The Night Dahlia

The Night Dahlia

Laytham Ballard once protected humanity as part of the Nightwise, a secret order of modern-day mages dedicating to holding hellish supernatural forces at bay, but that was before a string of sadistic ritual murders shook everything he believed in--and sent him down a much darker path. One that has already cost him most of his soul, as well as everything he once held dear.N...

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Title:The Night Dahlia
Author:R.S. Belcher
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Night Dahlia Reviews

  • Tammy

    I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

    Violent, action-packed and filled with cool world-building details,

    I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

    Violent, action-packed and filled with cool world-building details,

    R.S. Belcher is back with one of speculative fiction’s most infamous characters, Laytham Ballard, a powerful wizards in the Belcher's magical world called the Life. Laytham is a violent son of a bitch, is addicted to smoking, drugs and alcohol, can’t keep a promise to save his life, and will just as soon kill you as shake your hand. If you haven’t read the first book in this series,

    , don’t despair. I was actually thrilled to discover that

    works great as a stand-alone, which is good news for readers who have yet to discover the incomparable charms of Laytham Ballard. (Although I encourage you to read

    when you can, it’s not necessary to understand what’s going on here, but it’s a damn good story!)

    Laytham Ballard, previously a member of a secret supernatural crime fighting unit called the Nightwise, is approached one day (or rather he’s kidnapped) and taken to the home of Theodore Ankou, the powerful matriarch of the Ankou family, a fae clan hiding in plain sight in Los Angeles. Ankou’s daughter Caern has been missing for the past nine years, and Ankou has exhausted his extensive resources trying to find her. His last chance is Laytham, who despite his reputation for lying, cheating and killing indiscriminately, is a talented wizard with seemingly infinite resources. Ankou makes Laytham a sweet deal (well, as sweet as can be expected for a couple of powerful and dangerous dudes) if he promises to find and return Caern to her home, and of course, Laytham accepts. Ankou insists on sending a body guard along with Laytham, an elf named Vigil Burris, and Laytham reluctantly agrees to let him tag along.

    But once they set out to find Caern’s trail, Laytham and Vigil will be forced to deal with assassins, LA street gangs, drug dealers, porn stars and even monsters from Cambodian mythology, as they search the supernatural underbelly of Los Angeles for a girl whose trail went cold nearly a decade ago.

    One of my favorite aspects of Belcher’s world is that magic is EVERYWHERE, but most folks don’t know about it. The author comes up with some creative scenarios as to how magic is entangled in certain true events and how well-known people are involved in that magic. This time around he tackles Charles Manson, who actually plays a fairly big role in the story. I won’t spoil any of the details, but suffice it to say after reading this book, I’m even more creeped out and horrified by Manson than I already was. And because this story takes place in Los Angeles, my backyard, more or less, I loved running across mentions of familiar things, like one of my favorite radio stations (KROQ). Belcher infuses all sorts of things with magic, even phone apps, so be ready for lots of fun surprises while you’re reading

    .

    Belcher’s characters are all larger than life, and although I have to give props to Laytham for stealing the show—and keep in mind he’s narrating the story as well, so you see everything from his warped point of view!—there are plenty of other engaging characters. I loved the “buddy film” vibe I got from the relationship between Laytham and Burris. When they are first introduced, they absolutely hate each other. Burris is simply trying to do his job and keep Laytham from getting killed, but Laytham is a lone wolf and wants to do things

    way, by himself, so Burris is about as welcome as the plague. It was great fun watching Laytham try to ditch Burris in all sorts of creative and dangerous ways, and I loved that Burris could dish out the pain just as well as Laytham.

    A few other favorite characters of mine were a couple of ex-lovers of Laytham’s, Lauren Hawthorne, better known as “the Dragon,” and a dominatrix named Anna, both of whom Laytham left on pretty bad terms. Now of course he needs them in his search for Caern, and they aren’t going to be easy to convince. I also loved computer hacker extraordinaire Grinner, who can uncover just about any deeply buried secret on the internet. As with many of Laytham’s associates, Grinner doesn’t like Laytham very much, but Laytham has an arsenal of resources to use to convince people to help him and so he usually gets what he wants.

    A couple of triggers should be mentioned, for those readers who are sensitive (to which Laytham would probably tell you “Then get the fuck out!”).

    is violent as hell, as you can imagine when drug gangs and magical assassins are involved. But as over-the-top as it was in some places, I felt as if much of the violence was there for a reason. There’s also a bunch of swearing, especially when Laytham and Grinner are talking, so if you’re offended by that, then perhaps this isn’t the book for you.

