Review of Snake Agent by Liz Williams

Snake Agent

Snake Agent

In late twenty-first-century Singapore, detective inspector Wei Chen is a snake agent, a detective whose beat reaches to the fringes of Heaven and Hell. Married to a demon wife and surrounded by wary colleagues, he is nevertheless bored with investigating routine exorcism scams and bogus feng shui licenses. Then the newly deceased ghost of a wealthy industrialist’s daughter fails to make her appointed arrival in Heaven. When it quickly becomes obvious that the industrialist himself is implicated in a netherworldly soul-trafficking scheme and is responsible for his daughter’s death, Chen has to work with an unlikely sidekick, Zhu Irzh, one of Hell’s own vice detectives and a demon cursed with a conscience. (From Amazon.ca)

I liked this book because it’s different from the myriads of urban fantasy novels I’ve read in the past. It’s different because it contains Eastern mythology, mysticism and religions. The setting takes place in Singapore (which earns bonus points from me, as this is the first book I’ve read with a setting there). Also, the story line is very dark, noir and very gritty. It’s an interesting blend of fantasy and science fiction and by putting to two together gives you a unique world. I also thought it was interesting how characters can travel from hell, to Singapore, and back again.

The plot itself is interesting. There’s a lot of twists and turns and as Wei Chen investigates further into the mystery, he realizes there’s more to it than just soul trafficking. There’s also the second plot which involves Zhu Irzh and his case which takes place in Hell. I liked his plot more, as it had an element of intrigue and explained in detail the hierarchy of Demon politics and how they relate to one another. Zhu Irzh also provides the comic relief. Unlike Chen, his approach is more laid back and he provides a witty comeback every so often. It’s a well written plot and interesting enough to keep you reading. The action is good and makes the pace go faster, not to mention the sub plot involving Inari was also really interesting as well. I especially liked the overall tone of the story. It’s really dark and has a very ‘noir’ feel to it. The setting descriptions add more to the tone of the book – especially describing the humidity and heat in the city. It added more to the feeling of the story and takes the reader to the setting. So, it’s like you’re there following the characters.

It’s a great start to what looks like a really good series and I’m definitely going to continue reading it. It shows great promise and it looks like things could go really complicated with Chen and Zhu Irzh. I do recommend this to those that love Harry Dresden, and Felix Castor, but with an Asian setting and with a much more dark and grittier tone. Fans of urban fantasy should also get a good read out of this book.

I give it an 8 out of 10.

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