Wizards outside of the standard of epic fantasy is hard to pull off. Or at least I think so; wizards just feel a bit sillier in a modern setting then say, mages or witches. But Lewis brings these wizards of fable, with their flowing robes and magical staffs, out of that traditional fantasy environment and into an urban setting. And not just any urban setting, but New York’s Central Park! The author is very aware of these tropes though and crafts an adventure that is rather tongue-in-cheek so if you were worried that actual wizards in New York was going to be a bit ridiculous, don’t worry, that’s by design!
The story follows Eddie, a detective who, along with his partner Luis, have been demoted to the Central Park district due to some beef they have with the FBI stationed in the area. When Eddie and his partner come across a gruesome murder though, everything changes. And I do mean it’s gruesome so be prepared. Lewis is primarily a horror author and there are instances where that really shines. But the very first chapter of this book depicts that grisly murder and it can be jarring so just be forewarned. There are some moments of violence after that, but none nearly as detailed as that first chapter. Once Eddie touches the mysterious walking stick next to the deceased, he is summoned and pulled into the world of the wizards, their incredible powers, and their coven. Under the tutelage of Marlowe, Eddie learns how to wield this new power he finds himself with, while also struggling to keep his new world a secret from his old one—including his wife and partner. But for as long as this book is ( it's over 600 pages!) the story-line is pretty simple and this was a very easy read to get through (it only took me a few weeks).
I think what kept me from really loving this book, however, was how simplistic the story-line was, and while I love a book with a plot line that’s easy to follow, this was almost too easy for me personally. Eddie, his wife, his partner, most characters outside of Marlowe and Drusilicus felt either flat or unbelievable as people to me, so I had a hard time connecting and getting invested in them, their struggles with other characters, or the dangers they faced. At times the story felt more like a road map around New York and New Jersey, which may be a lot of fun if you’re a local to those areas, but I’m not so the list of street names and directions made little sense to me and slowed down the action. Also, even though Eddie is a detective and butts heads with the FBI, this isn’t really a police procedural during the investigative portions of the book. Neither the police nor the FBI really operates under standard protocol when investigating anything (or doing their jobs for that matter), which also applies a bit to the magic training montages that Eddie goes through. For being so new to the craft, he picks up on techniques and can do things the centuries old wizards can’t, which kind of diminished their awesome power in my eyes.
The book does maintain a nice, steady pace though, which does make it a very fast read to get through. I wasn’t ever bored, and it was fun to see how these old, classic fantasy wizards operated when faced with a modern era wizard in Eddie. I liked the twist at the end with who was really responsible for the murders in the park and how it all connected back to why Eddie was summoned in the first place. All the wizards had fun personalities, I just wish I could get into the main cast more, but I always felt at arm’s length from them and their families. The concept of this book is great, and definitely has some “Bright” vibes, I just wish it had captured more of my attention, or gave me more feels one way or another while reading, which is why I’m giving this 3 stars. It was a good read, don’t get me wrong! It was just missing that special something for me personally. But if you are looking for a rather humorous urban fantasy with some dark moments and some really incredible magic, then you may enjoy “The Wizards of Central Park West”, and thanks to the author for providing a copy for an honest review!
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