    This story is packed with characters, action scenes, and all sorts of cool details, but Belcher keeps it all together with excellent pacing. Despite everything that was happening, never once did I feel lost or overwhelmed. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: my favorite stories are ones that combine great characters, plenty of action, humorous dialog and of course, a bit of heart and emotion. It’s hard to get all these elements just right, but somehow Rod Belcher manages to do it over and over. I fervently hope we haven’t seen the last of Laytham Ballard, and I eagerly await his next adventure. Highly recommended!

  • Faye

    R.S. Belcher does it again. This one is not available to the public yet but when it is, grab it, this is my favorite to date. The characters are never dull. Surprises keep the pace moving nicely. A dragon in a big city seems perfectly reasonable in Belcher's gritty real world. Ballard is just as annoying, regretable, and enticing as you would want an antihero traipsing through lovely islands in Greece and dive bars in LA. Put this on your to read list immediately.

  • Kdawg91

    I loved the first book in this series and Mr. Belcher ramped it up big time. Urban fantasy should be this type of book, a thinly veiled world where the unreal rubs elbows with the mundane and dirty. The main character Laytham Ballard, in my opinion, is a better "John Constantine" than the actual character (best way I could put that thought..but feel free to tell me I'm wrong, I'm not).

    There is a thick layer of dirt and grime and REAL that soaks through the mystical world buried under ours and it

    I loved the first book in this series and Mr. Belcher ramped it up big time. Urban fantasy should be this type of book, a thinly veiled world where the unreal rubs elbows with the mundane and dirty. The main character Laytham Ballard, in my opinion, is a better "John Constantine" than the actual character (best way I could put that thought..but feel free to tell me I'm wrong, I'm not).

    There is a thick layer of dirt and grime and REAL that soaks through the mystical world buried under ours and it is how urban fantasy SHOULD be. America is a perfect melting pot setting for all the various magics to meet up in and this book is fast paced, gritty and tons of fun.

    read this series. 20 stars out of 5.

  • Christian  Faure

    Thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Fast-paced. Highly entertaining. References to great music, and a scene with Crazy Charlie Manson. Going back to start this series at the beginning.

  • Cassandra Campbell

    Laytham Fuckin' Ballard is the man. This story did not disappoint and I cannot wait to see what the next story brings for the anti-hero and his crew.

  • Mogsy (MMOGC)

    4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    The Night Dahlia returns to the dark world of Laytham Ballard, a man introduced to us in the first book Nightwise as “a cynical bastard who stopped thinking of himself as the good guy a long time ago.” Fans who enjoyed reading about the jaded, nihilistic perspective of our fallen hero will be glad to know this second installment is just as tantalizingly dark with all its action-packed and emotional twists.

    While technically

    4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    The Night Dahlia returns to the dark world of Laytham Ballard, a man introduced to us in the first book Nightwise as “a cynical bastard who stopped thinking of himself as the good guy a long time ago.” Fans who enjoyed reading about the jaded, nihilistic perspective of our fallen hero will be glad to know this second installment is just as tantalizingly dark with all its action-packed and emotional twists.

    While technically, The Night Dahlia is the beginning of a new mystery and can be read as a standalone without Nightwise as a prerequisite, I still highly recommend reading the books in publication order to get the full impact. There are developments by the end of this book that will make a lot more sense if you have followed the character’s journey from the beginning. This time, Laytham has been charged by the powerful fae mob boss Theo Ankou to track down his daughter Caern, who has been missing since she was 13 years old. As this was almost a decade ago, the trail has long since gone cold, but our protagonist has a reputation for having a number of magical underground connections and a knack for always finding what he needs. Because of this, Ankou is convinced that Laytham will succeed where all his other investigators have failed.

    Provided with a near limitless amount of cash as well as an elf bodyguard named Vigil Burris to both protect him and keep him in line, Laytham embarks on his search for Caern, a mission that will take him from the stunning and luxurious islands of Greece to the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles’s nightclubs and porn industry. Along the way, he’ll face the many demons of his past, which includes a few bitter enemies as well as some former friends.

