to retrieve a pregnant human woman seeking sanctuary with the new Court then back to San Diego. Easy, quick and best of all, profitable. But Ryder’s “simple” run leads to massive trouble and Kai ends up being caught in the middle of a deadly bloodline feud he has no hope of escaping. 

No one ever got rich by being a Stalker. But then hardly any of them got old either. The way things were looking, it didn’t look like Kai was going to be the exception.

"Singlish is a  really ugly language. It has it's toes in many lingual puddles, from old Britain to Cantonese with hot dashes of wasabi Japanese, but there were times when only the ugly gutter back street Nippon would do.
This was definitely one of those times." 
This offering, from author of the month Rhys Ford, was amazing - I devoured all 246 pages of it as quickly as I possibly could. Set in the San Diego of an alternate universe, this story has elfin and humans living side by side. A great war had taken place between the two races many years before and a very uneasy peace reigned. 

Kai (oh how I love Kai) is an elfin, won as spoils of a card game and raised by Stalker Dempsey. Compassion was a word that was not in Dempsey's vocabulary, he did what he had to to survive and Kai was dragged up by this man...yet it was still better than the life he had before. (And I, as Kai does, believe there is more to Dempsey than meets the eye. I'm not entirely convinced that he's as mean as he is portrayed). 

Kai has to deal with prejudice every day. He is an elfin who identifies as human - and most humans hate the elfin race. A Stalker, like the man who raised him, Kai kills the beasts that roam the country, and delivers their hides as proof to get a wage from the government. Life is tough. It gets even tougher when Ryder enters the scene. An elfin Lord with ideals that most don't agree with. He sees a future that of peace between the elfin races and the humans. To him it is the only way the elfin races will survive, and he needs Kai to help him with this. Basically he's a huge pain in Kai's arse. 

I have a confession to make - my first Rhys Ford book didn't really work for me. And it was a me thing, even though I wasn't keen, I could still see the quality of the writing - I did however let this sway me into choosing other authors first. So, whilst I always intended to get to another Rhys Ford book (and we have some huge fangirls in the stable) I hadn't quite got round to it...until she became AOTM and I read Clockwork Tangerine as our group read. I loved it. Then a request for Black Dog Blues came in, and instead of shying away and leaving it to one of the established fans, I thought I'd give it a go. Best. Decision. Ever.

The story was interesting - I loved the AU, and the world building was brilliantly executed. No long descriptions of the differences between races but information dripped into the text that gave me a  full understanding of how the world worked. As well as a wonderful way of world building, Rhys strings descriptive prose together in a way that I loved.
"Nothing looked out of place to me. It was the kind of place someone would expect to find a gingerbread house nibbled on by two little children or a lost girl in a  red hooded cape. All perfectly safe and pretty, except for the witch and wolf lurking just off the page."
 It was enticing, describing images I could imagine perfectly in just a few short lines. I knew these woods - my childhood and intervening years knew these woods. Instant picture and on with the story. The story of highs and lows...and lows...and damn if that bloody elfin can't keep out of the crap. I will not stop reading til I've read this chapter..and this one...and - we'll we've all been there, right?

Of course, no story can survive without the best of characters to tell it. And Rhys does characters so well. Kai, Ryder, Dempsey...all the characters were brilliant. Good or bad, they had their place. I want to read more about all of them. About Kai's evil brother, the father and life he would rather die than go back to. I want to know more about Ryder's plans, about how he is going to make them work when the few voices that want them too are more than outweighed by the many voices that don't. 

Of course, most of all I want to see how the relationship between Kai and Ryder develops. Kai is almost refusing to let it be more than a working relationship. To disillusioned for love - will Ryder convince him otherwise? I bloody hope so.

There is so much I could say about this story, but I want you to experience it for yourselves. I love fantasy books, and when I come across a well written one...well, it just about made my Christmas. Move over Jenni Lea and Ann, there's a new Rhys Ford fangirl in the house.

Oh, one last thing though...this book is re-released by DSP on Feb 3rd 2015. I'd advise you to put that date on your calendar or pre-order it if possible!

A copy of this book was given in return for an honest review.


  1. WOOP WOOP! Welcome to the fan club Lori! :D :D

  2. Aw, thank you, love!

  3. Kudos to you ... again ... Rhys Ford. I'm not jealous. I just want to be you. :D

  4. Is this going to be a straight reprint of the 2013 edition?

    1. There are some slight edits but I didn't want to add to it, so people would buy it again. That would be unfair-ish :D Besides, there will be a sequel *grins*

  5. Ooh, sequel. . . . soonish? Pretty please with sugar on top?