A review by stephilica
Hot Lead, Cold Iron: A Mick Oberon Job Book 1 by Ari Marmell


This is a genuinely fun novel. The plot twists are clever, and paced expertly—rarely does the book seem to rush or drag, but tantalizingly beckon the reader forward. The world was an entertaining and seamless integration of mobster Chicago and the mystical Elphame, with descriptions and features that made me marvel at Marmell’s imagination.

As a narrator, Mick was entertaining and colorful. He’s a complex character who’s rough at the edges, and while doesn’t necessarily have that ‘heart of gold,’ follows his own code of morality in an endearing manner. He’s easy to sympathize with. His constant gangster slang took some time to get used to, but it doesn’t detract from the reading experience, and adds a unique flavor to the novel’s atmosphere.

Other characters, such as Bianca Ottati, Donna Orsola, and gang leader Fino, all add different perspectives to the conflict—where is the missing Ottati daughter, and what to do with the changeling who’s been left in her place? Both Ottati girls, Adalina and the girl she meant to replace, act as foils to one another, strengthening the discussion of the novel’s overarching theme: what does it mean to be human?

It’s a thought-provoking discussion, and Oberon’s own past and current actions shape its flow. While it skims the surface for the most part, it is an interesting aspect of the novel.

The best thing about this novel, though, is the expansiveness of it. With each character interaction, we see hints that there’s more to them than meets the eye, and with each new development in the world, we’re left to wonder what else we haven’t seen. It’s the iceberg principle in action, and it makes the novel seem much more than three hundred pages.

(Lastly, I feel I should add a note here about how this novel compares to Marmell’s debut series, Widdershins. Certainly, some of the same style shines through—the sass, the narrator who’s closer to antihero than hero, even if not quite there—but it’s a marvelous improvement. The snark is more appropriate and natural, and the pacing is centuries ahead. Fans of Widdershins will most definitely enjoy this as well.)