    R.S. Belcher continues to be one of the best when it comes to dark and gritty urban fantasy, going places where most authors in this genre only dare dream about. He is bold and unafraid of pushing the boundaries, especially when it comes to his protagonist. As we learned in Nightwise, Laytham Ballard is more than just a conflicted anti-hero; at times he can be downright dastardly and villainous. Just when you think he’s coming around, he’ll show you how wrong you are by defaulting back to the aggressive, selfish and cowardly creature that he is. He’s someone you can never depend upon to keep a promise, someone who would sell out a friend at the drop of a hat if it means saving his own hide. To his credit though, he’s also self-aware enough to know he’s a despicable shitheel which is probably why he intentionally prevents anyone from getting close. You won’t want to get on his bad side either, because he can also be a cruel and vengeful bastard, having been known to go to frightening extremes just to settle a score.

    For all that though, Laytham is still a fascinating character to read about, and while his world is a pretty grim and messed up place to be, everything about it piques my curiosity to learn more. The author’s creativity is on full display here as every page is steeped with magic and the paranormal—the kind where the Fae are a powerful drug running crime syndicate, Aztec wizard gangsters rule the streets, and even the infamous serial killer Charles Manson makes an appearance as a lunatic mage who creates monsters out of thoughts and nightmares. The wondrous and the fantastic are everywhere, even in the most hellish and most hopeless scenarios. As such, The Night Dahlia is not always an easy book to read, especially when it portrays situations that are uncomfortably close to some of the awfulness experienced in our own real world. That is immediately evident as the novel opens on a horrific scene of school shooting, in which a nine-year-old boy becomes possessed with the spirt of a psychotic killer and is made to commit mass murder. That enough should tell you the tone of these books. This isn’t merely dark urban fantasy; this is urban fantasy that frequently treads into horror territory.

    But while this series may be filled with pain and suffering, there is also growth and a chance at redemption. Laytham knows he’s a terrible person, but perhaps owning up to his flaws and mistakes is the first step to doing better, and being better. His character is the embodiment of that dark place in all our psyches, the part that most of us try to ignore or pretend is not even there. In a way, that makes Laytham feel very genuine and human, so even when he is at his worst, you can’t help but feel for him on some level, even if it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth to admit it. Complex characters like that get to me every time, though, so I never once considered throwing in the towel, even if I personally find it difficult to relate to the protagonist. I was also pleased to see, by the end of the novel, that there may be hope for Laytham Ballard yet.

    Perfect for readers of gritty and in-your-face dark urban fantasy with tinges of horror, the Nightwise series will ignite the imaginations and test the mettle of even those who think they’ve seen it all. The Night Dahlia follows marvelously in the tradition of the first book, with R.S. Belcher giving his fans more of what they love.

  • Suz

    4+

    R.S. Belcher knows grim dark, and Ballard is one hell of a character. I like this series a lot.

  • Montzalee Wittmann

    The Night Dahlia

    Nightwise, Book 2

    By: R. S. Belcher

    Narrated by: Bronson Pinchot

    I love this series with the magic, different species of supernatural creatures, the action, and suspense! This book had many of the characters from book one so that was nice too. But this had our hero a bit too much on the snarky side than last time. Snark can be fun but too much at times can be annoying. Too much smoking and drinking...maybe but the smoking was getting there. Don't get me wrong, I still loved the book

    The Night Dahlia

    Nightwise, Book 2

    By: R. S. Belcher

    Narrated by: Bronson Pinchot

    I love this series with the magic, different species of supernatural creatures, the action, and suspense! This book had many of the characters from book one so that was nice too. But this had our hero a bit too much on the snarky side than last time. Snark can be fun but too much at times can be annoying. Too much smoking and drinking...maybe but the smoking was getting there. Don't get me wrong, I still loved the book and would recommend it, just being honest with my review.

    I also felt the narration was just shy of the performance from last time too.

  • Janet Martin

    This was a dissatisfying listening experience despite including elements that should have made me love it--Bronson Pinchot's wonderful performance, brilliant prose filled with irony, sarcasm, and flat out funny moments, original characters and unpredictable twists and turns. But the whole failed to engage me as the story got lost in the words, and I missed both a major conflict and focus on story goal--it's a risk when listening. Main character Ballard gets bogged down exploring his past for muc

    This was a dissatisfying listening experience despite including elements that should have made me love it--Bronson Pinchot's wonderful performance, brilliant prose filled with irony, sarcasm, and flat out funny moments, original characters and unpredictable twists and turns. But the whole failed to engage me as the story got lost in the words, and I missed both a major conflict and focus on story goal--it's a risk when listening. Main character Ballard gets bogged down exploring his past for much of the book and spends much of his time being too drunk to function--meaning those scenes just wasted my time. I've loved everything else I've read by Belcher and this isn't bad, but failed to grab me. It's fine as a free standing novel, and those who start here will not miss much since there is more backstory here than in the first, "Nightwise," which I loved. I will eye read my next Belcher book.

  • Lauren

    Caern Ankou has been missing for several years. All the trails are cold and have been for quite some time. In desperation, her father brings in Laytham Ballard the only former Nightwise in the organization’s history. It’s simple, find the girl, save the soul of his lost love. Thing is, if Ballard wants to find Caern, he’s going to have to chase her across the world to do so. He’ll have to face former friends, old enemies, even the case that’s left him haunted ever since. Nothing to it.

    The Night

    Caern Ankou has been missing for several years. All the trails are cold and have been for quite some time. In desperation, her father brings in Laytham Ballard the only former Nightwise in the organization’s history. It’s simple, find the girl, save the soul of his lost love. Thing is, if Ballard wants to find Caern, he’s going to have to chase her across the world to do so. He’ll have to face former friends, old enemies, even the case that’s left him haunted ever since. Nothing to it.

    The Night Dahlia is an interesting book in that it earned its way up from a one star read to a three star read and then back down to a two. There were cool ideas, yes, some of the ideas here were really cool. Some of the scenes were cool, but for every cool or impactful scene there are three that nullify anything that could have worked with them.

    In a lot of ways, The Night Dahlia doesn’t feel confident. There’s this feeling like Belcher wasn’t comfortable with the emotive weight of key scenes and felt the need to hammer them home shortly after to make sure that the reader gets it. That lack of confidence killed a lot of moments for me, especially towards the end where the story hit a lot of what should have been big character moments only to fritter them away. It all winds up being a bit too neat considering how much of a mess the protagonist is supposed to be.

    Laytham Ballard himself is also a big part of why a lot of scenes didn’t work. His whole deal is that he’s a bad man, a fallen hero driven rogue by one bad case. But then he spends enough of his time drunk or high or generally running away from himself and the plot that I could believe that he’s washed up, as so many minor characters tell him, but I have a hard time seeing him as more than that. He can come across as the creepy guy at the occult shop, insisting that he just knows a girl is a sensual creature just by looking and describing nearly every woman he runs into’s breasts. He can come across as slimy for the same reasons, plus his constant dodging of the rules of his contract. But Ballard doesn’t come across as the wicked fallen hero that he seems to want to be. There’s a scene that shows what could have been, where he’s legitimately kind of frightening and inflicts a pretty awful curse on a number of people because one of them annoyed him, but that’s once.

    That actually feeds into a lot of my issues with The Night Dahlia and Laytham Ballard in particular. It might be due to missing some of the set up in Nightwise, but a lot of the book just doesn’t land for me. Ballard makes a big point of talking about how his magic style is a mutt thrown together with stuff that works best for him, that could be really cool. But then, when he uses magic, his big thing is using his chakras and pushing energy through them. He uses the specific names of the chakras he’s using but then doesn’t generally explain what that means and the magic isn’t given sensory detail often beyond boiling or bubbling up through whichever chakra he’s using, so it winds up feeling lazy and a little disorienting. Things just sort of pop up that could have been interesting concepts but either aren’t gone into or just feel too out there. Like Ballard having a random musical interlude at a bar while out looking for clues, he just sort of gets pulled into playing a set with some local band. Everyone there knows his old band and is just super pumped for this random guy to jump on with the band they actually came to see. A lot of it feels like is exists in service to Laytham Ballard rather than the plot.

    There’s this really great bit about half way through that shows us a younger Ballard on the big life ruining case. It contextualizes him, gives a foundation to a lot of the things he does in the present day of the story. There’s still messy bits to the writing itself, but it does a lot to make me care about that version of Ballard. But then we jump back to the present and a Ballard who is still in the middle of his bad decisions and is still more about doing things his way than getting to the bottom of things. There’s a character arc here, but it’s done in a way that feels sort of fractured. Like I mentioned about, scenes that should have emotional impact happen but either only sort of land or don’t feel like they have any consequences. Of course things not landing makes everything feel less impactful.

    That’s where I’m left with The Night Dahlia. It had some nifty ideas, some moments that could have been super solid, and some just odd stuff. But it never landed right. It’s a book that felt like it had earned a single star up to around the half way mark and then nearly earned its way back down. It sort of always felt like I was just a touch out of the loop or hadn’t done my homework. The Night Dahlia gets a two out of five.

    I was sent a copy of this book by Tor with the understanding that it would receive an honest review.

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